Let’s imagine for a second that you are personally in charge of the entire world. You’re at your desk, surrounded by a million telephones. You can give any order you wish through these hotlines, but the problem is, they’re all ringing at once since there’s not a single thing that can happen without your confirmation first. While you would think that you have all the power in the world, the truth is, you’re basically trapped at your desk and can’t even find the time to make a cup of tea for yourself.

So what really is the best way to get things done? None other than the way your body works – delegation. Can you imagine the hassle of having to remember to beat your heart and digest your food all day?

Delegation is just one application of a basic principle in Zen called “Wu Wei”. It means an “Intelligent use of effort”, and it relates to the Buddhist idea of going with line of least resistance, colloquially known as “Going with the flow”. Think of how you’d put up a sail so the wind powers your boat, or even of how you’d hang up your washing outside so the sun dries your clothes. It is about letting things happen through delegation of work, giving away power, rather than forcing things yourself. In his book “Tao: The Watercourse Way”, great philosopher Alan Watts puts it perfectly,

“The principle is illustrated by the parable of the pine and the willow in heavy snow. The pine branch, being rigid, cracks under the weight; but the willow branch yields to the weight, and the snow drops off. Note, however that the willow is not limp but springy. Wu-wei is thus the life-style of one who follows the Tao [flow], and must be understood primarily as a form of intelligence – that is, of knowing the principles, structures, and trends of human and natural affairs so well that one uses the least amount of energy in dealing with them. But this intelligence is, as we have seen, not simply intellectual; it is also the ‘unconscious’ intelligence of the whole organism and, in particular, the innate wisdom of the central nervous system. Wu-wei is a combination of this wisdom with taking the line of least resistance in all one’s actions. It is not the mere avoidance of effort.”

So the intelligent use of effort, the Wu Wei, in growing your social circle involves three key kinds of people: Social connectors, value connectors, and situational connectors. A social connector, or what journalist Malcom Gladwell describes as a “connector” in his book “The Tipping Point”, is the kind of person who seems to know everyone. I’m sure you’ve met someone like this, and the interesting thing is that you probably met most of the people you know through this one person; this is the reason why social connectors are of vital importance to the expansion of your social sphere. You want to meet more of these people, and bring them into your inner core social group (more on that coming later!). Now, while a social connector is someone who knows everyone, a value connector is someone who everyone knows. Think of someone like a movie star – they may not be a social butterfly, but you’ll gain a lot of cool points if you’re seen with them. Bring both of these kinds of people into your inner core social group, and your social influence will skyrocket. The general rule of thumb here is that social connectors have a breadth of influence, while value connectors have a depth of influence, and situational connectors have a specific direction of influence, usually towards the former two – someone whose brother is a value connector, or someone who hangs out with a social connector.

Now, at this point, I want to reiterate the importance of seeing the process of your social expansion in the context of your quality of life. To simply use people misses the point entirely, as being a social climber makes about as much sense as listening to a song to try to get to the end – you miss out all the beauty and connection that makes the whole thing worthwhile.

Part 3 is on the way!

Social Zen © 2017