You’re Only As Great As the Company You Keep

Today, while searching for a legal document in a decade-old file, I came upon a letter that was so devastating when I received it that, reading it today, I still felt tiny pangs of the hurt and anger I felt the day I read it years ago.

Why didn’t I walk away sooner from that dysfunctional business partnership and the individuals who ended up being toxic to me? God, the precious time I wasted dealing with it, discussing possible outcomes or resolutions, rehashing the events and negative communications!

But, like everything else in life, even the horrible things and situations we experience deliver life lessons. And if you see them and embrace the personal growth they can provide, they can forever change your life for the better.

I’ve transformed my professional life and continue to evolve since the day that letter arrived. I’ve been fortunate to be able to co-create on projects, brands and movements that bring value to the world, with people who truly are worth the time. And after being self-employed since the age of 25 (almost the age of my oldest daughter now), here is the hard-won life lesson borne from that devastating experience years ago. I use it whenever considering working with any new client, and I recommend you do the same:

Only work with people who view life through rose-colored lenses.

What This Does (And Doesn’t) Mean

Now, I’m not suggesting you work with Pollyanna, out-of-touch-with-reality, do-nothing dreamers. Far from it. This isn’t about not having accountability or not bringing your A-game to a project. (Those are also criteria I have to see in potential partners.)

What I mean is, you should choose to work and surround yourself with people who, yes, understand the risks in all situations and make smart decisions based on the facts, but also always see the good aspects of situations, struggles and challenges. These people reap the rewards of their positive attitude. Whatever comes up in their personal and professional lives, they get past it, get over it and get through it, and they emerge the better for it. It almost seems as if they have a “charmed life,” but when you peer behind the curtain, you realize they’ve set the stage for all the positive things that have come their way.

Unfortunate, crappy and sometimes really awful things still show up in their lives. But when they do, these people don’t stick their heads in the sand and hope the problems go away. They assess the situation and handle it as best they can with what they have at hand. Then, they move on.

They accept the setback but begin looking for solutions. They don’t allow the problem to permeate everything else in their lives. They deal gracefully with the reality at hand, while at the same time rising above it. And by getting out of the muck quickly, their subconscious starts delivering “miraculous” solutions.

Attitude is Everything

“My experience is what I agree to attend to. Only those items which I notice shape my mind.” –William James

Rose-colored lenses make these individuals transformational to work with. Because they focus on action, solutions and bright sides, they are able to do things others can only be jealous of.

They revitalize the energy within a team. They diffuse angst and disengagement while everyone else runs for emotional cover. There’s no finger-pointing, no smiling while secretly holding grudges, no covert plans to disempower a team member who might have made a mistake. They turn negatives into positives by approaching them with a can-do, problem-solving attitude that moves mountains.

A deadline was missed, or a project turns out more complex than expected? Life goes on. Look what we learned from it. Look at the knowledge we garnered for the next time. Look at the result we got when we all pulled together and shipped it.

Not only does collaborating with people like this create more value for all parties; it seems to give these rose-colored visionaries a “lucky” advantage in life. Surprising solutions show up. Team members come up with innovative ideas. Obstacles turn into opportunities. Sometimes the story of what evolved from a seeming setback appears almost impossible. But it happens, again and again, for people with this perspective. Their lives are just as complicated as ours, if not more so, but they have a gracefulness and ease about them that opens doors — for them, and for everyone they work with.

So don’t waste your time and energy teaming up with the wrong people. Surround yourself with those who wear these special lenses to see the world, and you surround yourself with opportunity.

Work with them. Create with them. See their rose-colored view of the world. Soon enough, it will be yours as well.