The Startup
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The Startup

Why You Need to Hang Out with People Doing Better Than You!

What seems overwhelming from where we are, is an accomplishment to those ahead of us. Keep your gaze forward and up! Photo by Mathias Jensen on Unsplash

Years ago, a very savvy businessman told me: “If you want to be successful, then you have to spend time with people doing better than you.”

At the time, I was an itty bitty seedling startup — and rather intimidated by this idea. Why would experts in the field I aspired to be part of want to spend time with me?

“What should I do,” my insecurities replied, “just call up the top expert in my field and see if they will talk to me?!”

“Yes!” was the answer.

“Yeah, OK,” was my reply.

Fast forward a few years when I am older and wiser and my itty bitty seedling has grown some strong roots and is beginning to blossom, where I now humbly submit that this was some of the best advice I ever got.

And I definitely wish that I realized it sooner.

Define Doing Better

Doing better equates to more evolved thinking than yours. Their experience, confidence, and perspective are different than yours. Things you find devastating as an early startup are minor hiccups to a seasoned pro, this will help to thicken your skin and speed up your recovery time from minor setbacks.

Experienced pros don’t waste time taking things personally. You will quickly learn to look for the lesson, regroup, and move forward with more knowledge than you had before.

This person will likely have earned the kind of confidence that comes with seasoned experience. They are, more often than not, open minded, patient, and non-judgemental.

Successful people rarely let negativity get in their way and tend to be solution based problem solvers.

Look for people who are humble, regardless of their level of success.

Look for people who will challenge you to be curious about new ideas.

Look for people who aren’t afraid of hard work, authenticity, and vulnerability.

These are the kinds of people who will want to help you on your journey if you are willing to do the hard work on yourself, upgrade your attitude, and challenge yourself to reach higher than you ever tried before.

Where to Find Them

You will likely find these people outside of your comfort zone and you will have to do some leg work to find out where that is. Look for meetings, events, workshops, and find the smartest people in the room. (Hint: The smartest people are the ones who fit the above criteria).

Then, put yourself out there! If you truly believe that you have something unique that creates value for the larger world, then get out there and start talking to people who can help you.

How to Connect

Head into these situations armed with language that articulates your value.

Unsure of what that language looks like? Here’s a quick exercise to boost your articulable value:

Divide a piece of paper down the middle. On one side list (not type, write!) every single job you ever had. If you freelance, write down every gig you have had. On the other side, write down the value it created for you.

What did you learn? What technical skills did you gain? What emotional skills did you gain? Then, give it a read and string together a few sentences that say how and why you are great at what you do.

Now that you know your value and you have your language inventory to describe it, practice your narrative so that you are able to deliver it confidently.

Do your homework. Research the speakers or attendees, if possible, read articles they have published or listen to podcasts they were on. Come up with insightful questions to ask them to break the ice.

Be humble. Ditch the ABC approach, you’re here to learn from someone who has more experience than you do. Keep an open mind, open heart, and open ears!

If you’ve done your homework, you may be able to come up with a link between your business and theirs. Don’t be afraid to mention what you have in common, or ways your thinking aligns.

Be curious. Be proud of yourself for showing up.

If you get turned down flat out, or maybe you lost your nerve to connect. It’s still a win. You spent time practicing your pitch, you put yourself out there. Take a lesson from it and try again.

Pro Tip

You are better off to attend events on your own, if possible. It builds confidence, looks professional, and leaves you free to explore on your own.

It’s not easy. It takes a lot of intentional action on your part. If you are seeking sustainable success, then spending time with people doing better than you needs to be a key activity on your to do list.

Give it a try. I’m confident that you will surprise yourself.

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