5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Building Your Squad

“You can’t do epic [ish] with basic people.” — Unknown

The company you keep is essential to your personal growth, your reputation and your health. This has proven true for actress, Amandla Stenberg who was asked about her squad in a Teen Vogue interview by Solange. The actress and some call her a social activist has been vocal about many issues including cultural appropriation, racism, sexuality and even coming to terms with her own Blackness. What makes it even more interesting is the tribe of girls that she calls friends because each one of them run to their own beat of their drums. They are unique, they are vocal and very unapologetic. Her squad includes Kiernan Shipka, Willow Smith, Tavi Gevinson and Lorde. She shared with Solange that her friends are people that she can vibe, she can bounce ideas off of them, receive honest feedback from them and draw creative inspiration from them.

“I have a friend who has this thing called “shine theory,” which basically says that when you become friends with other powerful, like-minded people, you all just shine brighter,” Amandla shared with Teen Vogue.

I read this article around the time I was planning the Lemons 2 Lemonade Mixer. I was planning a mixer, a twitter chat and prepping for a trip to Tennessee to help my mother recover from surgery. I didn’t anticipate what her post-surgery needs would detail and my plans to work on the Lemons 2 Lemonade brand fell to the waste side. In the midst of that my laptop decided to die and I had no back-up. The hard drive was completely gone and every file I ever had was erased. Lemons were being thrown left to right, but that’s when I leaned on my friends to help turn the negative into lemonade. My tribe came to the rescue and while my computer was out of commission, my friends used their talents and abilities to help me make the mixer possible. They came through with a venue, speaker contacts, spirit brand connects, music playlist creation, photography and graphic design. That’s when I knew my squad was unmatched.

So there comes a time in all of our lives where “shine theory” is necessary for your well being, and having shine theory can help while building your personal brand. You have to sit down and reevaluate the people in your life. I see great people with other people around who have bad intentions, ulterior motives, and not reciprocating the relationship. I’ve learned in my life that people love to drink from your well (in this case pitcher), but never have anything to fill it back up with. They’ll drink, drink and drink, but then you feel empty with no more to give; then they will be full and looking for another pitcher to drink from. So who’s going to fill your pitcher back up with lemonade? Who’s going to pour back into you? People love to be around when you win or when they can get something from you, but they are absence when you need a helping hand.

I know too well what that feels like, and I lived it constantly during my first few years in NYC. I remember the people who were around during the bad times and they poured into me. My friends help me shine! Just like Amandla I can bounce ideas off of them, I can get feedback when needed and they inspire me in so many ways. My friends are a collective of entrepreneurs, creatives, bosses and go-getters who put in the work to see their dreams and goals realized. As I sat in a room at Buzzfeed ready to start off the panel discussion at my first mixer, it was comforting to look up and see my family and friends smiling at me. I could feel them uplifting me in that very moment and it gave me the added boost to open my mouth and begin the discussion. I feel like we all won in that moment and that’s how a real squad should be. When you win, we ALL win. So ask yourself, how are your friends helping you shine with these 5 questions:

  1. Can your friends provide you with emotional support?
  2. Can you collaborate with your friends on upcoming projects and/or career moves?
  3. Do your friends offer up ways to assist or help you take your projects or career to the next level?
  4. Are your friends reliable and follow through after committing to helping you?
  5. Will your friends make time for you?

You and your friends should help each other shine, so think about these questions when it comes to building your squad. Not everyone is going to make the cut.

Originally published at Brittney Oliver.