Right after high school graduation I lost touch with a good friend named Julian. I’d regretted our failure to reconnect since then and recently reached out to him because quite frankly, he’s always motivated me to achieve more.
Julian was always a fearless thought-leader, talented writer, and creative artist, and while he may not have known it, he was the competition to which I compared myself to. I struggled with my own competency as he bested me in high school band, and again when he got accepted into a more prestigious university than me. We were friends, but that didn’t stop me from admiring his knowledge, savvy, and ability.
As I’ve come to learn the value of relationship building and professional development, I’ve realized the positive impact that keeping in contact with a person of Julian’s quality would’ve had on my personal and professional development. The saying goes; it’s not what you know, but who you know. I think a more appropriate saying is; it’s not what you know, but what who you know, knows, and can teach you. I should’ve been learning from him instead of discounting my own abilities. Unfortunately, this is a lesson that eludes many young professionals until years into their careers.
Too often we won’t allow ourselves to admire our friends and other personal acquaintances, possibly out of some fear of feeling inferior or less capable than them. It’s an understandable behavior. The way the educational system is built, we’re programmed to measure our skills, abilities, and successes against those of our closest friends and classmates. If you’re at all like me, you were never let in on the secret that instead of being in constant competition, taking a moment to admire the positive qualities of your peers and creating an opportunity to learn from them is a good thing. Instead, for many young adults, admitting they envy or admire a fellow peer, even to themselves, may feel like they’re admitting their own shortcomings or failures.
But when we view our envy and admiration not as a negative or weak trait, but as a positive step toward self-improvement, it helps us dwell not on what we don’t have, but instead, focus on how to get what we want. The personal and professional relationships we build and sustain are what truly make us successful, and when we can manage to overcome pride to learn and benefit from these relationships, we can reap the rewards.
So, as you progress through college and begin your professional careers, keep this in mind: Every relationship, past, present, and future, can be used as an opportunity to learn more, and doubt yourself less.