How to Surround Yourself with Good People

The people I’ve reported to and worked for have had a lot of influence on me over the years. I was fairly lucky in that my first “real job” out of college was to work for a really great boss. He set expectations clearly: I’d spend about 3-5 years at the job, and then he figured I’d outgrow the role and want to work elsewhere. This puzzled me at first, but as I learned the job and gained new technical skills, I realized he was right. There just wasn’t enough there to hold me for much longer than the amount of time he suggested.

Another great nugget of wisdom that he taught me was about the success of a team. It’s hard (if not impossible) to achieve great success alone. If you choose to work with good quality people, however, success will typically follow. Hence this tweet:

Take a moment to ponder this. Have you ever thought about the impact people have upon you? Not just their technical acumen. Their attitude towards other people. Towards genders. Races. Ideas. Life in general. It’s natural to absorb some of this, and the longer you’re around people, the more you absorb. If you’re constantly hanging around acidic people, you’ll become a little acidic, too.

Finding the Right People

Assuming you’ve bought into my rambling above, the next step is finding the right people to surround yourself with. I think our natural inclination is to find like-minded people to associate with. It’s easier, less friction, and reinforces that feeling of “I’m right.” But going against this tendency can reap some healthy benefits.

I tend to latch onto people who are able to challenge my thoughts but articulate their opinion in such a way that helps the lightbulb moment of discovery. Rather than hearing someone who says “your idea sucks,” find someone who says “have you thought about trying it this way instead?” People who are genuinely interested in seeing you grow and succeed are often great critics of your work because they follow your train of thought but arrive at a different conclusion.

There’s also a general lexicon of negativity versus positivity. If someone is constantly going negative, chances are this isn’t a great person to surround yourself with. It’s the difference between seeing something as a problem versus a challenge that results in an opportunity. If there were no struggles in life, we’d all just lay on the couch eating chips and playing video games, right? 🙂

Finally, I think a subset of your group of associates need to be inquisitive and explorative. This relates a bit to busting silos in the Datanauts podcast. If everyone you know does the exact same thing, opportunities for growth are limited. This is one reason I enjoy being on a handful of different Slack groups that are talking all sorts of different programming languages, DevOps topics, and tech tools. I can float around and see what others are doing and latch onto good ideas. While a certain amount of cynicism is healthy (the grass isn’t always greener, after all), it’s good to work with a group of folks who want to tinker with new ideas.

Take all of this with a grain of salt. This is how I tend to look at life and I don’t need anyone to follow these tips or agree with my outlook. Your opinion matters! In fact, I’ve had trouble identifying acidic people in my life, but once I do, I tend to stop associating with them or block their feeds on social media to avoid the drama. Don’t let others drag you down!