Every story of success is really a story of community.
Have you ever noticed that the benefits of a new thing are visible to the masses long before the negative side effects become clear?
The Power of Our Connections
For example, the potential for connection and relationship that came through social media apps like Twitter and Facebook were quickly apparent. When you have Instagram, who needs to wait for your high school reunion to see how your ex-girlfriend or football teammates are doing?!
As time passed, though, we have realized (and science is now confirming with empirical data) that the more we use Facebook to socialize, the more likely we are to be isolated from others and discontent with our present experiences. Ironic, huh?
I love Goins’ quote about success and community because it reminds us of the power of our relationships. My experience confirms Goins’ logic – success is never a solo thing. We succeed because of the people around us and sometimes we struggle because of the “friends” we pick too.
Distinguishing Between Healthy and Unhealthy Voices
Last week, I explored the 3 kinds of people you need to evict from your life and received feedback indicating the post resonated with a lot of readers. I wanted to follow that post up with a more prescriptive article about who you need to “give the megaphone to” in your life.
Before we list those 3 kinds of people, let’s establish some foundational principles.
We cannot thrive with destructive voices dominating our lives.
Those voices need to be filtered and silenced.
Identifying the destructive voices takes help.
We have to identify the skewed and harmful perspectives we developed because of those destructive voices if we’re every going to overcome them. This often takes a long time and help from someone like a counselor or therapist.
Determine our standards.
We must identify what healthy perspectives look like, including answering questions like “Who am I? What’s my value? What do I care about and value most?” (As a follower of Jesus, my faith in God and my study of the Scriptures speaks volumes into those 3 questions and their significance).
This might be scary!
We have to introduce healthy voices into our lives and ultimately open ourselves up again. As Paul Young puts it, “I suppose since our greatest wounds come from relationships, our greatest healing will too.”
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3 Voices to Give a Megaphone
I believe 3 kinds of voices will be essential to us living the lives God created us to live, filled with courage and hope.
1. Listen to voices that tell you the truth…the hard truths.
True friends tell you the truth. I love how Proverbs 27:6 reads, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Even if it hurts, the kind of voices we need share the truth. If someone only tells you what you want to hear, they’re likely more of an enemy than a friend. They’re actually working against your good, not for it.
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In the Bible, we see an example of this kind of truth-telling in the prophet, Nathan. In 2 Samuel 12, he confronts King David, fresh off an adulterous affair and murder cover-up. You think Edward Snowden was in trouble for whistle-blowing? Nathan could have been immediately killed for his parable and confessions about David! Yet, God used Nathan’s courageous words to break David’s heart, show him sins and produce repentance.
The voices you need must be committed to you and want the best for you. Therefore, they must be honest voices.
2. Listen to voices that have been where you want to go.
We all need mentors, sages, and guides. If you’re a young adult and you only spend time with other young adults, you’re not going to be successful. You need to cultivate some friendships with people that have more wisdom, experience, and failure than you do. Hanging out with friends who have been where you want to go will help you go further faster than others who think they know it all.
I love how Bible records the Apostle Paul’s constant work with young men. From Timothy to John Mark to Silas, Paul used his work as an opportunity to mentor and develop a generation of church leaders who would influence the movement of Jesus-followers after he was gone.
Find several people like Paul and begin learning from their successes and mistakes. The era of having one mentor has come and gone. We need mentors for multiple areas of our life. You don’t need to know it all if your network is full of mentors, sages, and guides. Just listen to their wisdom!
3. Listen to voices which build you up, not puff you up.
We need people who see in us what we cannot see ourselves. We need people who believe in our potential when all we see is weakness and insufficiency. We need people who encourage us with true words, instead of people who puff us up with flattery and indulgence. We all need encouragers. I have yet to meet someone who was over-encouraged. Encouragement leaks; we always need more.
Remember: encouragement is not false praise, flattery or smoke-blowing. When someone builds you up, they tell you the truth, even when you don’t want to hear it. When someone builds you up, they tell you the truth, even when you don’t believe it yourself. Many of us battle insecurity without ever letting anyone else know. We need voices which help us believe the truth we’re afraid to own.
There is a man whose story is recorded in the pages of the Bible who embodied this third category of voices. His given name was Joseph, but someone nicknamed him Barnabus, which means “son of encouragement.” In Acts 4, we read about how he sold a field that he owned and gave the proceeds to the Apostles to provide for people in need.
Barnabus must have been a popular man, a man with great influence. All of the great encouragers I know have full calendars and more people to meet with than they have time. Everyone takes their calls or returns their texts because they know if they close, they’ll get affirmed and recharged.
The people we choose to put around us, the voices we give the megaphone to – they make the difference between our thriving and suffering. They may determine if our future involves succeeding or imploding.
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Just ask Mike Tyson.
Mike Tyson Chose the Wrong Voices
My family has lived in Las Vegas since the early 1980s. My dad once recounted me the story of Mike Tyson, as told to him by a contact in the boxing industry. Mike Tyson is one of the most successful fighters of the 20th-century. When Tyson won his first heavyweight boxing title at age 20, his social circle immediately changed.
The fame and attention brought a lot of new people into his life and he exchanged voices. His team shifted from the people he’d known all his life to a new entourage. Once he hit it big, he got new friends. The people who had known him the longest and the best – more than likely, people who told him the hard truth – were ushered out of his inner circle. Tyson’s demise and fall from success is well-documented. By the time he hit rock bottom, Tyson has lost over 300 million dollars.
My dad’s contact said, “He would’ve never lost all that money if he kept the friends and team which got him his first heavyweight title. They would’ve held his feet to the ground and kept him accountable.”
If the voices we listen to shape the people we become…
If we are a reflection of the people whose influence is greatest in our lives…
If we are processing whose opinion should matter most and how to decipher who to listen to and who to ignore…
it’s time to evict destructive voices and empower healthy ones.
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If you need more help identifying the kind of voices and people who are destructive or healthy, I’d encourage you to check out Henry Cloud’s book, Safe People.