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How to Be Relevant to People Around You

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Success is achieved when relevance is present and accounted for; when you are meaningful to those who you deem to be important.

Organizational life

In business, the relevance challenge is to continue to offer products, services and experiences that people find useful as their needs, wants and desires change over time. Failure to be more relevant to the customers an organization chooses to serve is a recipe for not only short term failure; it usually threatens the organization’s survival in the long run.

Avoiding irrelevance requires that an organization keeps abreast of how their customers’ needs are changing and what new experiences they desire so that new solutions can be delivered to them.

Customer relevance is more about delivering something they CARE about as opposed to the gee whiz technology employed. An organization that continually “tugs at their heart strings” will outpace their competition and ensure themselves of long term success.

And organizations need to learn to let go if they are to remain relevant. Relying on yesterday’s successes will not work in the struggle for relevance; making room for “the new” is essential to moving up the relevance curve.

Personal life

For an individual, being relevant means meeting the needs of family, friends, employers and society as one ages.

As a child, relevance generally means approval from parents and garnering the “good boy/girl” response from them.

To the teenager, relevance is achieved typically by teacher recognition and acceptance — getting good marks at school — being accepted by a peer group and attracting girlfriends because of a cool demeanour. Some, unfortunately, choose other methods — drugs and gangs — to gain relevance with usually an unfortunate but predictable outcome.

In “early adulthood” relevance is about job performance and family responsibility; get a good job and meet expected family obligations. And surround oneself with friends who are enjoyable to be with and who have your back when things go awry.

Late adulthood — generally described as the retired folks — has its own unique challenges for those who want to maintain their relevance. The challenge one has in this group is primarily to continue being meaningful to the family as they grow, mature and adopt perspectives that are often radically different than “back in the day”. Having an influential voice, for example, on matters your teenage granddaughter has is definitely not a walk in the park.  Many people in this group find the change practically impossible; they choose to disengage from the relevance journey and step back from the dynamics of society and family.
Their priority is to go inward and “take care of themselves” as opposed to keeping up with what is going around them and engaging with others in the topics of the day.

Maintaining relevance in whatever job or life position you find yourself is taxing; it is not for the faint of heart.

Here are some actions you can take to stay in the sweet spot of those that are important to you.

Related: Is There Anything Really Wrong with Overkill?

Be clear in who you are

Build your personal brand around those attributes your tribe values; this is your context for how you intend to relate to your important “others”.  And know how to express your brand values clearly to those people important to you. Your brand must not only represent something you strongly believe in, it must also resonate with your “audience”. It’s all very well to be a staunch proponent of legalizing cannabis, but if your herd is staunchly against the notion of widespread marijuana use, your voice gets lost. Find another tribe with similar beliefs if you want to stay with your brand; it’s your only choice if you want to stay true to who you are and what you believe in.

Be current

Know what’s going on; you can’t be relevant if you aren’t “in the present”. Relevance is a moving thing; if you’re not a part of the changes going on around you you fall behind and your belief system becomes to many obsolete (and irrelevant).

To counter this, keep up with the major issues of the day and understand them at least deep enough to formulate an opinion on them. And always check your opinion with your brand for consistency; decide whether your opinion is “who you are” and go from there.
Don’t be a “bouncer” who flits from one opinion to another depending on which way the wind is blowing.

Be flexible

Be prepared to change your views; relevance is a function of new events, opinions, issues and beliefs. To be relevant requires an ability to ebb and flow with the narrative of the day. I’m not suggesting to forsake your brand position, just make sure you keep current so you can position your views in the context of your brand as opposed to a knee jerk response based on emotion rather than thoughtfulness.

Be quiet!

Perversely, know when to say nothing. If you feel you are about to “go down a rat hole” with your views on a topic and incur the unwanted wrath of your tribe, take a deep breath and a pass. There is no crime in staying out of a conversation where you are the minority; in many circumstances it makes sense.  This is a tough one for me. I am constantly wading into debates with my family over controversial matters — like immigration in Canada — and invoking the “that’s old school thinking Dad” response to my position. Sooner or later I will learn to let it pass rather than continue to beat my head against the wall and appear irrelevant to my tribe.
Or maybe not.

Be open

(At least) try to be more tolerant. You have a brand. You believe in specific values. You question new stuff based on logic and your life experience.  And then some issue comes up and everyone’s take on it is the same. They ALL believe marijuana should be decriminalized and they ALL believe unlimited immigrants should be allowed in the country. Even if our views are different, maybe we should try to be more tolerant of the view that is 180 degrees out of phase with our own.  Perhaps there is an aspect of the issue we haven’t considered and with this new found perspective we may be able to soften our stance while preserving our basic view. Maybe. Maybe not.

BE RELEVANT! is the most vital mantra for any organization or individual looking for success; “How can we/I be more meaningful to the people we care about?” should guide our thinking.

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