Talk to anyone who has achieved a great deal and they’ll remind you how critical it is to be selective about who you spend time with. I learned this myself (the hard way). Here’s my story — along with a few tips to help you determine whether someone’s good company or not.
In my 20’s, with big visions of changing the world through art, I launched an art and music production company in Boston. I worked night and day and had some major wins. Over 400 people came out to one of my first public shows, a leading vodka label signed on as a cash sponsor, and the biggest newspapers featured my events with glowing reviews.
But after three and a half years, I hung my head and threw in the towel. Leading up to it, there’d been a series of difficult blows to my company (and self-esteem). I’d been betrayed by partners and lost out on commissions that were rightfully mine — both on more than one occasion.
If any of those things happened today, I’d use it as an opportunity to heal my own pain and to learn skills for ensuring better results in the future. But at the time, I was so stuck playing the victim that these situations seemed to confirm my own deficiencies and unworthiness.
What wound up being my last event was going to be the biggest one yet! It was at one of the most famous venues in Boston, and I’d spent months and thousands of dollars preparing. But things seemed to go wrong at every turn. I even lost a major sponsor one month before our live event. And when the big night finally came, hardly anyone showed.
I later learned that there’d been too many events happening in the area at the same time — one of which was thrown by an underground rave producer, a self-professed “partner” of mine who’d encouraged me to schedule my happening on a very specific date. Little did I know he was hosting a competing event with a big-name DJ for the same night and had omitted my name from the mailing list for his promotions. I’d been so busy producing my own show that I didn’t realize a ton of people already had tickets to see his headlining DJ until it was too late.
My event was a total bomb. And it cemented every bad feeling and negative belief I held about myself.
The next day, I decided to close my business and move out West, which is exactly what I did. And for the next ten years, I re-made myself, diving deep into personal healing and self-development work.
Eventually, I’d grown quite a bit and learned enough skills to take on clients of my own and support them in their journeys of transformation. But still, I carried deep feelings of shame and humiliation around my previous failings as an entrepreneur.
A New Perspective
A few years ago I could feel a deep, intuitive pull to commit myself to seeing clients full-time. But in order to do that, I had to first revisit all that had happened back in Boston.
What really caused my business to fail? Was I doomed to fail again?
What I actually saw when I looked back these many years later on my experience as a young entrepreneur was a very different picture. Rather than viewing myself with harsh, self-critical eyes, I now saw an inspired and hard-working 26-year-old woman who had no discernment around the people she worked and socialized with.
There wasn’t anything wrong with me! I was wonderful — young, with much to learn, but still wonderful. The biggest problem was that I was also completely careless about who I spent time with.
Looking back, there’s no doubt in my mind that my business would have succeeded had I been more conscious about who I welcomed into my inner circle.
What About You?
No matter what you want to do in your life…no matter what challenges you are facing, be sure to surround yourself with healthy people who genuinely want you to succeed.
Since figuring out who these people are can be tricky, here are a few tips that I use to ensure my closest relationships are healthy for me.
1. Feel it out. How do you feel when particular people are around you? How do you feel after you’ve left their company?
The way you feel in someone’s presence — or right after being with them — can help you understand if the person is a positive influence and whether the relationship will have a peaceful flow to it.
Be aware if you feel overly excited and impetuous — like it’s easy to forget your own goals and priorities when you’re with someone. Also pay attention if you start contracting (getting smaller) or second-guessing what you say and do around them.
Healthy companionship will leave you feeling stable and centered, confident and relaxed, with an easy connection to what’s most important in your own life.
2. Sacred reciprocity. Nourishing interactions involve lots of give and take that goes both ways. You will each need to be just as willing to give support as you are to ask for it.
If either one of you refuses to be in the role of giver — or in the role of receiver — there’s going to be a power imbalance that leaves you either feeling depleted and resentful, or insecure.
3. Take a reality check. Are you and the other person acknowledging a similar reality?
Things like showing up on time to meet each other (or communicating about being late), acknowledging each other’s contributions, honoring your word and being accountable…these are all examples of important ways we honor the people in our lives.
If someone close to you seems to be living in their own version of reality (and it doesn’t come close to matching yours), then spending time with them will likely add stress to your life.
4. Communication is key. Do you both try to be self-responsible when expressing needs? Is there an air of mutual respect? Do you maintain a level of kindness when confronting conflicts together (i.e., you avoid “hitting below the belt”)?
Every healthy relationship must have a basic sense of safety when it comes to expression and listening.
5. Consider the future. Business philosopher and best-selling author, Jim Rohn has said that we’re the average of the five people we spend the most time with. I’ve found that to be true. When I look around at what my closest friends are up to in their lives, I can always see a reflection of my own levels of success and limitation.
When you look at the people you’re most involved with day after day, do you like where they’re headed? Are they building a better future or are they investing their time in drama and excuses? This is important, because chances are good that your future will be impacted by theirs.
If you want to cultivate a nourishing circle of friends and supporters, remember it’s an active process. Not only does it involve removing your energy (somewhat or entirely) from negative or draining relationships, but you’ll also want to begin reaching out to new people you admire and appreciate. This way, you can be sure to establish a strong system of support and inspiration.
It’s a process that takes time, but when you’ve got a solid team of loved ones around you, life becomes way easier and much more fun.