The Key to Career Growth: Surround Yourself with People Who Will Push You
I’m an ardent chess player, and whenever possible, I like playing against players who are much better than me. This is because playing against players who are better than me helps me improve my game.
As we go through the motions of coming up with strategies and counter strategies, baiting and trapping each other, I start noticing new moves, new strategies and new patterns of thinking being employed by the stronger opponents, which I can then use in my games against another opponent. In so doing, playing against better opponents helps me become a better player.
When it comes to things like games and sports, most people know the importance of interacting with people who are much better than them, and how this can help them become better players themselves. Surprisingly, no one takes this into consideration when it comes to career development.
When it comes to career growth and development, most people focus on things like taking additional courses and certifications, taking on more projects, getting promoted, earning more money, getting bigger titles, being assigned greater roles, and so on.
If you ask most people to mention something they are doing to help them advance in their careers, only a handful will mention that they are actively and purposefully surrounding themselves with people who encourage, inspire, and push them to chase after their goals, yet this is one of the most effective ways of ensuring success.
Why are the people you surround yourself with so important?
There is a common quote by Jim Rohn which says that you are the average of the five people you surround yourself with.
The people you closely associate with influence how you feel, how you think, and the kind of action you take towards your goals.
Just like a chess player or football player will learn new moves and new strategies by playing with better, more experienced players, surrounding yourself with the right kind of people can help you grow in your career or your business, if you are an entrepreneur.
These people will help you discover new ideas and strategies, give you honest feedback about what you are or are not doing, encourage you when the going gets tough, and generally push you to go after your goals.
It is ironic that we spend over two decades and hundreds of thousands of dollars getting a formal education, invest a lot of time and resources in getting trained for our careers, carefully choose where we want to work, but then do not take any proactive action towards surrounding ourselves with the right kind of people, yet this is something that has an equally significant influence on our chances of success in our careers.
If you want to see more growth in your career, it’s time you started paying attention to the people you surround yourself with and the people you take counsel from.
You need to deliberately create a circle of people who push you to be the best version of yourself.
Below, let’s take a look at the kind of people you need to surround yourself with, as well as how to build such a group of people.
WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE SHOULD YOU SURROUND YOURSELF WITH?
According to the Entrepreneur Magazine, there are four types of people that you should surround yourself with. These are:
If you look around your office, you can probably pinpoint someone who is a relentless worker.
They always have something they are working towards and will not rest until they have accomplished their goals.
You will hardly find them wasting time on useless pursuits, and the reward for their effort is that they always deliver good results.
Having such people in your circle is a great thing, because they will push you to work as hard as them each and every day.
While I am not saying that you should measure your success in your career against the success of other people, you can measure how driven you are by comparing yourself with other people.
And if the people you surround yourself with are relentless workers who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals, you will end up becoming a relentless worker yourself.
People With Positive Attitudes
Attitude is one of the most influential factors to success in your career, in business, and even in life.
If you have a positive attitude, no setback will keep you from going after your dreams and ambitions.
On the other hand, if you have a negative attitude, it will drag you down and sap your inspiration to reach for success.
Something you need to know about attitude is that it is highly contagious. If you surround yourself with people with negative attitudes, you will gain a negative attitude as well.
This can bog down your creativity and decrease your drive to become better and advance your career or your business.
On the other hand, if you surround yourself with people with positive attitudes, they will push you to chase your dreams, they will encourage you to keep pushing on when the going gets tough, and generally keep your morale high.
These are definitely the kind of people you want around you.
People Who Ask Questions
Albert Einstein, one of the most brilliant men in history once said that you should never stop questioning. It is through asking questions that we gain knowledge.
In your career, or in your business, you should constantly be asking questions such as:
Is there a better way to do this? How can I improve revenue? How can I improve profits? What do I need to deliver better results? What do I need to do to get my boss to give me greater responsibilities? What do I need to do to earn that promotion?
While asking yourself questions can help you improve your career or business, it is inconceivable that you will think of all the important questions pertaining to your career or business.
Surrounding yourself with other people who routinely ask questions will provide you with different angles that you might have missed, and their questions could ultimately provide you with insights that will lead to an important breakthrough in your career or business.
Some people are never satisfied with the current state of things. They are constantly dreaming about bigger things. They might be working as a low level executive right now, but they are dreaming about getting into the CEO’s office one day.
They might be running a small one man business right now, but they are dreaming about turning the company into a multi-million company one day.
Regardless of where they are, they believe that they can achieve more.
However, they don’t stop at dreaming. They use their dreams to set goals and then come up with plans on how to achieve these goals that will take them closer to their dreams.
Surrounding yourself with this kind of people who are always dreaming inculcates the same perspective in you.
It teaches you not to settle for the present state of things, and encourages you to always strive for greater things.
The best part is that you don’t even need to be working in the same company or the same industry as these people.
Simply surrounding yourself with people who are constantly setting big dreams and doing all they can to achieve these dreams will influence you to start doing the same.
Aside from the above four groups of people the Entrepreneur Magazine encourages you to surround yourself with, there are other kinds of people you also need to have in your circle. These include:
The Inspired and Those Who Inspire You
There are some people who leave you feeling inspired after every interaction.
They leave you feeling that you are worth a lot more, that you are capable of achieving your dreams, or that nothing should limit you in life. They create a feeling of awe within you and leave you feeling empowered.
A simple interaction with them sparks some kind of fire within you and encourages you to go out there and become the best version of yourself.
Surrounding yourself with such people can do wonders for your career.
Such people include business leaders, entrepreneurs, teachers in certain disciplines, public leaders, and so on.
The best part is that you don’t even need to know these people personally in order to gain inspiration from them.
You can still make them an influential part of your life by interacting with them on social media, reading about them, reading their books, attending conferences and TED talks where they are speaking, and so on.
These are the kind of people who know how to get things done. Whatever they set out to do, they usually accomplish it because they know they have a vision for their life and know why they are doing whatever it is they set out to do.
They teach you to define what you want out of life and how to get it, with the drive for results coming from within rather than from the environment.
Motivated people are very hard workers, and having them in your circle sets an example for you to follow as you pursue growth in your career.
They teach you how to focus on what is important to you, how to prioritize things, how to keep yourself going even when you don’t feel like it, and so on.
People Who Have Already Achieved What You are Trying to Achieve
Just like a young aspiring professional footballer will surround himself with experienced professional footballers in order to learn from them, you also need to surround yourself with successful people who have already achieved what you are trying to achieve.
Since they have already gotten the results you are trying to get, they already know what you need to do to get similar results and the mistakes and pitfalls you need to watch out for on the way.
Learning from them can save you a lot of effort and shorten the time it takes for you to achieve what you are aiming for.
If you aim is to become a manager, for instance, surround yourself with one or two people who are already in management positions.
If your aim is to run a successful business, associate with people who are already running successful businesses.
Alternatively, you can join a mastermind group of people who have already achieved what you are aiming for.
The best part of this is that you don’t need to explicitly ask these people for advice on how to achieve the results you are aiming for.
Whether these people are aware of it or not, they have a certain strategy that helped them get where they are.
They have a certain way of building their network, they have a certain approach to their work, they have established certain habits that have helped them achieve success, and they have their own ways of dealing with conflict.
By simply spending time with these people, you will be able to observe what they are doing right, and then you can try to do the same and achieve similar results.
HOW TO SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO PUSH YOU
Now that you know the kind of people you need to surround yourself with in order to advance your career, how exactly do you go about making these people a part of your circle?
Don’t be Afraid to Go After Them
You can’t just sit in your office and hope that somehow, these people will find their way to you. You need to actively chase them if you want them in your circle.
A good approach is to attend conferences where the kind of people you want to surround yourself with are likely to be found, approach them, interact with them, and forge relationships with some of them.
Alternatively, if you have identified a particular person you would like to learn from, you can reach out to them and request for a meeting. Sometimes, building relationships with these people might require some great investment from you.
For instance, if the person you want to interact with lives in a different city, you might have to fly over to their city.
While this might be costly, it is nothing compared to the price you pay for an education, yet it can an equally huge impact on your career.
Take Advantage of Social Media
The internet has made everything very easy.
If you have identified someone you feel you can learn from and grow, you don’t even need to request them for a meeting.
Instead, you can easily reach out to them using social media and start forging a relationship with them.
Even if you never get the chance to meet them in person, you can still learn a lot from them through your interactions on social media.
Don’t Just Settle for the People You Work With
Of course, the easiest people to surround yourself with are the people you admire within your organization.
Their insights can be really helpful, especially if you want to grow your career within the same organization. However, don’t just settle for people within your organization.
Find some people who work externally.
Having people outside your organization will provide you with a broader perspective, give you the benefit of greater independence, and give you the opportunity to build greater connections beyond your company or industry.
This broader network of connections can give you access to opportunities you would have otherwise missed.
Be Sincere About the Reason for Your Interest
When you reach out to these great people, don’t try to conceal your intentions.
Instead, get sincere with them and let them know that you are hoping to learn from them or get inspired by them.
In most cases, great people are passionate about helping people succeed, and they will be happy to inspire you and help you bridge the gap between your reality and your dreams.
Offer Them Help
While I have said that you should be sincere with your intentions of learning from them, don’t be a leech. Don’t just think about what you can gain from them.
You also need to ask yourself if they have anything to gain from their interactions with you.
If there is nothing for them to gain, then they might not be interested in the relationship.
Therefore, you need to offer some kind of help, with no strings attached.
While they are more successful than you, there a number of ways through which you can help them.
For instance, you can help them conduct research for the book they are writing, you can offer to become a pro bono assistant professor, you can offer to critique their work, and so on.
Doing so will lead to deeper, more meaningful relationships with them, which in turn means greater opportunities for you to learn from them.
Have Meaningful Conversations in the Right Settings
Whenever possible, opt for face to face meetings with these people instead of talking to them on phone or on social media.
One on one conversations allow you to achieve a level of intimacy that is impossible with remote communication.
The level of intimacy during one on one conversations encourages people to share deep details that they would not have otherwise shared.
If you look back to some of the most enlightening conversations you have ever had, they were probably one on one conversations that took place with someone in a parked car, during a long drive, during a walk in the countryside, while sitting somewhere by the river, and so on.
The more intimate the conversation is, the greater likelihood that they will share something profound, something that can make a huge impact on you.
Don’t Be Afraid of Asking the Big Questions
Sometimes, the best way to be inspired by these people is to ask the truly big questions. What is my greatest motivation? What am I doing with my life? What is my purpose, and what can I do to achieve it? What am I doing that is pulling me back?
Asking these questions and having candid discussions with people who inspire and push you can be a real eye opener for you, and can help you figure out what you need to do in order to become the best version of yourself and unlock your greatest potential.
Always Be Open to Change
Sometimes, these great people you have chosen to surround yourself with will propose approaches that are radically different from what you are used to.
However, it is good to note that these people are not suggesting such approaches just for the sake of it.
They are doing it because they are more experienced than you, because they have been through situations you haven’t, because they know more than you.
If you want to gain the most from them, you should be open to change and willing to try what they suggest, otherwise you will remain in the same spot.
Additionally, as you grow in your career and enter new stages of your life, you might need to change the people around you.
For instance, the people you surrounded yourself with during the early stages of your career might not have the same impact now that you are running your own company.
Therefore, if you want to continue growing, you need to find new people who are more experienced at this.
Of course, this does not mean that you should cut off people who have helped you get to the next stage.
However, their roles in your stage will be diminished, and there is nothing wrong with that. You can still keep the friendship, while at the same time finding new people who will help guide you through this new stage.
The people you surround yourself with have a huge impact on the trajectory of your career.
Therefore, if you want to grow your career, you need to proactively surround yourself with the right people, people who push you to go after your dreams and become the best version of yourself.
Constantly seek out people who motivate you, people who inspire you, people who have achieved what you have, people who ask questions, and people with positive attitudes.
Having such people around you will give you access to great counsel, as well as great opportunities that might provide you with the breakthrough you need in your career.
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