When I eventually lay down on my deathbed and look back over the years, who do you think will stick out the most?
It will be those who had the greatest impact on my life.
The people who lifted me up, pushed me forward, and pulled me ahead. The people who I’ve built deep relationships with.
For me, those people are my friends and my family members; they are my coworkers, former bosses, and past teachers and mentors. They are the individuals I’ve known for years, and they are those I was fortunate to have in my life for short yet spectacular periods of time.
They are the people I’ve had direct contact with.
Of course, I’ve built some amazing relationships over social media. I’ve learned a great deal from them, too. But when I look at the big picture of my life, those online connections are few in comparison to those I’ve made in the physical world.
Books, blogs, videos, podcasts, and online communities have played their part, but I’ve gotten to where I am today as a result of real-life relationships.
I mean no offence to my virtual cohorts, but we only see the versions of ourselves we choose to show. Rarely are we privy to the entirety of each other’s lives. And it’s nearly impossible to feel the energy of another person through the luminous lens of social media.
On the other hand, those closest to us know who we truly are – sometimes better than we know ourselves.
Build your own personal board of directors
You see, a friend has the unique ability to push us at the perfect moment in time to give us that extra bit of motivation.
Just like your partner or a family member knows exactly when to lend their shoulder for support and when to pass along words of wisdom. While our mentors know when not to hold the punches so we don’t’ blind ourselves by ego or personal bias.
It’s difficult for our social media contacts to offer the same guidance.
It hits a little different in real life as well—seeing your best friend get married, watching a teammate fail at something new, or sharing the loss of a family member with relatives.
And letting these people down has a lot more meaning, too.
I care more about following through on a promise to the ones closest to me than I do for one I make to an online community.
It might sound harsh, but I’m willing to bet you feel the same way.
This is why Jim Collins—American researcher, author, speaker and business consultant—built what he calls his personal board of directors.
This is a set of individuals he looked up to and refused to let down. They were his guiding star when he felt lost, struggled, or needed inspiration. They were individuals he had a direct personal relationship with.
After listening to Jim speak on the The Knowledge Project podcast, I’ve started to create my own board. It’s growing the more I think about who’s inspired me throughout my life. It includes:
- The former owner of Frontenac Outfitters Canoe & Kayak Centre—he taught me more about business than any online thought-leader or book I’ve read.
- My high school english teacher—he’s a big reason why I fell in love with writing.
- My cousin who inspired me to pick up the guitar—playing music is one of my favourite creative outlets and has been for over 20 years.
- My partner—she inspires me daily to become the best version of myself.
- My close circle of friends—their work ethic trumps even the greatest hustler on the internet.
And my parents are at the head of the table. Their sacrifices gave me the opportunity to succeed even when I didn’t deserve to.
Don’t forget to look to those closest to you
If you’re in need of a dose of inspiration, don’t forget to look around at the ones who support you in real life.
In the Age of Information, it’s easy to turn to the online world for guidance. But all the encouragement you need is right beside you or a phone call away.
The people who have been there during the good times and the bad, through sickness and through health, and who have made tangible sacrifices for you: they are the ones you’ll remember most.
Ask yourself honestly, if they weren’t there, would you be where you are now? Would you have accomplished what you have so far in life?
I know I wouldn’t. I’d be homeless right now…or worse.
We have one life. It’s short and it’s fragile. And it’s real.
Those you have close contact with during your time deserve your attention more than those in your online community. Don’t forget to raise them up as they have raised you.
We’ve gotten lost in a world of ones and zeroes. The time has come to reconnect in reality.
This piece is dedicated to:
- my friends for inspiring me, even though you may not realize you have;
- my extended family for the sacrifices they’ve made for me and for each other;
- my colleagues and mentors for believing in me despite my self-doubt;
- my partner for her unwavering support, especially during these last two years; and
- my mom, dad, and sister for never giving up on me.
Thanks for reading, folks.