Almost 90 years ago, a Hungarian author by the name of Frigyes Karinthy postulated that any two individuals in the world could be connected through at most five acquaintances–an idea that spawned the notion “Six Degrees of Separation,” or today’s better known spin-off: “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” (thank you IMDB!).

That was a pretty radical theory for the roughly 1.5 billion humans living in 1929; it should seem even more far fetched in today’s world with a population surpassing 7.5 billion. Yet, it seems every time I venture out into the wild I bump into someone I know and one of us invariably utters the phrase: “what a small world!” 

Which is true to some, because the world is as small as you make it–or as small as you allow it.

The 2016 gappy Holiday Party

Two Degrees of Chris

Reflecting on my own shrinking world, most of the important and most influential connections I’ve made in my lifetime have been unintentional, or ones that I have allowed to occur. Twenty years ago I met who would be bride, Sherry, in a local establishment that my dad euphemistically refers to as a “bistro.” Fast forward a couple decades, and this week we will celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary! I didn’t purposefully go out with friends that night looking to make a love connection, or any kind of connection for that matter. It just happened, in part because I allowed it to happen.

Amazing that back then (we’re talking the Internet Stone Age, ca.1997), we didn’t use Tinder or Facebook or Snapchat or LinkedIn or any other tools to make connections. Heck, we actually used our phones to talk with each other! Weird, right?

Nearly two decades ago I landed a job as an analyst working side by side with fellow analyst and soon-to-be business partner of 13+ years, Gary Peterson. Despite our shared passions for hard work, music, our respective sports teams, and the printer industry (not to mention an occasional beer or two), I never imagined back in those late 1990’s that my connection with Gary would have made such a profound impact not only on the course of my life, but also the person I am today.

Office Space gappy Holiday Card Shoot

In both examples I allowed both connections to make my world a little bit smaller and a whole lot better. The extent to which both connections improved my life was also directly related to the amount of time and energy spent deepening those relationships. More often than not that happened through countless conversations about likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, family, friends, pets, hobbies, travel, sports teams, and so on. 

Given my own history, it seems counterintuitive that many of the social networking tools today, whether for business connections or for personal connections, seem to get in the way of the connecting part of making connections–namely, the part that involves actually talking with one another and building relationships one conversation at a time. This is precisely why the last week of July is fast becoming one of my favorite times of the year for gap intelligence.

Seven Years of gapCon

Last week our humble company of nearly 50 individuals gathered in San Diego to celebrate the 7th annual gapCon–a day-long event put on by gappers for gappers to share, learn, grow, and most importantly, connect with one another. Intermixed between casual conversations and trivia games about each other, the day was highlighted by engaging and poignant talks by our very own Dani Rachford, Erin Vogelsanger, and Jake Fishman. Each of them recounted their own journeys, and particularly the connections, that brought them to San Diego and gap intelligence. The event was then punctuated by a great panel of outside speakers who shared their separate experiences leveraging personal and professional connections to help them evolve and prosper in their respective fields of high tech, hospitality, and professional services. Mad props again to our panel of experts: Matt, Amber, and Nikki–you guys killed it!

7th annual gapCon attendees and speakers

One hope of mine is that gap intelligence will continue to grow and offer an expanding environment in which hundreds of personal interconnections yield purpose, fulfillment, and lasting relationships not only for our employees, but also for our customers, our partners, and our community. If I had one takeaway from last week’s event it’s this: Connections are invaluable, but they’re a first step. Don’t stop at that initial connection–newborn relationships need to be cultivated and nurtured. Treat each relationship–professional or personal–like it were a living organism. Feed it, develop it, and grow it, and it will pay you back in dividends for years and even decades to come!