My life and my business changed the day that I made it a priority to surround myself with the people who could help me grow to the professional (and the man) I wanted to be. Isolation was destroying me. I almost quit the business during my third year because I was surrounded by people who were not doing what I wanted to do, did not emulate my values, and did not care about the success of those around them.
The guy says “I am a self-made man”. The guru says “be selfish and fall in love with yourself”. The shirt at the gym says “leaders never follow”. The social media influencer tells you that you need to “walk alone”. It feels good to say that you don’t need anyone else, the only problem is that it is not true. As energizing and powerful as these statements may sound, they are the misleading machinations of a false prophet. The prophet who cloaks himself in “hustle culture”, “influence”, and “empowerment”. The prophet known best as Ego.
The message is that you can do it all alone. You don’t need anyone else. You have the answers and you are the all-knowing, all-seeing, boss of your life. The message is a lie.
There are no “self made” men. That fairytale does not exist. It never has. That is a delusion of grandeur crafted and protected and nurtured by the towering ego of mankind.
We can’t do much alone. As much as human civilization has advanced, it has also remained unchanged for thousands of years and will remain unchanged for another thousand (ish). We rely on each other for survival, we organize ourselves into small communities and large cities (tribes), we buy food that has been prepared and packaged by other people, we drive on roads that were built by others, we use phone networks and data networks built by others, and we cannot earn a single dollar without relying on someone else to purchase the good or the service we call our own.
I cannot help but find it amusing to read the social media posts or commercials or articles (often from entrepreneurs, coaches, motivators, gurus) proclaiming they/you don’t need anyone else to be successful… posted using a device they did not build, with an image they did not capture, with the sole purpose of getting other people’s attention, on a platform whose very existence depends upon people connecting with other people. Oh, the sweet irony.
While short periods of isolation can be important for reflection or to build a reservoir of fortitude, isolation will eventually lead to despair and to decay. Most people who proclaim the virtues of isolation have never been truly isolated for more than an hour or two, and they still checked their phone 7 times in the process. The walls we put up to keep out disappointment also keep out joy, keep out learning, keep out enlightenment.
A key to success? Surround yourself with people who are already doing the things you want to do and living the way you want to live. Keep the walls down. Stay humble. Be a sponge. Keep the “beginner mentality”. Find a tribe and stick to it. In the long game, the game that matters to most of us, your environment will dictate your results.