When people find out that some of my best friends are other Chicago bloggers, they’re a bit surprised.
I get questions like–”Don’t you guys get really competitive?” or “Does it hurt your feelings when they work with a brand and you don’t?” and “Wait…so you’re really that good of friends in real life?”
Our road trip to Shaheen’s baby shower this weekend with Kelly and Blair really reminded me of how different my life would be without them, and how much good can come out of surrounding yourself with an amazing network of people. I thought I’d get a little deeper into this concept today, and share my personal experience over the years.
Community Over Competition
I know we’ve all heard the phrase “community over competition.” Some people might think it’s all willy nilly feel-good stuff, but it’s really the most powerful thing that has not just shaped my career, but my personal life as well. And whether you’re a blogger or an accountant or an interior designer or an engineer–whatever field you decide to pursue, I think this is a concept that is always going to take you further.
I’m often asked questions like, “What’s your biggest piece of advice for success?” or “What’s your #1 tip for starting a blog?” or “What factors have gotten you furthest in your career?” and I can honestly say–choosing to value community over competition is always–and I believe, will always continue to be–my #1 biggest piece of advice.
Why this is so powerful
Back to the whole “how can you be such good friends? Don’t you get competitive?” thing.
Yeah, I used to struggle with the comparison thing. At first, it was really hard when my friend landed my dream partnership and I didn’t–especially because we seemed to be doing all the same things. It’s easy to say, “why not me?” It’s a situation we encounter in every profession–why someone else got promoted over you, why they got put on that shiny new account and you didn’t, why your coworker got that award even though you know you worked harder than they did.
It’s also easy to be cautious and selective with the helpful information you divulge, for fear that someone else will take your advice and then become more successful than you. To have the attitude of, “I got to where I am all by myself, I taught myself everything I know–so should they! I’m not going to tell them my secrets!”
But here’s the thing. Having this “why not me?” or “I’m not giving everything I know away” attitude is only hurting you–it isn’t helping you. When I learned this, everything changed.
My “work friendships” as I will call them, with Kelly, Shaheen, Blair, and my countless other blogging friends have influenced what you see and read on this blog more than you or I will probably ever realize, and I know they can say the same. It’s influenced everything from my strategy, site design, photography, my content, and yes–even how much money I make!
When you start to adopt the attitude of community over competition, your life changes.
This is true for a couple of reasons:
1. First and foremost–every day is a learning curve, and with a support system, it turns what might feel like an overwhelming and scary experience, into a really fun adventure.
Like many self-employed professions, blogging can be really lonely. It’s not a traditional “team” environment, which is probably what I miss the most about my traditional 9-5. It’s also one big mystery–technology is constantly evolving, there’s so much information you don’t know which way is up, and sometimes it’s really hard to know whether you’re doing something right.
Sure, your friends and family can be supportive of you, but they have no idea what you’re going through. They don’t have the helpful answers you need. Words of encouragement can only go so far coming from people who aren’t familiar with your world.
Before I had blogging friends, it felt like I was throwing darts in the dark, just crossing my fingers that I’d hit the dart board. But when I made blogging friends, that all changed.
2. On the flip-side, my work friendships have also pushed me to constantly learn, evolve, and grow, every day. Rather than hide the secrets to what is working for us and what isn’t, we share them–to help each other grow, too. This has created a momentum that constantly enables and inspires each of us to continue pushing our own personal boundaries.
The concept of “competition” moved away from the attitude of, “I need to one-up you,” to “damn girl, you’re killing it. I need to get on your level!”
We all bring something very different to the table. One person’s weakness is another person’s strength–together, we fill in the knowledge gaps to create something really powerful.
And over time, this didn’t just improve our careers–”work friends” morphed into “real friends” and “best friends”–friends who will be at my wedding (and in my wedding)–friends I can’t imagine my life without. That’s something I never would’ve imagined a few years ago.
What this means for you
No matter what you do for a living, I know you can identify with the struggles listed above. It’s just part of having a career.
Start setting up regular happy hours with your work friends. Create a recurring “check-in” meeting with your closest coworker, and share what you’ve been struggling with. I guarantee that airing your struggles will bring about solutions you’ve never thought of, helpful hints that will truly improve your career and your personal life.
Or if you’re someone who is self employed, email someone in your community who is at your same level. Chances are, you’re going through the same things, and you’ll find so many ways that you can help each other. Even just having someone to talk to who really knows what you go through day in and day out can be a game-changer.
Whatever it is–make a point this week to get the ball rolling. I promise, you won’t regret it!
What is your experience with community over competition?