“It’s not what you know, nor who you know, but who you are” that counts

It's not what you know

It’s not what you know: The Wisdom

When it comes to sales and career success, the old adage is that “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” It’s a very useful phrase that highlights the importance of your personal relationships over your technical skills. It highlights that your ability to gain favour with people will get you further in your career than your paper qualifications. This is especially true in the world of sales. Further, it has been rigorously confirmed by researchers such as Malcolm Gladwell in his book “The Tipping Point.” Another book is by Dale Carnegie in his work “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

It’s not what you know: The Situation

But how do you go about increasing your social and professional circles? In the age of superficiality and social networks, it’s not hard to accumulate thousands of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and LinkedIn connections. It stands to reason then, that there will be some who know many people, but lack the quality and depth of relationship for their contacts to make a true difference. For the original phrase to be true, you must have the qualities of mutual benefit and respect.

Re-Thinking the Wisdom

There is truth in this age-old wisdom. Also, I’d like to suggest that there is one more layer that supports the concept. I say it’s not what you know, nor who you know… But who you are that determines your success in your life and career. By focusing your attention on the deepest layer, we create a proper foundation for developing deep and meaningful relationships.

What type of people do you want to do business and be associated with? We know through the “law of attraction” (the phenomenon of attracting people who are like ourselves), that if we want honest, generous, and respectful relationships, we need to exhibit these qualities first. People are becoming more proficient at seeing through veils of tacked-on techniques, claims of grandeur, and outward appearances. Beware if you are only interested in your own agenda, because they will see through your façade.


The three components of knowledge, connections, and character are all important for long-term success. However, trying to build any without a solid foundation of character, integrity, and generosity would be akin to building a house upon sand. Get to work on building a rock solid character, and you will command the respect of others and yourself.

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