“Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”
John Wayne, the perennial solitary hero in Hollywood movies best described the bravado and thrill-inducing heights of his pictures with these words. His characters were to become a staple of what was to come, whether it was Arnold, Bruce, Superman, or you name it, people have gone to their movies over the years to be inspired and entertained.
The very thing that makes these films so entertaining is also what makes them part of a false narrative though; the against the odds victory of one against many. In reality, we don’t have laser vision to defeat countless enemies, and much less, Arnie’s ability to reel off one-liners mid-battle.
Think about your real life heroes on the other hand, the real personalities you look up to and admire. They’ll probably all have one thing in common; they didn’t get where they are alone.
Billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg has discussed the value of peer input in his career. William R. Salomon, managing partner at the former investment bank Salomon Brothers where Bloomberg started his career as a trader, was “a good listener”, Bloomberg says, “but he didn’t manage by consensus. He was his own man, he made his own decisions, and he didn’t look back.”
By his own admission, Bloomberg’s company was “built on [the] lessons” of his mentor, Salomon.
Steve Case, tech pioneer and co-founder of AOL, has emphasized the important role he feels letting go of one's ego and hearing people’s experiences can play in a successful professional life. “You’ve got to be a really good listener,” Case says. “There are always some people who are just so sure they're right, they're fixated on their particular vision of things; they're really not listening.”
An African proverb Case says he always comes back to is the idea that “if you want to go quickly, you can go alone, but if you want to go far, you must go together.”
Even Steve Jobs, famous for his singular visions, greatly valued the input of his peers and colleagues. As he put it, “great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.”
While there’s no simple equation for what makes an entrepreneur successful, having a peer circle of inspiring leaders that are unafraid of giving honest feedback means you have a place to bring your vision and have it watered and fed.
How Can We Find Professionals That Will Push Us To Succeed?
There are steps we can take towards finding the right group. Part of this is just getting out there and letting go of the fear of being yourself, of putting your cards on the table.
We know this can be daunting.
Not everyone has a William R. Salomon within reach, or much less, the team Steve Jobs had at Apple. Perhaps we can think bigger though. Talking about peer support, General Motor CEO Mary Barra has said, "some executives credit one or two key people for coaching them to success, but I believe effective mentoring takes a network." Barra was essentially talking about peer circles here. She could rely on a network of people she respected any time she hit a fork in the road, letting her weigh up, compare and benefit from the insight of numerous of her peer’s opinions.
Nevertheless, finding professionals that are the right fit for you can be a time consuming exercise, and it will most likely be one of trial and error, as you meet different people that may or may not be the right fit. With Circles, geography and chance are largely taken out of the equation. You can be matched with professionals from all over the world. The matching process will make it much more likely that you’ll find a group of professionals that are a perfect fit, creating an environment of trust where it’s ok to be vulnerable, and where you’ll receive help overcoming hurdles in your professional life.
Prof Julia Hobsawm, the world’s first professor of networking says that “we have a literacy about our physical fitness,” emphasizing the way people have accepted healthy eating and lifestyles as a necessity, but the same guided approach to a “social fitness” should also become the norm, she argues:
“The challenge is that networking has been seen as the preserve of bosses.”
Everyone needs to mingle with other professionals to up their game though. The CEO forum is highly valued in the business world, but they’re exclusive and extremely expensive to join. One of the forces driving Circles is the notion that the personal advisory board should be accessible to professionals of all shapes and sizes, no matter what stage you are in your career. That’s what Circles is making available to the world. COOs, HR Directors, school principals and expecting moms working remotely can all benefit from their own personal advisory board from home. As Dan Hoffman, Circles CEO puts it, “we’re not building a prestige club for CEOs or founders.” Everyone will be able to benefit from deeper conversations as well as the support of their peers.
So don’t go it alone. In the 80’s it was Rambo; today it’s Marvel and DC. Those third act showdowns have so much appeal on the big screen for one standout reason; they let us get lost in impossible fantasies that will never be possible in reality. Rob Hopkins, author of several books on environmental issues, has weighed in on the issue: “the idea of the solitary hero can be quite an unhealthy one, and we need to pool our resources to be heroic together!” We can achieve so much more if we get together and push in the same direction. In an age where technology can be used to bring us closer together there’s no real reason not to.