Connections

Last night at the Smile/AgileBits party, Jean McDonald took time to pull me aside and introduce me to a few people. She didn’t have to make this effort, but she is just that generous and I ended up having a great time talking to them. This got me thinking about how important making connections can be and how some can be life changing.

When I was in high school, my dad coached in a football league for teens. One day, I was talking with a guy on his team that shared classes with me at Maryvale and we hit it off. He respected my father and I immediately was more worthy of his investment of time to build a friendship because of our common connection to Coach Fran.

Club 747 was a discotheque decorated to resemble an airplane with seats and runway lights bordering the metal dance floor. On Sunday nights, they hosted teen dances and sold us sodas instead of liquor. Every week, Brian and I got dressed in our best polyester shirts and tried to look like John Travolta on the dance floor to make some connections with the ladies, but I was a skinny white kid with an Afro—yes, a natural Afro that required a pick for maintenance—and was less than successful.

Most nights after closing time, it would end up just the two of us talking over burgers or donuts while waiting for one of our dads to give us a ride home. We found so many ways that we were connected thanks to these late-night chat sessions.

When they stopped hosting teen night at the club, we switched to the roller rink in an attempt to find ways to connect with the fairer sex. On March 31, 1979, Brian asked if I was coming to the rink. He had a steady girlfriend at the time, which caused some hesitation on my part not wanting to be a third wheel, but I went anyway because it was the weekend.

His date had brought her friend and neighbor, Judy, to the rink that night and, after introducing us, she and I were left alone together as our mutual friends skated. She was kind enough to look past my bad hair and skate with me.

A Beatles song came on as we coasted around the oval and we discovered that we both loved their music—our first connection. This got me a second date. As we spent more time together, we found more commonalities and our relationship grew.

I owe Brian everything for making this connection and for opening the door to the 36 happiest years of my life.

I can look back over the years and see just how critical each connection that was made with me has given me the life I have today. Gatherings like WWDC, NSConference, C4, Çingleton, and others have provided opportunities to make lasting relationships with so many terrific people. I will always be grateful to the people who worked so hard to put together these events. People in tech can tend to be loners and we desperately need these bridges to help us build life-long relationships.

In addition to the connections others have made for me, I’ve tried to give back and introduce people over the years. Some of these have led to new connections that circled back around to me. It’s a beautiful thing.

I hope that this week in San Francisco has led to new relationships for you and that you are opening yourself up to the opportunity to make new connections. Through these, you may find a fantastic job, a best friend, or the love of your life. You never know. Get out there and connect.