Who Are Your People?

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Posted By Workbench
in Culture
Posted By Workbench in Culture

About half a decade ago my family was in a crisis of my own making. Never before, and gratefully never since, have we found ourselves in such a fragile, tenuous state. It felt like a calm breeze would knock us over into an obliterated heap with no chance of recovery. 

Overnight, our circle went from fairly large to excruciatingly tight. There were folks who distanced themselves from the carnage as quickly as possible, others that we boundaried in an effort to save face, and many lost in between. 

When things really hit the fan, a handful camped out in the foxhole. And we wouldn’t have made it through without them. 

Over the years there have been dozens of situations (most I would downgrade the categorization from “crisis” to “challenging”) where I have leaned into my people for support, wisdom, and insight. I can’t imagine a world where I was required to make difficult decisions in isolation. 

So who are my people?

A smattering of close friends, peers, mentors, therapists, team members, and family. 

At any given point in my life, there have been at least five people I could lean into on any topic at any time and be on the receiving end of wisdom. The circle ebbs and flows with a handful of constants, but it stays about the same size. 

Too big and you risk having too many cooks in the kitchen and no consensus or accountability. Too small and you risk being in an echo chamber with no opposition or balance. Your circle should be as diverse as possible with one thread weaving everyone together: trust. 

If you do not trust your people, then they are not your people. I know too many CEOs with boards, advisory groups, etc. filled with people that they will actually never listen to–what a colossal waste of time. If you are not going to listen to someone’s advice then don’t bother asking for it. If someone’s words hold no weight, you need to find someone who can deliver truth with a (loving) punch.

The gift of having a strong support system is that we minimize (not eliminate) the risk of making a horrific, life-altering mistake. I have lost track of the amount of times I woke up with a brilliant idea only to go to lunch with a trusted friend and realize a single step towards the idea would result in imminent destruction. 

These feedback loops are important and they don’t develop overnight. Giving and receiving this kind of feedback is a muscle that develops with practice and repetition, and while it’s rarely perfect or painless, it does get easier over time.