It’s Not What You Know, It’s…

All For One and One for All
Okay, so I’m waiting in line when, from behind, a familiar saying hits my ears: “Well, like they say, it ain’t what you know, it’s who you know”. I am always cautious about anything that anonymous people named “they” say, even if what “they” say has wound it’s way into the very fabric of American lexicon.

It’s important to understand that the “ain’t what you know, but who you know” reasoning is rooted in jealousy.

One most often uses it in reference to someone else who just got ahead. Rather than dissecting what happened in an effort to learn and improve, an assertion is made that “I was better qualified, but they got the deal because of who they know.”

At least two flaws exist with this argument.

The first flaw in the “ain’t what you know” argument is that competence doesn’t matter. The individual is saying that they have the skills; they just don’t have the relationships. “If I had the contacts; if I knew who they knew, then I’d be further along.”

Possibly, but not necessarily.

Because “what you know” definitely does matter. Competence, or the lack of it, always matters. If a business owner knows a lot of people, but those contacts all question the company’s ability to perform, the packed address book is of little consequence. A big contact list without competence simply means there are many people out there with little faith in the organization. Good luck.

Likewise in an employment situation, a manager who made a habit of hiring incompetent friends just because of the relationship would soon find themself interviewing elsewhere.

Now here is the second flaw with the “ain’t what you know, but who you know” point of view.

Buried deep within is an underlying philosophy that says they don’t have the ability to know the right people, the people of influence, the people other people know. This statement deserves to be challenged, because only when blame or victimhood are removed, can an individual begin to soar. The question I ask when someone throws this into a conversation is, “Alright, then what are you doing to work on the “who-you-know’s; the relationships in your life?”

You see, it’s not that difficult to meet people who are engaged and influencial; they tend to hang around other engaged and influencial people. Plan to be one, and then go to work. The secret to getting involved isn’t so secret: you decide to get involved in things, and then you follow through on your decision.

Also, please understand that every great leader is always on the lookout for talent. They want to meet you. Leaders are constantly searching for impact players and organizations who can help to eliminate weaknesses, upgrade performance, and raise the caliber and ability of the entire team.

Imagine, if you can, a football coach who was completely disinterested in watching for available talent that might optimize a critical position, or shore up a known or potential threat. It’s unthinkable.”

If you make the effort, you will definitely get the attention of people of influence; then just be sure to bring something powerful to the table.



In terms of real success, which is more important, “What you know” or “Who you know”? You can reach your own conclusions, and I’ll give you my answer tomorrow!

Hint: I believe the old adage is incomplete, slightly misleading, and needs to rewritten!


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