How many times have you heard someone advise you of the old cliche "it's not what you know, but who you know"?
While this aphorism is most-often deployed when discussing employment, its applicability goes beyond that. Who you know– and the more important factor of who you spend your time with – forms your community. By extension, your community then shapes who you are as a person. It affects the experiences you have, the opportunities that are presented to you, and even your health and wellbeing.
Being part of a healthy community requires actively creating structures within your circle of influence in which you're building each other up, holding each other accountable, and challenging each other to continuously improve. Especially amongst groups of young men, holding each other accountable is vital for dismantling rape culture and the types of toxic masculinity that ultimately hold us back as a community.
So, if the friends in your circle of influence are working on a particular goal, here are 5 ways you can support them and be a part of their success. And who knows? As you build up your friends, it may even open some unexpected doors for you too.
I can't overstate enough how important feedback is for helping your friends reach their goals. While it's helpful to have friends behind you, patting you on the back and cheering you on, it's even more helpful to have someone who supports you unconditionally and can provide helpful growth-focused feedback.
Here it's important to point out that providing feedback is not the same thing as criticizing. Growth-focused feedback assumes that you are leveraging your strengths, not your personal preferences. For example, if you have a friend who is writing a book that's a genre you don't normally read, telling your friend that it'd be better if the main character didn't have magical powers is opinionated criticism; offering feedback that there were some sections where the pacing didn't feel like it matched what was happening in the plot is feedback.
If you don't feel that you have valuable insights (i.e. you don't think your strengths align well with what they're trying to achieve), you can still provide meaningful feedback. One of the best things you can do for a friend, especially if you know nothing about the topic, is to be a sounding board for ideas and ask questions when something is confusing for you. This can be a very powerful tool for talking through one's ideas– as your friend chats through their ideas and can see where you're hitting a roadblock, that can help them pinpoint important details about who their target audience is and what kinds of resources they will need.
Share their Content
Whether you have someone in your community who is trying to get a business off the ground, start a blog, write a book, or build their personal brand, one of the most powerful things you can do is share their content on social media.
Sharing content is powerful in several ways. First and foremost, it shows your friend that you support them. Their hopes and dreams are important enough to you that you're willing to evangelize it amongst your other friends. Secondly, and more tactically, share counts for content on social platforms is one of the most powerful ways to teach the platform algorithm what is important. This leads to free advertising for your friend, expands their reach, and can help connect new people to their content.
A Pro-Tip on Social Sharing
It's never a bad idea to share content directly to social media on your own, especially if you're adding meaningful commentary of your own to it. However, if you have a friend who is posting to a page or account that is specific to the brand they're trying to build, whenever possible share directly from that page. This gets the page in front of more people, increasing its opportunity to get new likes and expand its reach, but it also helps platform algorithms learn to show that page's content to more of the people who like it. This is especially true for platforms like Facebook.
Don't Let them Give Up
No matter what goal you're pursuing or creative endeavor you're working on, there will be a point when the waves get a bit choppy and your efforts feel futile.
Your friends, no matter how strong and composed they may be on the surface, will hit those rough patches. As their friend, one of the most important things you can do for them is to encourage them and remind them of their vision when these rough patches arise.
In my own experience, there was a point where I considered shutting down BlakeWrites. I was dealing with bad depression symptoms and struggling to write a single word. I wasn't seeing the growth that I wanted during this time and felt like I was spending so much money for no return on investment. It felt like it was time to throw in the towel. But then– and this is perhaps the most glorious but since Channing Tatum's in Magic Mike– a colleague and friend who I respect tremendously asked me about my work. She pointed out that I was still seeing traffic trending in the right direction and that underneath the current moment of struggle, I was actively reaching goals and achievements. More importantly, chatting with her reminded me of the long-game of digital content. She didn't know that I was wavering on whether or not I would sustain BlakeWrites, but she encouraged me anyway. As a result, I'm sitting in my local coffee house writing this blog post and have rocketed past the mire I was in at that time.
I can't overstate how relieved I am that I didn't throw in the towel. Had I not had someone in my circle of influence encourage me and push me to keep it up, I don't know if BlakeWrites would still be a live site today, but I do know that if I would have called it quits I would have greatly regretted it.
Leverage Your Connections
There's a very good chance that you have friends who don't yet know your other friends. Most of us spend our lives flowing through multiple communities. Whether it's a faith community, educational community, political community, work community, or even your neighbors, there are likely people in your life who would be positive influences on your goal-seeking friend's journey. Making a brief introduction or suggestion that they get in touch with each other can have a huge impact.
Imagine that you have a friend who wants to start their own business. Do you know anybody who has already done that, or who works in a similar field? What would it mean to your friend who is just getting started to be able to have mentorship from someone who has tread that path before? When you are a common denominator between these questions, you have tremendous potential to be a positive influence and provide your friends with very potent assets to their success. On your own, it can be hard to manage to get time on someone's busy calendar, but when its a friend of a friend, you can usually remove those barriers to entry. Plus, it can be hard to know who to even reach out to if you were trying to find a mentor on your own. Recommending someone who you already respect and know will be helpful for your friend completely circumvents these challenges.
Plus, it allows you to be that valuable "who you know" person in your other friend's success.
Celebrate their Successes WITHOUT Jealousy
Even with people we love dearly it's all too common that when we see someone else succeeding, we're struck with a twinge of jealousy. Whether or not you want the same kind of successes that they're having, seeing someone else succeed often reminds us on a personal level of the areas in which we feel that we aren't personally succeeding.
If your friend suddenly starts making more money or spending more time working toward their goals, don't chastise them for "being a different person" than they used to be. When you support your friends, you support them through the highs as well as the lows. As counterintuitive as it may seem, most of us are often better at supporting our friends when they're having a rough time than when they're experiencing a period of success.
Having hints of jealousy may feel reflexive and may not be something you're intentionally trying to cultivate, but when those feelings start to arise, you have the choice to either get bitter or get better. To avoid bitterness and developing a sense of resentment toward your friends, you have to actively remind yourself that someone else's success doesn't limit your own success. Success is not a finite resource– someone having it doesn't mean you can't have it as well.
Plus, thinking about it less intrinsically, if you stick with a friend through the highs and lows and build them up even higher when they're already succeeding, their success may ultimately open more doors for you personally. Loyalty comes with its own rewards, and a pat on the back goes much further than a knife in the same spot.