It’s old wisdom: surround yourself with people better than yourself. But how? How do you know that the people you’re putting around you are actually better, and not just richer/smarter/better looking?
Let’s begin by acknowledging that I actually know how to do this. Here’s proof:
Those three other people in the photo? ALL BETTER THAN ME. That there on the left is Joni Doolin, head of People Report and the brains behind Summer Camp. She threw an incredible conference that is the template of the conference I’d like to throw if I were half as good as she is at throwing them. To the right of me in the photo is Amanda Hite, head of Talent Revolution. Amanda is a leader, true change agent, spotter of great talent, uniter of teams, and doer of great things. She does more for her communities every month that I usually do in a year. Any thought I have, Amanda seems to have had it faster. And you can physically sense the universe’s energy radiating out from her when you sit with her. Finally, the guy in the hat is Scott Stratten, the UnMarketing guy. Sometimes I like to think I’m a good speaker. Then I see Scott and get reminded what good really is all about.
Now that you know I can do this, here’s my methodology so you can do this, too:
- Let go of judgment. The first step in recognizing talent is recognizing talent! You can only do this if you are able to put aside your own issues and prejudices and see others for who they are. ie, if you’re starving, any chef is a 4 star chef. You’ve got to be able to compensate for your own “schtick” when assessing others.
- Let go of ignorance. Sifting through the self-promoters to get to what’s real requires that you have some education about the world around you.
- Let go of jealousy. If you’re jealous of what they’ve got, you’ll feel it, they’ll feel it, and badness will be inevitable.
- Let go of need. Needing others is only fractionally better than being jealous of them. Needing people leads you to make demands. Which amps up the awkward and ends painfully.
- Let go of labels. Strong people don’t need anyone to define a relationship with labels because they’re able to figure it out on their own. Trying to label a relationship can scare a strong person off. (Not comfortable with ambiguity? Keep that to yourself.)
- Let go of doubt. Great people want people around them who are even better then themselves. If you don’t believe you belong, you don’t belong.
- Let go of control. Great people will do things you don’t understand and can’t explain. Insisting on living in a world you fully understand will keep you from experiencing people who can open you up to new and bigger ideas. Great people approach their worlds with innocence, wonder, and curiosity.
- Let go of you. Help the people around you shine brighter. The strong ones’ll keep you around and start feeding your gift back to you. (The weak ones will show their true colors by trying to take advantage or assuming malintent on your part—easy to deal with once you’re prepared for it.)
- Let go of work/life distinctions. When the relationship comes first, it’s sometimes difficult to know if it’s going to grow into friendship, business, or both. Especially with great people who jump from idea to idea with ease, and make no distinction between a project that makes money and one done for fun. Be profersonal.
- Let go of self-esteem. The thing about surrounding yourself with awesome is, you are always being challenged. It’s with love and support, but they’re challenges nonetheless, and you must win, without help, without cheating, without rationalizing. And when you don’t win, you must bounce back quickly and confidently because you don’t want to fail twice in a row.
- Let go of ego. You love that local band? Accept that you’re just one small part of their success, and help them get big anyway. Make it your goal to enjoy next year’s conversation with that girl who claims she “discovered” the band on the radio “last month.”
- Let go of negative. Awesome people fix things or laugh about them. They see no third option.
- Let go of safe. Surrounding yourself with extraordinary people guarantees one thing: change. Scary, risky, life-altering change. No-more-comfort-zone change. For instance, if I were the worlds’ best matchmaker and we were hanging out, I could find you your true love. When I did, would you be ready? Great people requires us to abandon the safe harbor of our routines.
Did you get it yet? Greatness happens when you let go. It’s the ultimate “stone soup;” you bring only your true self and all the other ingredients you think you need actually are provided by others when the time comes. It takes an incredible amount of self-confidence and faith to play this game—but I never did say it was easy.
That’s my recipe. I hope you can make it work for you!
Jason Seiden is CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing. Ajax amplifies brands by aligning employees' online messaging.