Don’t Ever Go to Single Friends for Relationship Advice!
Years ago, I came down with a minor illness that required my hiding at home. It didn’t kill me but at one point I told God, “I wouldn’t mind.” While I was at this low point, my office sent over the mail and on the top of the stack was a package from Jack Canfield. Jack was one of the first big deal leaders to endorse my work and he actually orchestrated my first publishing contract. Inside was his newest book, Success Principles. Jack included a generous note and said, “I so admire the courage that it takes for you to change the culture of work.” His words changed my entire outlook. I have a superstitious little ritual with new books by opening to a random page expecting to read the most important message in the book.
That day, the words were, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I thought, “Ew.” There were several people in my look who lowered the average. In our culture, we can give away enormous amounts of time to people who simply are not raising the average. If we are avoiding anything, like taking a risk for example, the individuals that lower the average will provide sympathy, tell us how tough life is, and do nothing else. A drunk gets sober and if she continues to hang out with other drunks, what’s going to happen? But, the same holds true for those of us with difficulties in our relationship. If we go to our single friends for insight, we raise the probability of becoming single. Successful people can change our outlook with just a few words. Several years ago, my partner and I were on a cruise. On the first night, a couple joined us. They were celebrating their 70th anniversary. About a dozen family members had also boarded the ship. They had given the butler a tip to let them come into their parent’s stateroom and turn it into a “love nest.” Towards the end of dinner, I was so taken with this couple that I asked, “You’ve been together 70 years. What is the single most important thing you want us to know about having a successful relationship?” She squeezed his hand, smiled, looked at us and said, “Forgiveness.”
My most significant mentor today is a British rock star. When we became friends, I asked if he would mentor me and he asked why. I told him that not only does he live in ways that are extraordinarily positive, he is in a marriage that after 25 years is more vital than ever. Both of them are power houses and yet, they are best friends and romantic and fierce advocates for each other. Around him, I learned more by simply watching than reading a hundred books on relationships. I have been happily married for a number of years.
Role modeling is one of the single most important aspects of whether we are going to succeed as students as well as teachers. When a starving actor comes into one of our programs I often ask who they hang out with. Many talk about greeting other friends who are in the same boat. I ask the question, “What are they teaching you about success?”
Many of the people view success with cynicism and contempt. None of them are in my circle. But, there is a bigger culture issue at play here. I’m always struck at how quickly we try to pull stars from the podium as they thank everyone who helped them get there. Often, people assume they bought the help after they became rich and famous. Actually, they became rich and famous by getting successful people to help them. This is how it works. I would be so happy to hear the back story about the people who helped them succeed. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for our children to understand how it works?
But, our culture continually gives more attention to train wreaks. In our home, we limit the news to 30 minutes. Otherwise, at least my head is going to explode like a Fembot (Austin Powers). Books outline the studies of children of alcoholics with their difficulties growing up. But, we do little study of the small percentage of children who go on to lead fully successful lives with healthy careers and relationships. The one common thread with most of them is they had a “lifeline.” I had one. I was adopted by evangelical crazy people. It was a difficult childhood. But, I had a god mother named Inez who was beautiful and smart and courageous. She would regularly pull me aside and tell me, “Your parents are nuts.” She regularly reminded me to not take their behavior personally. She made it clear how differently she parented her children, which included respect, kindness, education, and advocacy. By giving that to me, I managed to develop a good life.
How do we find these people? Well, first become selective. Establish standards. Look at where you want to succeed. Find people who are successful. Ask them for help. Do whatever they suggest. Give positive feedback. For those of us with self-worth issues, go do charitable work. Contributing to others will chip away at self-doubt, self-loathing, and self-interest. One day, we will look in a mirror only to be greeted by the nice person looking back. Charitable work attracts the best of us.
Bob Keeshan, otherwise known as “Captain Kangaroo” once said, “Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent.” Well, that isn’t necessarily true. Role models can be the ultimate influence for any of us. Find them wisely. And, if you are a success, go give it to someone. The worthy ones are looking for you.
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