It’s often said that we’re the sum of the five people we spend the most time with. Depending on who fills your five slots, that might be either an inspiring or a scary thought!
While the “five people” saying is more of a proverb than a scientific fact, it definitely has it merits. According to social scientist Nicholas Christakis, everything from our success to our happiness level and even our weight is influenced by our social network—the people we regularly interact with.
In light of this, it’s a wise idea to take careful note of the company you keep and to fill your social network with people who will help you become the best version of yourself. Here are the five personalities every entrepreneur should have in their corner.
You can learn a lot in business school, but nothing quite compares to real-life experience.
A mentor who’s been-there, done-that can provide invaluable advice on navigating some of entrepreneurship’s sticky scenarios. He or she can also give some much-needed perspective in situations where it’s hard to see beyond the fire that’s currently right in front of you.
According to engagement leader Ken Perlman, the benefits of having a mentor go far beyond just getting advice. As he writes for Forbes, a mentor can help “cultivate leadership skills one-on-one in real-time, reduce the anxiety in taking big steps, and focus leaders on achieving their goals,” all of which are key to entrepreneurial success.
Sometimes, if a mentor doesn’t naturally find their way into your life, you’ll have to seek one out—and it’s not always the type of long-term, mentor-mentee relationship you have in your head. Fast Company has a great article on how NOT to find a mentor that contains many useful tidbits about non-traditional mentoring relationships.
If you’re looking for a more formal arrangement, check out the SCORE Association’s Find a Mentor database.
Every entrepreneur has encountered the fair-weather friend: that person who’s happy to hang around when the going’s good but who’s nowhere to be found when things get tough. There’s no place for this type of friend in your inner circle.
Every entrepreneur needs at least one loyal cheerleader—someone who roots for you to win no matter what the stakes. It might be your spouse, your best friend, your sibling or your mom. It might be your barber or the barista at the local coffee shop who always has something positive to say.
Positivity is contagious; actively seek out cheerleaders who bring more of it into your life.
Sometimes you just need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on, no judgement involved. It might be a close friend, a colleague, a family member or a spiritual leader. “Business bestie” is a term for this that’s recently risen to popularity, particularly among the female entrepreneur community.
Whatever you want to call it, your entrepreneurial confidante should be someone you trust and can talk with openly without worrying about your words being repeated.
Our problems often seem much worse when they’re trapped inside our heads. That’s why it’s important to have a good listener in your tribe who will hear your fears and talk through your challenges (bonus points if they also happen to make a mean up of herbal tea).
The Tough Lover
The truth hurts, but when it comes to your business, you need to hear it.
As good as it feels to get encouragement from your cheerleader, you also need a healthy helping of tough love to whip you into shape from time to time.
Maybe you’ve gotten complacent and it’s stalling your growth. Or maybe your big, crazy marketing idea is actually going to run your cash flow into the ground. It might not be what you want to hear, but you need someone in your corner who’s not afraid to break the bad news. Ideally, they’ll be delicate about it, but it’s also up to you to have a thick enough skin to handle criticism.
Remember the old fable about the emperor’s new clothes? He was surrounded by yes-men who were too afraid to tell him he was parading around naked. Don’t be that guy; get yourself a friend who’s capable of dishing out tough love when you need it.
Number five is perhaps more important than any of these because it’s someone you want to be like, someone whose actions you can model. It doesn’t necessarily have to apply to business, either.
I have a friend I consider my inspirer, though she’s not an entrepreneur or even a colleague. She’s been through a lot that would break most people down, and yet she never loses her fighting spirit. Just being around her makes me feel like I can achieve more, and I try to emulate her can-do attitude.
Inspirers are fun to be around and even more fun to learn from. They motivate you do dream bigger and fulfill your full potential. Surround yourself with at least one, but the more inspirers in your life, the merrier.
Do you have these five people in your life? Are you one of them to someone else? Leave a comment and let us know!
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Watch Nicholas Christakis' fascinating TED Talk about the influence of your social network: