Songwriters and musicians have popularized the lyrical and metaphorical idea that love makes the world go round, that the world will forever spin in its happy place if only we can just love one another. But the truth is that it is not love that keeps the world on its axis and a few billion people communicating and interacting with each other. Rather it is relationships, be they good or bad, that drive our everyday lives. Relationships that drive our personal lives, our political ambitions, our business activities, and our social calendars. Relationships that define who we are and who we will become. This book is about building and nurturing those relationships, and it will change your life. Whether we are discussing your spouse, your lover, your friends, your boss, your subordinates, your enemies, or any other infinity group, it is relationships with these people that give meaning to your life. The question is not the importance of these relationships, but rather how you will develop and use these relationships to your advantage. This book teaches a step-by-step approach that will help you turn personal acquaintances into meaningful friendships and business associations into profitable ventures.

Life is like a crowded elevator. Nameless people going here and there focused on lights and buttons that tell them when to get on and when to get off. But in and out of elevators, the people have names, and the names have stories. And in those stories are relationships waiting to be discovered. This book is about riding elevators backwards and facing the crowd head on; about boldly turning nameless faces into real people; about listening intently to their stories and fearlessly making their stories your own.

The timeless principles illustrated within these pages have been developed, nurtured, and refined over a period of years in the world of business and mergers and acquisitions. In my business life, I lived by a simple formula: relationships will make you a winner, and when you ignore the importance of relationships, you will lose. While it sounds simplistic, I learned it over and over, again and again, the hard way. Many of the examples I will share with you are taken from the business world, but they apply equally to nonbusiness relationships.

This book is designed to change the way you identify, approach, manage, and nourish relationships. It will challenge you to change old habits, to take a few risks, and to operate outside your “comfort zone.” And it will encourage you to take aggressive steps to make change happen quickly and to alter perception. Let me give you an example. Several years ago as a young manager at Price Waterhouse, I asked a subordinate to give me some upward feedback. Yes, I was ahead of my time. Simply said, I wanted to know what the staff members thought of me. The subordinate’s answer was shocking. He said, “The staff thinks, first, your technical skills are generally good; second, you could pretty much sell ice to Eskimos; and third, you are the most disorganized person on the face of the planet.” I asked how the staff came to this conclusion with respect to my organizational skills. “Look around,” he said. “Your office is a mess.” After massaging my ego for a few minutes, I asked the supply person to bring me several large boxes that would fit under my credenza. I took everything off my desk and piled it in the boxes and stuffed them under my credenza out of sight. I made an on-the-spot decision that I still live by to this day: I will never have more than one file on my desk at any point in time. That evening the Price Waterhouse managing partner walked by my desk, and after glancing into my office, did a double-take. He said, “Stevens, you are either the most organized person in this entire office or you don’t have enough work to do.” After assuring him that the latter was not true, I reflected for a moment. In six short hours, I had gone from being the most disorganized guy on the planet to at least the most organized guy in the Price Waterhouse office. I had swung the pendulum rapidly from one side to the other, which accomplished two objectives. First, I had made a decision to organize my desk, and ultimately, my business day; and secondly, I had dramatically changed the perception of everyone around me as to my organizational abilities.

As you begin your journey in this book, I encourage you to “swing the pendulum” rapidly regarding relationship building. Your peers, your supervisors, and your subordinates will more quickly recognize your efforts if you aggressively change your relationship philosophy, fearlessly embrace the five rules of relationship building, and relentlessly pursue the disciplines that will put your newly learned skills into action. And as the pendulum swings you will, no doubt, find yourself walking into elevators filled with people you have never met. Elevators crowded not only with new faces, but brimming with opportunities for building relationships.

So the next time you hear the bell chime and the elevator door opens, step in, tell your story, and embrace the ones you hear. They may just change your life. Good luck. I know you can do it!
J. Larry Stevens