The Midnight Ride
We talked so much in the Total Life Freedom community about being a connector. A connector is somebody who brings other people together for their benefit. It’s not just doing it gratuitously so you can check it off the list. It’s really paying attention to the people that are in your life and then the other people in your life that they don’t know and finding common connections between them. The people that you know but they don’t know. This is a skill that some people have innately but mostly I think it’s something that is built on practice. I think it’s something that can happen eventually if you start thinking about what the needs of the other people are, what the needs of your friends, what they’re looking for, what can help them, who the people are that can help them.
When you start thinking that way, you start thinking in terms of How can I connect them to other people I know that they don’t know. And I have people in my life that are just so skilled at this through practice. People like Ken Hoopes. People like Renée Vidor and James Van Prean, these are people that go out of their way to think about who they can connect to others with nothing in their mind about what they’re going to get out of it. Just because it feels really good to do that for the people in their lives. Now admittedly, I was not very good at this for a long time because I was focused on me and what I need. And I talk so much about the power of building your own network and the people that build powerful big networks are ones that connect other people from outside of the different groups of their connected in.
This was something that was never taught to me at school, it was never something that was part of my formal education and I had many instances of people doing this for me all throughout my life but I never really paid attention to what they were doing until I read the book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. In that book, he gives the story about Paul Revere. If you grew up in the United States and you know the history of how this country was founded, you know the story about Paul Revere. You know the story about the midnight ride and you know the phrase, the British are coming. If you don’t know the story, here’s what happened.
In April 1775, a young boy heard a British army officer say there is going to be hell to pay tomorrow and he ran to Boston’s North end to the home of Paul Revere. Revere heard these rumors before, he heard a bunch going on, a lot of chatter about this was possible that there was going to be an attack by the British. As the day went on him, his friend Joseph Warren were convinced that the British were about to make an attack and that the purpose would be to arrest the colonial leaders John Hancock and Sam Adams. Once they got to town, the Concorde, they would seize all the guns and ammunition that were stored up by the local militia. So that night at around 10 o’clock, Revere hopped on his horse and every town he went through, he alerted the people that the British were coming. He covered 13 miles and he went to the different leaders, to the trusted citizens, he knocked on all the doors to tell them the news, and most importantly to spread the word to others. And as you’ve heard, the word spread like wildfire. They start ringing the church bells. The residents started banging on their drums to alert people. And town by town, the word started to spread and the people started to get ready and when the British began their march to Lexington that morning, they were stunned to find a severe resistance immediately. The colonial militia was ready, was prepared and that morning Concorde, they soundly defeated the British and from there was the start of the American Revolution. Now most of us know that story but we don’t know is why the word spread so well. What Gladwell point out is this is the ultimate form of word-of-mouth marketing and no matter what any salesperson will tell you, word-of-mouth marketing is the greatest way to spread your business. But why doesn’t it always work and so many people are still convinced that it doesn’t work. I had so many people challenge me on this because they haven’t had the same success possibly that we’ve seen. And every business we’ve built for the last 15 years has been built and is spread because of word-of-mouth marketing. But why does it work for some and not for others? Why did it work for Paul Revere but not for William Dawes? So, you might be saying who is William Dawes? And that’s the point of the story.
William Dawes was another revolutionary who also had the same knowledge that Revere did. And he set off to spread the same method as well. He rode the countryside. He tried spreading the word. He also let people know the British were coming. But unlike Revere, Dawes had very little effect on the situation, so much so that the town of Waltham that he went through, which was one of the main towns where he we were trying to spread the word did not find out about it until it was too late. So why was Revere so successful in getting the word out but Dawes was ineffective? It’s pretty simple. Revere was a connector. He was extremely social and he was loved and respected by the community. He was involved in so only different things within his community and he knew he was friends with people of all different backgrounds and interests. He was known to be at the theater. He was a businessman. He was a fisherman and he was always at the places where other people read as well. And at the Boston tea party, he was the one that went Philadelphia to New York and all-over sharing messages, informing the others what was going on and bringing the right people together. So being that he was known by so many and he was connected to all these different groups and he was trusted, when that young boy heard that the British were planning something, the first person he thought to go to was Paul Revere. It wasn’t an accident or coincidence. And then once Revere set off on the midnight ride, Revere knew exactly who to go to. He knew who the influential people would be and he knew the leaders and where they would be. And because of that, they spread the word as well. The same couldn’t be said for William Dawes and because there is practically no history of Dawes’s ride through the area. Dawes had an ordinary network. He knew a few people but most of the people that he went to didn’t know him or didn’t trust him. So, because of that, even though we had all the knowledge of what was going on, the 17 miles that he rode had barely any impact. And as Gladwell says word-of-mouth epidemics are the work of connectors.
So, if you question if word-of-mouth is really effective because you’ve tried that before and it doesn’t work, it might not be that word-of-mouth is an effective. it might be that you’re not enough of a connector because the connectors bring different worlds together and they bring them together through trust and through generosity and because they a genuine need for helping those around them and for making their community which ever it is stronger. And I’m so grateful for people like Malcolm Gladwell for writing books like The Tipping Point and Outliers and for constantly helping me grow and challenge my mind for what I think I already know. So, if you don’t have them, go out and pick up those books, you will be better off for it and I will talk to you tomorrow.