Mitchell And the Phenomenon of ‘Connectors’

Mitchell is one of my best friends. Our connection is so cosmic that we decided at one debauched New Year’s Eve party that our souls had traveled vast planetary distances in order to hook up in this realm of the space-time continuum on a college campus in Rhode Island. We referred to one another as “space twin”.

I read a very interesting book awhile back called The Tipping Point, by the wonderful New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell. Let me quote from the back of the book to give you a clue as to what it is about:

“The Tipping Point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate. This widely acclaimed bestseller, in which Malcolm Gladwell explores and brilliantly illuminatese the tipping point phenomenon, is already changing the way people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas.”

So…what the hell does The Tipping Point have to do with my friend Mitchell?

Gladwell pinpoints what he calls the three “rules” of the Tipping Point of any “epidemic”, whether it be the flu, a crime wave, or the fact that suddenly everyone starts wearing bellbottoms. The only law which applies to Mitchell is the first law, which is called The Law of the Few.

The Law of the Few: Gladwell says “the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.” Gladwell shows that the people who have these “rare set of social gifts” are few and far between, yet any kind of epidemic depends on them.

Gladwell breaks this “law of the few” down into three separate components. For each epidemic to “tip”, you need certain kinds of people to make it all happen. He calls them The Connectors, The Mavens, and The Salesmen.

Briefly, Connectors are people who know lots of people, who have many different social circles, who have a gift for bringing people together. The social impulse of Connectors is not cynical or manipulative. They are not “players”. They genuinely love people, and genuinely love introducing their friends to each other. They love blending their different social circles. Introducing their church friends to their work friends to their childhood friends. This is not anxiety-provoking to a Connector. Some people like to keep all their different circles separate, but to Connectors, such a feeling of connectedness is what the makes the world go round.

Mitchell is the Ultimate Connector:

Here’s a quote from the book:

Suppose that you made a list of the forty people whom you would call your circle of friends (not including family and co-workers) and in each case worked backward until you could identify the person who is ultimately responsible for setting in motion the series of connections that led to that friendship. My oldest friend Bruce, for example, I met in first grade, so I’m the responsible party. That’s easy. I met my friend Nigel because he lived down the hall in college from my friend Tom, whom I met because in freshman year he invited me to play touch football. Tom is responsible for Nigel. Once you’ve made all the connections, the strange thing is that you will find the same names coming up again and again.

I have a friend named Amy, whom I met when her friend Katie brought her to a restaurant where I was having dinner one night. I know Kate because she is the best friend of my friend Larissa, whom I know because I was told to look her up by a mutual friend of both of ours — Mike A. — whom I know because he went to school with another friend of mine — Mike H. — who used to work at a political weekly with my friend Jacob. No Jacob, no Amy. Similarly, I met my friend Sarah S. at my birthday party a year ago, because she was there with a writer named David who was there at the invitation of his agent, Tina, whom I met through my friend Leslie, whom I know because her sister, Nina, is a friend of my friend Ann’s, whom I met through my old roommate Maura, who was my roommate because she worked with a writer named Sarah L., who was a college friend of my friend Jacob’s. No Jacob, no Sarah S.

In fact, when I go down my list of forty friends, thirty of them, in one way or another, lead back to Jacob. My social circle is, in reality, not a circle. It is a pyramid. And at the top of the pyramid is a single person — Jacob — who is responsible for an overwhelming majority of the relationships that constitute my life. Not only is my social circle not a circle, but it’s not ‘mine’ either. It belongs to Jacob. It’s more like a club that he invited me to join.

These people who link us up with the world, who bridge Omaha and Sharon, who introduce us to our social circles — these people on whom we rely more heavily than we realize — are Connectors, people with a special gift for bringing the world together.

I could substitute many of the names from my own life, replacing Gladwell’s circumstances with my own…and come up with my own pyramid of friends, at the top of which stands Mitchell.

He has a gift. Truly. His consciousness is expansive and inclusive. Mitchell has no sense that it would somehow be threatening to HIM if he introduced his wildly cool high school friend to his other wildly cool friend from his circus company. He is not threatened at all if these two separate people, with only Mitchell as the connection, veer off and form an intense and loving separate bond of their own. In fact, nothing gives him more joy.

This, to me, is the meaning of generosity.

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