Alcohol – lifeblood of business networking

Driving principle behind business drinks is a very human instinct: who you know and trust to lower your guard are far more reliable than abstract systems such as the law. The rules and regulations won’t protect you. They merely define the pricing structure for those willing to buy themselves above the law. Survival and success boils down to weaving a web of protection and advantageous influence.

Thriving in such timeless human circumstances requires access to an all important insider network. Ideally inherited from your elders as well as earned from amongst your peers. Such connections are based on a trading system of trust. Whose foundations are depend on developing intelligence on and a gut instinct about your fellow players/traders.

Alco-centric (alcohol centred) activities and institutions are the trading floors of such trust markets. They provide a theatre of informality with room for plenty of non-verbal communication-which is how humans say the really important stuff.

Sri Lankans take to such an operating environment quite intuitively. We have always been a clan, and caste infested tribal society that was waiting for a good old British club/class system to globalise our traditions into the 21st century. Professional afterwork drinking sessions fits perfectly into such sensibilities. Look out for you Machan and they’ll look out for you (or stab you in the back).

Alcohol provides a consistent set of familiar rituals to build new connections during adolescence. If you went to the right schools and partook the right sports (cricket, rugby, and rowing) your entry into the system is automatic. You become a member of a group of people bonded at an early age through rituals of endurance and stylised conflict (sport).

Alcohol is a key element in frenzied bonding ordeals of these groups. Nothing binds stronger like the illegality of a school age drinking session after winning a game-aside from pooling money for a hooker from the slums. It chains the group into a trusted circle of secrecy where members feel invincible to break the chains of socially acceptable behaviour. Initially it is form of catharsis after the physical ordeal of athletic competition. It also builds that essential executive skill of being able to hold your Mendis, Old Reserve, Smirnoff, Bicardi etc., at an early age. A lesser skill is learning to speak suda impressing English.

Alcohol tolerance is a well established asset in espionage. The same principles apply in the grimmer world of Colombo’s high flying executive circles. Amidst the bottles, glasses and plates of bites at the club, your alcohol tolerance is the only thing that can help or hinder your ability to gather critical business intelligence or do any serious networking. The unconscious drunk won’t catch and retain the gos about latest insider deals, who’s stealing more, juicy job openings, and blackmail-able info on whose sleeping with who’s wife. More dangerously, if you can’t hold your booze, you can’t watch what you say. A failing that could cost you dearly later on in your career. It is worse than bar brawling with the wrong people or being indiscreet about what you write on facebook walls.

Beyond career minded networking, booze helps you sculpt business relationships outside your connection circle. Personal arrangements are more civilised than the impersonal indignities of grovelling through the system. Certainly better than the humiliating hassle of chasing government clerks to get a peek at the competition’s tender documents (which can get lost/delayed/sent to the wrong desk based on how much you are willing to pay). This theatre of business drinking is perhaps the trickiest and the most rewarding. Obviously it requires a post of its own. Coming soon at an unhurried pace.


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