Who’s in Your Crowd?

By Lou Solomon

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At any age, we are shaped by our inner circles. Consider this the next time you find yourself spending time with people who are unhappy, negative, dramatic, and not inclined to encourage you—much less dare you to be better.

By “better,” I’m not just referring to titles, projects, promotions, and more money, although they might be a great part of the journey. Daring to be better is about a life of deep happiness, growth, and impact.

Why not be purposeful about the people we spend time with? We carefully choose the places we live and work, thoroughly research our next laptop, and study the labels on the food we eat. But we don’t always actively search for people who will inspire and encourage us to grow.

That is an impact that can way outlive your next apartment (not that you shouldn’t choose wisely there, too).

Choosing the Right Crowd for Me

My first career love was broadcasting. I worked for big heritage properties, such as WSM Radio in Nashville, Tennessee. I sought out interesting people who would inspire me to succeed.

One, in particular, has had a lasting impact both professionally and personally. Gregg was my boss for several years, and he continually surprised me with challenges to go beyond what I thought I could accomplish. He was annoying at times, and we laugh about that now. But I always found a more profound capacity, more reach, and more daring than I knew was within me. There’s no doubt that I wouldn’t be where I am today without Gregg.

Peer groups can be a force as well. When I worked with the grad school students at Queens University of Charlotte, I noticed a powerful social dynamic underway. When asked to tell the story of their learning, they talked about a deep bond with their classmates. These were the peers who encouraged them to make bold decisions that were aimed at extraordinary fulfillment.

5 Ways to Find the Right Crowd

Is it time to look at the people in your “crowd?” Here are five steps to take inventory:

1. Pull back from pessimistic people.

These are the friends and associates who drain you of energy by constantly complaining. These people rarely, if ever, celebrate your success. Researchers have discovered an “emotional contagion” phenomenon where your emotions will converge with those of your peers.

2. Research the people who inspire you.

These people can be speakers, authors, teachers, entrepreneurs, entertainers, filmmakers, creatives–anyone who raises your energy level and stirs your thinking. Consider them your research, learn from their work and boost your mojo.

Crowd of people sitting, speaking together

3. Build a team of talent and daring.

As a leader, insist on an environment in which people are encouraged to be their best selves. Build a team of intelligent and soulful people of diverse thinking who will shoot straight with you. Let them do what they do best and guide the team.

4. Be a connector.

Learn to ask questions, draw others out and listen. Make connections between good people who should know each other. Share what you’re learning. Be generous with your ideas and your network, and never stingy.

5. Stay a student and stretch yourself.

If you know everything, you have become finite. If you’re open to learning, the possibilities are endless. Self-select into programs that stretch and deepen your experience–courses, workshops, conferences, non-profit communities–let your inspiration guide you. Be a lifelong student.

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