Crossing, Building and Burning Bridges: Improving Relationships and Exploring Opportunities

I live in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While it generally doesn’t rank among the top vacation spots for most people, to me it is home. I always say Pittsburgh is big enough to be a city with a great theater district and championship sports teams, but small enough to be a town with close networks. An interesting fact about Pittsburgh is that ranks 4th in the world for the most number of bridges with 446 bridges according to a Travel Trivia article. If you spend time with me, you know I use a lot of analogies to help me learn and explain different topics, so it is not surprising that I use bridges as an analogy for relationships and opportunities.

Crossing Bridges: Pittsburgh natives are famous not wanting to cross bridges and often stay within our neighborhoods. In this respect, crossing bridges is an analogy to get outside of your comfort zone. The first time you do it, you may need to allow some extra time for the unexpected delays, but the reward is worth the trip.

The phrase “cross that bridge when I come to it” also comes to mind. Before starting my own company, I was a certified project manager where my job was to anticipate risks and issues before they happened. Planning is very important, but you can also over plan. One of the delays I had in launching Impactful Improv was trying to have everything perfectly in place. I would worry about how I would handle a large number of clients, getting marketing materials just right and all of the administrative aspects of running a business. But all that planning just slowed progress. I have learned to surround myself with the right team of people and move forward with the confidence that I can cross the bridge of the next hurdle when I come to it.  

Building Bridges: I genuinely enjoy attending networking events and meeting new people. It is one of the reasons I am launching Networking Improv(e)dTM in 2020. But a new connection is just the first step in building meaningful relationships. In order to do business together or develop lifelong friendships, we need to invest the time to build bridges. When building bridges, it is important to know your values and where you are going. You don’t want to build a “bridge to nowhere.” Bob Burg and Chris Brogan have used the phrase “People do business with people they know, like and trust.”  These are key elements that should go into the foundation of the bridge. Some bridges will need to have a stronger foundation for the long-term while others may only need to be temporary. Some bridges may be built almost instantaneously while others may take time to build.

Burning Bridges: Sometimes it is necessary to burn bridges. When I left my job in August, I needed to burn the bridge behind me otherwise failure would be a possibility because I could always go back to my job. On rare occasion, I also had to burn some personal bridges with individuals. Burning a bridge isn’t something I ever recommend a client do haphazardly. It is an intentional act that only comes after deep reflection and determination that any additional attempts to repair the bridge would not help to get where I need to go. For me the bridges I have burnt have been for toxic situations that were negatively impacting my progress and my health. I had held on to these opportunities and relationships because of a sense of comfort and loyalty. I had to come to the point where I needed to take the positive memories and experiences and let go. When leaving these situations, I always take the high road and treat others with dignity and respect, even when they have mistreated me.  Clearing the space taken by the bridge has helped me invest my time with clarity and focus where I can have the most meaningful impact.

Bridges are a key element in our transportation infrastructure that help us to get where we need to be. Take some time to reflect on the relationships and opportunities in your life to determine where to best invest your time. I hope your life is filled with positive opportunities and relationships that will help on your journey and, if needed, you will have the courage to the “burn the bridges” to have a healthy and prosperous life.

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