One of the most powerful skills you can harness is the ability to listen, take in information and place it in context for your every day life. Sometimes, from the most mundane or seemingly useless resources, you can gain some insight, a new twist or look at things in your own life that you may not have found otherwise. These common threads in your experience and in the lives of others form a set of almost universal truths that can make life a lot easier to figure out an navigate.

For example, I recently discovered the WTF podcast by Marc Maron. While this is definitely a Not Safe For Work, or for that matter, my kids, kind of show, I’ve not only been entertained but learned a lot along the way as well. Marc talks to some of the top comedians in the Country, in a “sit down and let’s talk about stuff” format that I find useful when producing the LD Podcast. The guests talk about performing on stage and in movies, audiences, the ethics of who “owns” a joke, career paths, and even the incredible amount of stuff that often comes from hanging out with your friends, the “ROI” of which may not be realized for years down the line.

I was listening to one show featuring Ben Stiller, where he spoke about how the people he met and hung out with in his early days in New York have formed the relationships he has now, and how those relationships help create new projects, new ideas, and get things off the ground. This resonated with me, because the group of friends I made at the first Podcamp and Podcamps since then have become some of the most influential people I learn from and work with now. We’re all further down the track than we were in the beginning, but these shared experiences and getting together to just talk and hang and decompress about what we do is not only therapeutic, but helps build and cement the trust we share that’s so vital to keeping us all on track and moving forward.

In this ridiculously fast-paced world we’re living in, having solid relationships with folks you can trust and share a sense of “institutional memory” with are invaluable. This sense of travelling on a similar path, of sharing, and of knowing the secret handshake is important. While I can’t always point to an immediate ROI, as Chris discusses well in his blog post where Gary V asks “What is the ROI of your Mom?” I know it’s there.

I know the relationships I’m building in the communities I’m involved with have both an immediate emotional satisfaction, and feed very real human needs – just look at my favorite old saw, Maslow’s Hierarchy. Not everything we care deeply about has a price tag attached. Sometimes, the relationships, friendships and trust we build pay off not in dollars and cents, but in enabling us to see things through different lenses, and become better people. Sometimes there will be opportunities to work together. Sometimes, it will just be about enjoying each other’s company and enjoying our time here on Earth. Either way, the value of these relationships is priceless. I can’t go and buy them, even if I want to. I only get to keep them as long as I keep my end of our unspoken bargain, which included valuing the other person’s time and attention, don’t abuse their trust, and be there to offer support when I can.

The common threads and experiences we share with our friends and communities bind us together. The fabric we weave can be amazing. To some people, from the outside, it may look like cheap burlap- something that seems haphazard, and without much value. But even burlap can be used to warm early crops and later to collect the produce- the fruit of the labor and take it to market. That’s why to me, this fabric we create is more valuable than the most precious silk. It’s inherent value may not be obvious to everyone, but over time, it nurtures us, feeds us, and creates opportunities that might not be obvious at its inception. There may not be a quick return on investment. But as I’m learning more and more, the friends you make over time may truly be your most valuable asset later on- you just have to make time for them and build those relationships now if you ever have a hope of “cashing in” on them down the road.