In my seventh grade chorus class, there was a boy with sandy blond hair and freckles. He sat behind me and he had “it.” The boys wanted to hang with him. The girls just wanted to be near him. He was popular. I didn’t live in that town long enough to know if he grew up to be prom king. But later, I — and everyone else in America — watched him motivating a bunch of pros to become the youngest Super Bowl-winning coach in history.
As I dug into the data for The Difference: How Anyone Can Prosper In Even The Toughest Times, I was particularly interested to see if popularity at a young age was tied to success and wealth in adulthood. The result: Yes. The more connected you are to others, the more those connections help you succeed, make opportunities, gain wealth. I’m not the only one to have noticed. In his Freakonomics blog on The New York Times Website, University of Chicago Economist Steven Leavitt writes of a new study that says”each extra close friend in high school is associated with earnings that are 2 percent higher later in life.”
But what if high school left you behind? It’s not too late to cast a wide net. That’s what the financially comfortable and financially secure do — the financially struggling stick to their families. Figure out what groups, associations, individuals are worth your time, then don’t just show up. Put yourself forward as a leader. Your online presence, too, has become a very important marketing tool. It’s not just for connecting with your high school friends — it’s for connecting with your future colleagues. That said, Mr. Gruden, if you’re reading — feel free to “Friend” me.