The company you keep…

From the Archives

Originally published January 25, 2015

There’s a lot of truth in birds flocking together because of their feathers and in others knowing you by the company you keep. And the more passionate you are about your goals and plans, the more important it is to know enough about yourself to determine the kinds of people to keep near you. A recent conversation with an aspiring entrepreneur reminds us to build a support system to keep us on track in attaining our goals, and here’s how she is mastering this technique for her progress.

On a New Year’s Eve walkabout with an up-and-coming artist I mentor, I learned a lot about how important it is to meet and enroll like-minded people in efforts to achieve anything you believe you can. She reaches out to photographers at every opportunity, picks their brains, shares her hopes and dreams with them, and gives them a chance either to mentor her or to pat her on the head, tell her something positive, and move on with their lives. It’s how she, whether consciously or not, invites those who build her up and encourage her to develop and grow and discards those who have no interest in seeing her prosper. And she’s gotten very good at it.

When I asked her what she hopes to get out of practicing photography, she replied that she wants “to get better at it.” Why, though? “I want to start a photography business and shoot weddings” and such. (Of course, I told her she could start the business anyway. No sense in waiting for some magic moment to do that, right?) Later, I asked what she was doing to stay focused and motivated to achieve that goal, and she used the analogy of an exercise buddy. She said that like an exercise buddy, who goes to the gym or goes running or swimming or whatever with you, a photo exercise buddy would go on walkabouts and photo shoots and actual assignments with her. Sometimes the buddy is merely along for the ride as moral support. Other times the buddy might give useful tips or hints for improving technique. And still other times, the buddy could be a source of energy and inspiration for the next challenge.

That’s a lesson worth sharing with anyone with passions. It doesn’t even matter what your goal or life plan is. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in school or at two jobs or in between ventures. The message is the same: get an “exercise” buddy who shares your drive and enthusiasm. Share the dream, share the adventure, and share the victory. Could you do some things faster on your own? Sure. Could you get a lot done without someone else over your shoulder or otherwise slowing you down? Absolutely. Can you more quickly and readily account for yourself than coordinate schedules and timing with someone else? Yep.

How far will that take you, though? Because when you reach the end of your capabilities, of your skills and knowledge and talents, how do you get past the next hurdle or challenge? When you reach the edge of your comfort zone, how do you find the strength and courage to step beyond it toward real achievement? Take a page from my friend’s book and mirror the attitude of the African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Take some time today to analyze your goals and start writing the names of exercise buddies whom you can enlist to help keep you on track. Share the victory; the triumph is still yours.