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The 7 people you need in your support crew
How do you build your very own gang of cheerleaders?
How do you build your very own gang of cheerleaders?
Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people.
When it comes to work habits and sharing our success stories, I think we can learn a lot from kids. Their ideas of success usually revolve around kindness, persistence and working together.
“We stayed true to ourselves! We did it! We banded together! We overcame! We came out ahead!”
When they’re competing, we teach them—and they intuitively know—to support and congratulate each other. Win or lose, we clap, fist-bump or high-five in solidarity as kids tackle challenges. We know how much they need and appreciate our support and that this is part of how they learn and grow. They are buoyed and propelled by the fact that they’re not in this alone.
But things change.
Kids become adults, for starters. Adult success stories, the kind that detail “How to succeed in business by really, really, really trying” are usually about “inspiring” tales of adversity, person vs nature, being a clever freak or the lonely road to success.
“I did it! I worked hard! I am talented! I triumphed! Let me show you how!”
Where the kid success story is often the very model of careful nurturing, excellent compadres and teamwork, as adults we listen out for and laud the opposite (slightly far-fetched) stories when it comes to grown-up tales of success.
Granted, we do see hat-tips to the support team from the lectern at awards nights. Glittering, selfless shows of gratitude as they thank God, lover, manager or mum. But when the success story is written up or delivered on stage by a pacing high-achiever, it’s usually diverted back to a tale of adversity and hard work/talent.
I think we need to rewrite the adult success story (with a healthy dose of the kids’ all-in approach.)
Because it’s not truthful. Most of us need a whole team of people in our support crew. Real life is less “eat your teammates” and more “how to be successful with the help of a gang of supportive types.”
It’s why I share tales of the “team” I work/live with as often as I can to encourage creatives to a) ask for help b) out their support crew whenever they get the chance and c) further debunk the destructive and misleading myth of “me against the world” in the professional realm.
So how do you build your very own gang of cheerleaders? There are a bunch of vital types who have helped me along, kept things on track and given me a leg-up throughout my professional life. They fall into a rough framework that you can try at home (or maybe you are already working with a similar crew? Go you!)
I look for:
1. The Inspirers (= motivators!) These members of your gang are the ones you might not even know in real life. They are your heroes. They do amazing things and show you that rad stuff is possible by their own ace example. You need these people to keep your eyes on the prize (just in case you were feeling like you would never get where you want to be professionally!) If they did it, you probably can too.
For me, these are people like Patti Smith (who has reached so many people while still staying true to herself) or Gretchen Rubin (who wrote several New York Times bestsellers about happiness and habit and created a wide-reaching podcast about those very same things.)
2. The Collaborators These are the people you work with (or want to work with). The clever crew that help you grow ideas and projects with a good peppering of someone else’s smarts. These people are as interested in the idea of combining creative powers and taking a punt as you are.
I’d totally single out my creative partner-in-crime artist Gemma Jones (especially for our Pretty In Pink film screening, but also for the course we co-taught “How To Be Creative”.) I’d also flag my friend Jo Walker who I’ve worked with on so many issues of Frankie Magazine, hatching craft projects and making trouble in general.
3. The Administrators This crew are the expert-y types who help keep the books balanced, the websites running and the cash flowing. Do not underestimate the importance of these guys. They will keep you on the straight and narrow in terms of professional compliance and growth. If you have the administrative framework sorted, you free up much-needed time and energy for your creative/business endeavors.
I have a bunch of people who help me when my websites are playing up or when my books won’t balance. I would super-encourage you to get yourself a back-up crew like this. Ask other creatives you admire for recommendations on the best administration or back-of-house types in your area.
4. The Appreciators This part of your crew comprises the people who enjoy and benefit from your work. These are the people that you created your business or creative work for. They are your audience, readership or customers.
For me, these are the ace types who take the time to read my blog or books. And also the people who front up to my workshops and events. They give me feedback on how my work is helping them and that keeps me on track–and often helps me to change tack as needed, too. These people are super vital to your growth and success, but also your happiness. A little bit of happy feedback from these guys goes a long way (at least it does for me!) Thanks crew!
5. The Educators The people who teach you things, level with you, want more for you and tell you the truth. They are mentors and people whose experience and endeavours you respect.
For me, this would be people in my life like Clare Bowditch who is constantly surging ahead and challenging herself professionally. She is always around for a (kindly) truth-telling chat when I need it. I love and respect her take on business and life because she’s worked on a multitude of creative projects and has the kind of experience money can’t buy.
For you, this might be an industry leader type-person, a teacher or a wise family friend. Seek out the people who will ask you the hard questions and help you shake things up.
6. The Advocators! There’s no point doing awesome stuff if nobody ever finds out about it! The vocal contingent of your crew includes people who will talk about your work glowingly, taking it to a wider audience. This might be friends and other familiar advocates, or it might be people in the media who notice you are doing interesting things.
My PR crew are not really PR types at all. They include readers and students who spread my news via word of mouth. There are also journalists who have noticed me along the way and are keen to include me in the pieces they are writing whenever appropriate. I’d count other high profile creative types in this crew too. They often want to support people they identify with or like. People like Chrissie Swan, Sam Lane, Emma Dean and Catherine Deveny have helped to push me and my crafty barrow along to their friends and followers.
7. The family-and-frienderators… The final, slightly ill-fitting “ator” in our must-do support crew list is your family and friends.
The people who listen to you bleat excitedly or miserably into the phone when something has gone right (or wrong!) The ones who encourage you to keep at it and step up when you are overcommitted. The people who’ll do the school pick-ups or forgotten Book Week costumes or urgently needed bottle-of-wine deliveries. These are the soup and jaffle types.
For me, this is my boyfriend of 22 years, Cameron, who fills in the gaps and make the jaffles crunchy enough. He’s possibly delivered me 124 billion cups of tea at my desk, too.
It’s my kids who stopped rolling their eyes at my idea of ‘work’ after the first few months and fully support it (as well as supporting my occasional overworked meltdowns!) It’s my favourite friends—pals like Defah Dattner and Jesse Neave and Lisa Bowditch—who sit across the table at Grub Food Van or Yoga Barn while I explain my latest dilemma/disappointment/exciting plan.These guys are super important to my success and happiness. I could not do it without them.
The support crew you build around you are the framework for your personal and professional success.
While they’re not always visible they’re utterly vital.
Make sure you look after them and sing their praises. And make sure you encourage other creatives and professionals to seek helpers too, by honouring your teammates whenever you can, including them in your story and fist bumping them merrily along the way.
It’s way better than eating them, right?