A friend of mine gave me the following advice … you’re the average of the 10 people you spend time with. Looking back through my life, I could see how impactful that guideline really is. I know I’ve grown the most, when I’ve surrounded myself with the best. Whenever I feel like a big fish in a small pond, I try to change my container. Partly why I joined Microsoft was to change my container. Aside from a new adventure, I wanted to be a small guppy in a big ocean and I wanted to be surround myself with people who were better at just about everything. Trial by fire.
Your Network Enables or Limits You
You can actually think of your network as a container that enables or limits you. You’re the sum of your network and you are who you hang with. You end up modeling your friends. They can grow you, or they can hold you back. It influences what you think about, how you feel, and what you do. While you can rise above any challenge, the key is to find as many sources of support and build a firm foundation for your success as possible.
Here are some key practices I that have served me well:
- Use lunches for building your network. Each week, I have lunch with somebody old, and somebody new. This helps me treat my network like a Bonsai tree, tuning and pruning over time. Life’s not static and neither is your network.
- Meet with mentors on a regular basis. I meet with my mentors every two weeks. It’s a staple in my life. It gives me a reliable rhythm for learning and growth and I always look forward to trusted advice and feedback.
- Make everyone your mentor. I make everybody my mentor. I think everybody has a super power and I learn from them. (See What’s Your One-Liner Super Power?)
- Spend more time with catalysts. I structure my time to spend more time with people that catalyze me and less time with people that drain me. Obviously, it’s a generalization, but I find that if you consciously find a way to spend time with people that lift you up, it pays off over time.
- Find your heroes. I study heroes. I find reference examples to learn and model from. I never knew Bruce Lee, but I’ve learned a lot from him (see Lessons Learned from Bruce Lee.) I studied lessons from Stephen Covey and I did get to meet him in person (see Lessons Learned from Stephen Covey.) I studied Michael Michalko, one of the greatest thinkers and creative minds of our time, and I got to meet him online (see Choice.) The point is, you’re surrounded by great examples if you look for them. I’m a big believer in standing on the shoulders of giants.
- Surround yourself with the best. I do what I can to surround myself with people that are better than me. It’s not so I can compete with them, it’s so I can compete with myself. They help me check my thinking, they’re a great sounding board, and I learn at a way faster pace, than any other way I can think of.
- Team up. I team up or pair up. It’s like an apprenticeship model, but I find people that are great at what they do and like to share. In return, I share my strengths and it’s a fast track for success.
- Build your online network. There are great people all over the world. I spend time on great blogs. I try to find great places online that make me think or give me new insights and inspirations.
Really though, it goes back to thinking about this simple point … you’re the average of the 10 people you spend time with. It’s a simple yard-stick for me to checkpoint if I’m spending enough time with the people I should, family and friends included. It’s a great practice for work and life.
Photo by Randy Son of Robert.