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Six Degrees of Connecting Better

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Ever sometimes wish that you could just live behind a gate with an alarm on it? Well ...

"You can't live behind a gate with an alarm on it, because you need to connect with people."

So said Kevin Bacon to Esquire magazine in a 2014 interview. And Kevin Bacon knows something about your need to connect with people.

Over the past 20-plus years, he has become "an icon for the concept of interconnectedness" thanks to the social phenomenon known as "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," a game people play (often in bars) that basically reinforces the theory that every person on the planet is separated by a mere six or fewer acquaintance links ... e.g., your cousin's brother's mailman's dentist's uncle went to school with Idi Amin ... i.e., we're all pretty connected.

Who better than K.Ba, then, to reveal the simple, eternal truth that people need people?

Even when Tom Hanks was stranded alone on an island in the movie Castaway, he needed an anthropomorphic volleyball named Wilson to (ironically) stay connected to reality and humanity. (Tom Hanks also starred in Apollo 13 — just one degree of separation from Kevin Bacon. Get it?)

Whether or not you or I have appeared in over 50 movies and won Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards (like Kevin Bacon), or received five Academy Award nominations and two Academy Award wins (like Tom Hanks), there's little chance of our escaping the universal truth of life outside the alarm gate: We need to connect with people and we desire to connect better with people.

August is the month that we at Cymplify take a little extra time to think about our core value ... to CONNECT ...

We believe in doing good things with people doing good things. Collaborate to bring power to your purpose. Reach out. Enlist. Listen. Inspire. Ask for help. Offer help.

To help flesh out our CONNECT core value — and how we at Cymplify use it to connect a little better with the one-degree-of-separation people in our lives —, we turn, fittingly, to six especially connective Kevin Bacon performances ...



(Apollo 13)

First up, K.Ba finds himself in serious need of a friend connection in Apollo 13 (1995) when his spacecraft malfunctions on the way to the moon with two other astronauts, threatening their mission and their lives.

As capable as the astronauts are, they are not going to make it back home without their long-distance radio connection with the engineers and problem-solvers at mission control. It's the ultimate reach out: across a hundred thousand miles of space and iffy reception.

Not just that, the reach out across the space of their own cramped ship is just as important, if not more so. Flying a crippled spacecraft back to earth is not a solo effort, and the more strained the connections become (to earth and to each other) in the tenuous situation, the more vital it becomes to their survival.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize that we can't get there alone, wherever there is, whatever our personal journey. We need to take others along on the ride. Once we realize that, the sky's the limit.

Winnie-the-Pooh said it well ... "You can't stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes." That's the reach out.

(Sterling Holloway, the original voice of Walt Disney's Winnie-the-Pooh, has just two degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.)



(The Following)

We don't always pick who who will be on the ride with us. (Kevin didn't pick the two other astronauts or the mission control engineers he relied on to get into space and back home again.)

But sometimes you do get to pick. Sometimes you enlist your travel companions. And if you've ever stopped to ask a stranger for directions, you know the importance of enlisting the right people (when you can) for the right task at the right time.

In the TV series, The Following (2013 - 2015), Kevin Bacon is a former FBI agent who gets re-enlisted into the bureau to help hunt for a serial killer. But not your everyday, run-of-the-mill serial killer: this one is a crazy brilliant, charismatic leader who enlists a large cult following of other crazed killers who help do his bidding.

Both leaders build teams of people to achieve what they can't achieve alone (either to kill or to stop the killing), but the serial killer makes a common, fatal mistake, enlisting people who just follow along and want to be clones of him.

Bring in like-minded, dedicated people who will go the extra mile (and beyond) with you and for you, yes. But also bring in people that will challenge you and bring in fresh and diverse perspectives ... people that will occasionally take the lead and offer something for you to follow.

The right balance of leading and following from the diverse people we enlist is a killer combination that's hard to beat.



(Animal House)

Kevin's small role as a frat-house pledge in Animal House (1978) demonstrates the monumental role that listening plays in connecting better with others. When a crowd panics in the street during the annual college homecoming parade, Kevin tries to convince them to "Remain calm. All is well. ALLLLLL IS WELLLLLLLLL!!!"

It isn't. They aren't listening to him, and he certainly isn't listening to them (the screaming, the running). All he hears is his own desire to be heard, which is where many of us get into trouble: we listen more to what's in our own head than what's coming from the other person.

Granted, it is far harder to listen than talk. Someone once said that, “Everybody wants to talk, few want to think, and nobody wants to listen.” We spend years learning how to read, write, and speak, but little, if any, time learning how to listen, when actually, about 60% or more of our communication is listening.

When we listen passively, the message often “goes in one ear and out the other.” When we listen actively, we engage our mind, heart, body, mouth, eyes, and ears. That's when we really get the message, and all is well.




In Footloose (1984), Kevin is a dancing fool from the big city who moves to a small, rural community where the local minister has (foolishly?) banned dancing. The ensuing battle between rebellious teen twinkletoes and repressive fogey flatfoot demonstrates an essential connection lesson: You can motivate people to act, but to get them to act in a committed and passionate way, you have to inspire them.

I’m motivated to eat every day, but I’m truly inspired by German Chocolate cake. I’m motivated to slow my car down when I see the police, but I’m inspired to slow my car down when I pass by a beautiful landscape. I’m motivated to clean the house, but I’m inspired to work on my backyard garden paradise project. I'm motivated to keep my feet on the straight and narrow when the local minister tells me I should, but music moves me!

Motivation moves people, but inspiration moves people. Real connections occur when we inspire, when we tap into something primal. The truth is, we all pursue personal goals and actions that move us, and feel true and right to us. Be true to that and you will inspire yourself and the people around you.




No matter how real they look in Tremors (1990) — and in the four movie sequels and the TV series — giant prehistoric worms that swim like fish underground are NOT coming to gobble you up. There are legitimately scary things out there to be afraid of, but those aren't one of them.

Asking people for help shouldn't be one either.

We all need help. Even heroes like Kevin Bacon (surrounded by hungry worms in the desert) need help. Where would Sherlock Holmes be without Watson, Luke Skywalker without Obi-Wan and Yoda, Bruce Wayne without Alfred, Thelma without Louise. No need getting all tremory over asking for help when we need it. Connections are built on it.

We need mentors, coaches, partners, and a myriad of other people to help and support us in any challenging personal effort. It can be a long, tough slog through a wormy desert alone, otherwise.



(Hollow Man)

It's not just you that needs help, obviously. Other people need you too.

Kevin helps demonstrate our final connection lesson as a scientist who discovers how to make people invisible in Hollow Man (2000). All is well with his breakthrough discovery until it starts affecting his connections. The more he disappears, the more he turns his back on people (and the more he turns violently insane).

The lesson: Don't ask for help without offering it back. Don't disappear when people need you. Don't be invisible.

Be present. Be available and accessible. Be supportive. Be helpful. Be a friend.

Be connected.

(Claude Rains, the original 1933 Invisible Man, has two degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.)

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