A number of years ago I remember hearing this quote: “If you want to see who you will become in 5-10 years, look at your friends today.”
In essence, who you will become is directly correlated to who you hang out with. (Poor grammar purposefully used for effect. :) )
The personal friends you have in your life will shape your outlook on life, love, marriage, and friendship. They will form and shape your personality and your demeanor.
The professional colleagues you have in your life will shape how you approach your career. They’ll hold you back, or move you forward.
Whether you see these people in person, or whether your “hang out” with them online, the group of people you surround yourself with will have a profound impact on what you become.
- What blogs do you read?
- What forums do you frequent?
- Whose tweets do you follow?
- What professional groups do you belong to?
There are five tips I want to give you for moving forward in the direction you want to go by surrounding yourself with the people who can help get you there:
- Find a mentor. Find someone who is doing exactly what it is you want to do. Then learn from them. If you can, get 1-on-1 mentorship. If you’re lucky, it could be a personal relationship. But maybe it needs to be a consulting type of relationship. If not that, read and follow their blogs and/or books. But find someone whom you can call “Sensei.”
- Find a coach. A coach is a little different from a mentor (although he/she can be the same person.) A coach is committed to holding you accountable, kicking your butt, and instilling in you the knowledge you need to move forward. I believe in the power of coaching so much, that even though I am a professional coach to creatives, I still meet about once a month with a fellow business coach to share ideas and get feedback.
- Find an Accountability Partner. Someone who will hold you accountable to make changes in your life and business. This could be a spouse, your current business partner, a colleague, or the aforementioned coach. They will not be afraid to tell you what you need to hear, even if they know it may make you angry or hurt your feelings.
- Aim High. Look to people whom you may consider way, way above your “pay grade.” That is, professionals who are so far ahead of where you are, you can only dream of being where they are. Maybe you can get an opportunity to assist for them. You may be a pretty decent DP, but if Janus Kaminski asked you to be a grip on his next picture, take the job! Or if Joe McNally asked you to be his second, second assistant, do it. (Zack Arias tells a great story about that in his Creative Mornings talk).
- Break Old Ties. This may be the hardest thing of all. Some of you may have to break ties with people who are holding you back. That may mean leaving the forum on which you’ve been the proverbial “Norm” for ten years. That may mean quitting the professional association where you’ve been a member forever because they’re still arguing whether or not digital photography is the future.
So as you work on evolving yourself and your business, ask yourself this simple question: “Is the man, woman or professional you wish to become evident in the men, women and professionals with whom you interact every day?” If the answer is “no,” you need a new network.