Lessons on Success from Shadowing My Amazing Friends for a Week
“Your network is your net worth.” — Tim Sanders
Growing up, my mother would always say, “Show me who your friends are and I’ll show you who you are.” I didn’t really understand her thinking until I grew up and realized for myself the importance of cultivating strong relationships that extended beyond the surface.
As a short experiment to satisfy my deep curiosity to learn from amazing people in my life, given the flexibility of my previous remote role at a tech start-up, I embarked on a month-long journey to shadow a handful of my very successful friends. I define success as living a life of service where you are having a lasting impact on others and cultivating beautiful inner virtues along the way. In essence, success for me is more about who you are as a human rather than what you do. It’s about the moral virtues. The individuals I selected to shadow for a week all struck me as people living their lives from this place.
One is a women’s empowerment Executive Coach in NYC, the other an Opera Singer in NYC, and the last a Non Profit Executive Director in Los Angeles. What do they all share? They are all: highly impactful in their communities, accomplished, driven, humble, and resilient in the face of hardships. Sure - they aren’t the world’s richest people - but in my eyes, they are rich with love, knowledge, and spheres of influence. I flew to their respective cities and spent a week couch surfing and shadowing their lives. For some, I shadowed their personal and work lives. For others, I simply stayed home and pretended to “live with them.” So sorry for almost burning down your apartment, you know who you are.
Here’s what I observed:
They all had explicit VALUE ornaments (cultural, spiritual, political) embedded in their bedrooms/homes to remind them of their beliefs or things they deeply care about. Ways they seek to live their lives. For example, Jenny had political posters about equity all over her home and images of powerful women such as Michelle Obama or Hillary Clinton doing work around the world. Neil other had images of his family and memories from his time working with children as a school teacher. These images served as catalysts and reminders for them of his values of equity, education, impact, and service
They had all developed a strong VISION for their lives that was actually living and breathing when you walked into their homes and work spaces through the use of vision boards or reminders of their goals and affirmations that you see everyday and gets you literally jumping out of bed and excited to conquer your wildest dreams. Jenny, the Women’s Empowerment Coach, had developed what I would call a very powerful Affirmation Manifesto that was literally taped right next to her home desk.
They all valued the importance of rest and unwinding. While our culture often makes us believe that in order to “make it” there must be grueling hours and soul sucking hustle to the point of burn-out, these leaders mastered the almost spiritual separation of their work and personal lives. Neil, my education leader friend would come home after work and we’d sit on the couch and talk about life until he’d bring out his guitar and begin practicing his chords and would sing and give me the opportunity to sing too. And Kareem, my opera singer friend would unwind by playing keys on the piano and singing musical theatre hymns where we’d break out in song.
They were the kind of people I wanted to be around. They were thoughtful, kind listeners. Truly giving and generous of themselves and their time.
They were all invested in a higher purpose far greater than themselves. For them, their driving force was an intrinsic desire to contribute meaningfully to the world through their advocacy, art, and music and to touch the lives of others along the way. It was a service based mindset to life.
Here’s what I learned about myself:
Through this experience, I began to realize the immense wealth that lies within me - I left my travels so inspired and appreciative of the relationships I’ve managed to foster in my life and with a deep confidence in both the depth and the impact that my friends are having in the world. I loved learning about ways that people in my life take care of themselves, thoughtfully curate their home and work spaces, and think about the way that they are moving about the world.
My Suggestions/Recommendations for testing this out in your life:
For remote workers, maybe you can spend a day working alongside an inspiring mentor or friend of yours for a day or two.
Maybe Companies Can Spend a Day every month suggesting their employees Shadow another employee within the company.
For students and individuals, don’t be afraid to ask someone inspiring if you can shadow them for a few hours sometime. I’m sure the receiver may be impressed and even flattered. What’s the worst that could happen? They’ll say no? You’ll live. Acknowledge yourself for your audacity ;) That’s the spirit.
Special Kudos to Jenny, Neil, and Kareem for allowing me to shadow their lives & tell the tale months later ;)