Guido Stein asked a terrific question in this Twitter conversation:

cspenn: @chrisbrogan I am stingy with my recommendations, but when I recommend something, I *mean* it. High bar, but kudos if you reach it.
GuidoS: @cspenn how can you be stingy about recommendations but not about people in your network? Isn’t association partly an endorsement?

To some, perhaps. In the slightly warped perspective of the ninja, association isn’t recommendation. Association is information. If you look at the folks who follow me on Twitter, who are friends on Facebook, who are contacts on LinkedIn, you’ll find an enormous variety of folks, from Asian cooks to college students, from presidents and CEOs to exotic dancers, from independent musicians to search engine optimization wizards. All of these people that are in my network are folks I ‘associate’ with, but more importantly, each of them has unique perspectives and information that I find helpful.

There’s an old ninja expression relating literally to seeing in the dark – the lower you go, the more you can see. Try it at night sometime. It’s a metaphor as well – the closer to the ground, to the real people doing real stuff, you can get, the more you can see. It’s easy from a financial or economics perspective to look at macro stuff like GDP, the Dow Jones, etc. but if you want some real insight, you need to put boots on the ground and see what’s really happening. You can only do that through association, through making lots of acquaintances across the spectrum of people out there.

Recommendation is different – recommendation to me means that I have experience with some aspect of the person, product, or service, and when I recommend something, I confer a bit of whatever trust you have in me to that person, place, or thing. In this crazy world we live in, trust is exceedingly scarce, exceedingly rare, and something that you should absolutely be stingy with.

Associate with lots of people. Associate to learn, to grow, to share your experiences. Recommend only when you want to confer trust, because if you blow it on a recommendation, you betray that trust a little, and as everyone from Presidents to CEOs to the broken hearted know or are finding out, trust is very, very hard to recover.

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