Connections for sweet folks.
I love introducing people. Though I’ve been at it for more than thirty years, I’m still amazed that such a simple gesture can lead to something lasting and meaningful: a friendship, a creative collaboration, a marriage, a business partnership.
When it comes to deciding who to introduce to who, I follow the tried-and-true formula I learned from my mom as a kid (she’s one of the all-time great matchmakers):
Introduce people who are 1) warm-hearted, 2) resilient, 3) intrinsically motivated, 4) trustworthy, 5) self-aware, and 6) unselfconscious. It doesn’t matter how the two people are otherwise different. Folks with these traits always hit it off.
I call these sixfold wonderful people Sugarmaples.
Making things scale
Until a few years ago, finding Sugarmaples took a lot of time. But, thanks to the Internet and social networks, it’s gotten much easier. Too easy, in fact. These days, I’m making more Sugarmaple introductions than I can handle.
To keep up the pace without burning myself out (or driving my wife nuts), I’ve started building an app that will help Sugarmaples find each other and connect on their own.
It’s coming soon. Stay tuned.
“I continue to love what you’re doing. Great ideas.”
“The best lunch date of my life. We were there for two and a half hours, but could easily have stayed for five.”
“If an eagle and a tiger had a human baby that was then raised by ninjas, it would be Ted.”
“Ted is extraordinary at what he does, and he’s a man of his word.”
“It was a wonderful time and a really great meal.”
“I had a very enjoyable lunch with Seth [Godin] yesterday — a smart and likable guy. There are degrees of kindredness (as well as of heresy). But we do seem to share a fair amount. Thanks for matching us.”
“It was such a great experience that I’m wracking my brain for other problems in my business that Ted could solve with a thoughtful connection.”
“I wanted to thank you again for the past weekend’s amazing fun and incredible opportunity to have an exchange of notions with Anil [Dash]. I feel even richer for the ideas & starting-places that have come out of the whole thing!”
“You know how it seems like everyone has a personal trainer, now? I believe Ted is the progenitor of a new kind of empathy-based collective problem solving that everyone will take for granted some day.”
“Sugarmaples is a collection of passionate, ambitious, big-hearted visionaries, and Ted is the Master Cultivator.”
“I have to say, you are very good at what you do. The timing was perfect and with one introduction you’ve enabled a ton of fruitful connections (which in the long run, might actually help save lives) in the span of a few days.”
When Sugarmaples meet, it’s magic.
In 2013, I found out a whole bunch of Sugarmaples were struggling with the same problem. Brand writer Mike Reed, comedian Eugene Mirman, hand-letterer Jessica Hische, writer/entrepreneur Anil Dash, software designer Sarah Parmenter, and about fifteen other creatives were all frustrated by a lack of time for passion projects. So, I brought them together to come up with a solution. We called the event a Meddle and made a little film about it.
The Semaan-Vernons and Shapiro-Perazas
Last year I met a Sugarmaple couple, Celine Semaan Vernon, the founder of Slow Factory, and her husband, Colin Vernon, the head of web and mobile development at LittleBits. I introduced them and their 18-month-old daughter, Sila, to a Sugarmaple family who lived close by in Brooklyn. Deroy Peraza, the co-founder of Hyperakt, and his wife, Jenna Shapiro, an education expert and activist, just happened to have an 18-month-old son, named Luco. I treated the six of them to a picnic in Prospect Park. The photo below is of Sila and Luco saying goodbye after the end of the picnic in front of the Shapiro-Peraza’s front door. The two families have since become quite close.
Phil Caravaggio and Rodrigo Corral
Phil Caravaggio, the Sugarmaple CEO of Precision Nutrition, came to me a few months ago wanting help figuring out how to gift a special, custom hardcover book to a potential business partner. So I introduced him to a Sugarmaple artist named Rodrigo Corral, one of the world’s finest book designers. The two have become good friends and the book goes to print next month.
Frequently asked questions.
When is the Sugarmaples app coming out?
We’re shooting, conservatively, for August 1st.
What platform is the app going to be available for?
Initially iPhone. Android down the road.
How do you determine whether someone is a Sugarmaple?
At this point, it’s mostly intuition. But Sugarmaples give away clues. Here are a few. Remember, these are clues, not pre-requisites.
Sugarmaples are warm-hearted
- instinctively squat down to match eye levels with a child in distress
- give freely without worrying if or when it will be reciprocated
- naturally offer up a big hug when they run into a friend they haven’t seen for a while
- get a kick out of kids and their general craziness
- are totally comfortable around very silly, Monty-Python-like behavior in adults
Sugarmaples are resilient
- are the folks you want around in an emergency
- are totally comfortable laughing at something really funny, even if it’s ‘blue’
- would take you to the airport in the middle of the night, without a second thought, if you asked them to
- laugh off your foibles and accept you for who you are
- react to people who exhibit sexist, racist, or otherwise vulgar behavior with pity
Sugarmaples are intrinsically motivated
- would be impossible to persuade to change careers
- love the minute-to-minute experience of doing their work as much or more than its mission
- value conversation for its own sake
- get lost in research mode after discovering something new and fascinating
- love teaching others what they know
Sugarmaples are trustworthy
- would be among the first people you’d ask to babysit a one-year-old
- are someone you wouldn’t think twice about letting pay you with a personal check
- tell you when you are doing something that bothers them
- find it unconscionable to sell something to someone who doesn’t need it
- would run after someone to give them back something they dropped on the sidewalk
Sugarmaples are self-aware
- have an accurate sense of their own abilities
- are particularly good at “taking the temperature of a room”
- are graceful in their body movements
- readily admit their own deficiencies
- can tell very quickly if someone they’ve just met will be a friend
Sugarmaples are unselfconscious
- laugh off praise
- are more likely to express empathy than offer advice
- are unconcerned with their appearance when around friends
- rarely talk about their possessions
- happily cede control to others with more experience or expertise
How do I become a part of this?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why do you call these folks Sugarmaples?
It’s a long story, but I’ve named them in honor of my mom.
Who drew the trees illustration?
Who shot/edited the video?
Who animated the opening video sequence?
Who composed the music for the video?
Who designed the Meddle logo?
My name is Ted Pearlman. I’m married to Allison, an architect. We have a ridiculous second-grader, Oscar, and an enormous Newfoundland, Tatou, who’s famous on the Internet. I’m a Cornell alum and tech industry (Sony / IBM / Roguewave / CQG) refugee. My other passion project is Fall: In Love with Music, a new kind of venue I’m developing for Denver. I’m perpetually inspired by the short animated film, The Man Who Planted Trees. You can watch it below.