"If You Want To Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want To Go Far, Go Together.”


Everyday, at 5:30 AM, entrepreneur Nathan Latka’s iPhone alarm goes off. Seconds later, he’s in the kitchen making breakfast. He puts the frying pan on the lower-right burner and turns the dial to 7. What happens next is completely unexpected.


He sprints to the bathroom and takes a 4-5 minute shower knowing that if he stays longer, there is a risk of burning down the house.

On the one hand, Nathan’s ‘efficiency thinking’ saves time in the mornings and helps him in business. Nathan’s company, Heyo, is growing at 100%+ per year in part because of remarkable efficiency. It has 2,500+ customers, and their minimum plan is $25/month.

However, efficiency thinking comes with risks.

When I started to write this article, my goal was to share the lessons learned of the world’s top relationship builders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. What slowly emerged as I conducted 15+ interviews was not simply a checklist of steps to build better relationships. It was a completely different paradigm of approaching one’s career and life that complements the drawbacks of ‘efficiency thinking’.

Enter Relational Thinking


On the other extreme of Latka is Randy Komisar. In 1987, Randy was in his early thirties and at the top of his game. He had degrees from both Brown and Harvard; had risen through the ranks at Apple; and co-founded an extremely promising spinout, Claris. However, below the surface, something was deeply wrong.

Despite Randy’s early success achieving all of his goals, he wasn’t happy.

In the throes of an early onset midlife crisis, he was close to reaching a breaking point and leaving behind the business world and everything he had been building to.

With mentorship from Bill Campbell at Claris, now one of the most respected leaders and coaches in business history, this personal crisis ultimately led to the adoption of a completely new life philosophy: relational thinking.

In every major career decision, Randy started primarily optimizing for surrounding himself with the smartest, most high-integrity people. He focused on building deep, long-term, win-win relationships and less on being solely goals-oriented.

This philosophy has served him well... He later went on to be the...

  • Founding director at TiVo
  • CEO of WebTV
  • CEO of LucasArts & Crystal Dynamics (creators of the popular Tomb Raider, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones video games)
  • Author of two popular books
  • General partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, one of the most prestigious venture capital firms in the world

As a result of his philosophy, almost all of the positions that he has held have been been offered to him rather than sought after.

Furthermore, while some of the companies he led no longer exist, many of the relationships still do. Randy talked weekly with Bill Campbell until his death in 2016, for example.

Randy isn't alone in his approach...

First Who, Then What

The simple but profound idea of First Who, Then What was first introduced in the classic book, Good To Great.

To illustrate the concept, author Jim Collins tells the following story of Dick Cooley, who become the CEO of Wells Fargo in the late 1970s. At the time, the banking industry was being upended by deregulation. Concerned by this, his board ask Cooley, "What is your vision? What is your strategy?"

Below is Cooley's response

"I don’t know! Not only that, it’s the wrong question. I am not going to figure out first where to drive this bus and then get people on the bus. No, I am going to do it completely opposite. I am not going to try and figure out where to drive the bus until I’ve got the right people on the bus.

The core difference between efficiency and relational thinking is people. In the context of efficiency thinking, people are a means to an end. In the context of relational thinking; people are the means and the end. This simple distinction has wide-ranging implications.

Efficiency thinking asks...

“What are my goals and how can I most rapidly achieve them with the greatest odds of success?”

Relational thinking asks...

“How can I constantly surround myself with most amazing people and build deep relationships with them?"

The Hidden Power of People

Relationships are more than just strategic chess pieces that help us achieve our goals efficiently.

Approached properly, they can help us both create and achieve goals beyond our wildest dreams. They can last for decades; well beyond the length of individual deals, transactions, and companies. And as relationships deepen, their mutual value often compounds as each is willing to do anything to help the other person during the ups and downs of their career and life; whether it be:

  • Giving ‘secret’ business knowledge and tactics
  • Publicly going to bat for the other person
  • Making introductions to anyone else in their network
  • Being a confidant
  • Providing emotional support

What’s amazing about relationships is their ability to transcend professional boundaries and have a huge impact on our behaviors, well-being, income, happiness, and even longevity.

Almost all business and personal growth books have an overwhelming focus on efficiency thinking: set a vision, set goals to accomplish that vision, and always take the shortest path that you're aware of.

The scary thing about efficiency thinking though is that the same heads-down focus that leads to our success can cause us to run past what matters most. Adam Grant, one of the world’s leading researchers on the power of relationships and the NY Times bestselling author of Give & Take, adds:

“No matter how goal-oriented you are, a good chunk of your success depends on your peripheral vision.” — Adam Grant

By incorporating relational thinking into our lives, we not only increase the odds of achieving our goals—we co-create a more fulfilling journey with people that enrich us.

I first wrote this article a few years ago for Forbes. Since, then I've only realized and understood the risk of being too goals focused even more. For my most recent thinking, read If you want to be massively successful, do NOT set ambitious goals, according to studies.