Article by Rhett Power
Unless you’re a mushroom, you won’t thrive in dark isolation. Instead, you’ll wither away in body and spirit.
Yet plenty of entrepreneurs readily cut themselves off from others. In the process, they stunt their own growth and hinder themselves from achieving work/life balance.
Human connection is a critical component of personal and professional success. I’ve spent a lifetime building relationships in and out of the office, and I can say that doing so helps boost my mental health and cushions me from bearing the full brunt of the tough stuff.
Case in point: In the late 2000s, my toy store startup was teetering on the brink of closure. My cofounder and I were in over our heads. Instead of burying our heads in the sand, we bared our souls — and books — to the team we’d built. To our relief, our employees didn’t run for the hills. Rather, they rose to the challenge of picking our company up off the floor.
Within two years, we were all celebrating being named one of the fastest-growing companies in the US by Inc. That achievement would never have happened without a heckuva lot of authentic relationships forged on trust and honesty.
My experience is supported by the words of Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, psychotherapist and New York Times best-selling author. As Dr. Byrson told The Aspen Times in a 2018 interview: “How we make decisions, how our whole frontal lobe functions — it’s related to the quality of the connections we receive.” In other words, we cannot fully function without friends.
While it is notoriously tough to find the time to cultivate friendships as an adult, I urge you to try. You don’t have to become best friends with everyone you know, but you should be ready to show a little vulnerability. Here’s how to start connecting today:
1. Join the Water-Cooler Yakkers
You’ll never meet anyone just sitting at your desk all day. Head out the door and find the place where coworkers gather to gab. Getting to know everyone on an informal level opens up new spheres of influence and provides perspective. Plus, you’ll be the first rather than the last to know what’s going on because you won’t seem elusive or walled up.
Toiling in the C-suite? You especially need to make time for water-cooler conversations. Alison Gutterman, president and CEO of Jelmar, has made workplace chitchat a habit by routinely stopping to spend a few informal moments with her team members every morning. “Not only does this open communication between my employees and me, but it also satisfies our collective need for human connection and meaningful conversation,” Gutterman writes in a 2019 SUCCESS.com article.
2. Prioritize We Time
You’ve already heard about the importance of scheduling me time. Now, I’m asking you to add some we time to the mix. In this situation, the “we” is your friends and family.
Literally block off time in your schedule for social activities, like your community center’s weekly pick-up basketball game or regular lunches with an awesome former boss. Consider those times sacred, and try not to cancel or postpone them once they make it to your jam-packed calendar.
If you initially feel like you are sacrificing private moments to get in some we time, remind yourself this is important for long-term gains. As Foundr contributor Jonathan Chan writes, “Start treating your personal life like it’s a job and your family as if they’re important clients.”
And when you’re in your we time, be there fully. Your presence (sans phone in hand) shows you value the other person.
3. Build Up Your Karma Account
For the next week, make a habit of helping others whenever you can. Don’t wait for someone to ask for assistance: When you see someone in need, take action. You’ll need the favor returned at some point, and the more karma you’ve accrued, the likelier you are to get help when you yourself need it. You’ll be amazed how many friends and colleagues will come to your rescue in your toughest moments because you’ve been there for theirs.
Besides, it’s appropriate and respectful to do the right thing, even if someone doesn’t immediately reciprocate. Yes, it’s tough to be nice to the awkward newbie in accounting who snubs you in the elevator — but maybe she is socially uncomfortable and your smile is helping her slowly come out of her shell. Being altruistic in the moment can positively reverberate in ways you might not even imagine. Caring teachers can tell you stories of troubled students who reached out decades later to say their compassion was pivotal in their lives.
Feel like you’re behind the eight ball in the friendship game? You can’t change history, but you can change the here and now. Schedule breakfast with a teammate or host a dinner party for friends you haven’t seen in a while. You only get stronger in every possible way when you nurture your network.
A version of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.
Rhett Power is the author of The Entrepreneur’s Book of Actions: Essential Daily Exercises and Habits for Becoming Wealthier, Smarter, and More Successful and cofounder of Wild Creations, an award-winning startup toy company. Learn more at rhettpower.com.