Who You Surround Yourself With Helps Determine Who You Will Be

I work with a lot of individuals who are trying to grow their writing career, transform their identity and build a legacy. Recently, I have been considering barriers to writers achieving those things, and WHO in their lives either helps or hinders these accomplishments. Today I want to discuss the power that others have in you achieving your dreams.

We are each surrounded by people who keep us grounded in the present. In the now. In what already is, not what could be. For those of you who are trying to reinvent yourself, to follow your long-forgotten dreams, to achieve something exceptional, these relationships can be difficult. These people who surround you, they can sometimes work very hard to keep you defined as you are. As you were. Rarely as what you could be.

You see, these people have already defined you. They have categorized you, filtered you, labeled you. They have made you “safe” to their worldview. They do not want you to change, because it challenges them in ways you don’t intend. When your identity changes, it forces others to reassess how you fit in their world. It forces them to reassess their own identity. This does not sit well with many people, because most people don’t like change.

To keep us all boxed in, these people obsess over the details of the everyday. Over keeping the status quo. Over encouraging a sense of being overwhelmed by the now. The email, the laundry, the meetings. They encourage a sense of just getting by. That we are all just lucky to have a job. That it’s better to stay where we are. Who we are. Where we know it is “safe.”

Pardon my language, but this is bullsh*t.

These people perpetuate a feeling of always being behind. Always trying to catch up. That there is never enough time. That they would stretch themselves, spread their wings, if only…. there was more time. If only… this project wasn’t on deadline. If only… they had more money.

This too is bullsh*t.

These people focus on the wrong things: the tasks, the tactics, the immediate, the stuff, the things.

So if you are trying to achieve a dream. One that pushed you past boundaries. One that breaks the carefully defined ways that people see your identity. Then you need to surround yourself with a different type of person.

Those whose attitude enables action, not inaction. A person who sees the future, and not just the past. Who is building what does not yet exist, what is not yet proven, what is not yet cool, what is not yet safe. Someone more interested in capabilities than definitions. Someone with vision – who creates enough free space to allow wings to spread.

This is why great companies don’t just hire for skills, they hire for attitude. Those who are motivated, aligned to your purpose and style, who will grow, who will deliver greater than 100% of potential value. Who will spread their passion and encourage others.

Not those who take. Who demand. Who push against in negative ways. Those who suck the motivation out of others. Suck more energy than they give.

For your goals, you need to build a foundation for conversations that are strategic and forward thinking. That paints a picture of what could be, and then plans the steps to get there.

On a personal level, I have seen this done in a few ways in my life recently. Past students of my author platform courses have asked for ways to stay connected, so I created a mastermind group for us to connect each week. This serves three functions for a group of individuals trying to reinvent themselves and create a powerful body of work:

  • Accountability.
  • A roundtable of like-minds that can help brainstorm ideas to work through challenges.
  • A support group for the emotional ups and downs that are pervasive in the process of creation.

For myself, I am beyond lucky to be friends with so many talented, visionary, and giving individuals. Those who help me look ahead, laying a solid foundation for the future of my business at We Grow Media, and my life overall.

And it should not go unmentioned, the most important person who is responsible for my own success: my wife. Without her support for me leaving the safe corporate world, leaving a six-figure salary a month before we had our first child, for taking risks to establish We Grow Media – without her – none of this would be possible. She is giving me the space I need to challenge what is, and enough runway to create what I feel needs to be.

For the body of work you are building, the identity you are shaping, the legacy you are creating, are you building this foundation of support with those around you?

Many writers have told me how those closest to them offer the biggest challenges to growth. In these cases, their friends and family seem to have the least to gain by you changing. They see you as one thing: accountant, wife, husband, provider, caregiver, athlete, etc. Changing that means breaking patterns that have developed for years. It means expanding their definition of you. It sometimes means a direct challenge to how they have crafted their own world. That by you changing, it means a direct effect on them, on how you support them now, and a potential risk that with your role changing, your level of support will change.

These close relationships are, of course, very personal and complicated things. I cannot assume how your moving through a transition would or wouldn’t effect the attitude of your friends and family. But I can say that when you are pursuing a change to your identity, building a body of work, and growing your legacy, you need to connect with like-minds to push past boundaries. These may be new conversations with people you already know, or forging new relationships with those as visionary as you are. This means becoming a part of, or helping to establish, a community where others help you become who you need to be, and you help others with their own goals.

Recently, I was introduced to the lobby of the Ace Hotel in New York City by a friend. This is a place where creatives and entrepreneurs of all types seem to grab a space and work feverishly off of free wifi and good coffee. There is an energy in that lobby of people doing something they are passionate about. I have been considering the effect of working surrounded by that energy vs working in a gray office cube. Of working near others who are building vs working alone in a room.

Oftentimes, who you surround yourself with does effect who you can become.

One final note: with all this talk of what could be, I do want to give proper credit to the value of what was, and what is. I agree with Gary Vaynerchuck that we seem to live in a culture where we don’t appreciate the wisdom of our elders as much as we should. We tend to be too drawn to the new and shiny, the young and beautiful, the bold idea from the brash individual.

When I look to the future, it is always with an appreciation of what we can learn from the past (both good and bad), and a respect for the wisdom of those who have gone before me. And with everything that we build – it must be with a focus on building a legacy and value that lasts beyond our own lifetime.