Here’s an early example from my years on this here planet: When I got out of the U.S. Navy’s basic electronics school in Orlando, Florida, I was then sent on to the Electronic Warfare school in Pensacola, Florida.
Now, Orlando is nice for visits to Disney, but there wasn’t much else there for the sailors (No offense, Orlando folks, I was only 18, I’m sure I’d find plenty there now). Pensacola, on the other hand, is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Right on the northern Gulf coast–white beaches, bikinis, and plenty of amusements to keep a young man occupied. I’d vacation there today (for the beaches and fishing, of course).
When I arrived at Pensacola, I ran into a buddy from boot camp. He’d gone straight from boot to his “A” school of choice. So he’d been there about six weeks before I showed up. The first thing he said to me was, “I can’t wait to get out of this hellhole.”
Pensacola? A hellhole? I looked around at palm trees and beautiful women and thought he’d lost his mind. Too much sun, perhaps.
You Will be Outnumbered!
It was a good lesson for me. After that, I found that everywhere I went, there were about ten complainers for every one guy with a positive outlook. Unfortunately, it took me a few more years to figure out that I had to separate myself from the complainers and latch on to the guys with the smiles on their faces. I thought I could maintain a positive outlook despite the constant barrage of whining and negativity. What I learned is that negative people have a virus called “Bitchalotus,” and it’s highly contagious. You will get dragged down by these folks. They hate it when one of theirs escapes and crawls his way out of the muck, and they’ll do everything they can to keep you where you belong.
This is one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned and it definitely ranks high in the “Stuff I Wish I Knew When I Was 20″: surround yourself with successful people and those who share your desire for success. Find mentors among those who are doing what you want to be doing, living how you want to be living, and as outrageously happy as you’d like to be. Eventually, you’ll be that person. Believe me, every successful person has attached herself to someone she respected. And the funny thing about successful people is that they find great joy in helping others reach their level of success, and will even celebrate if you surpass their level of success.
You Have Amazing Networking Power
And you have something now that I didn’t have when I first ventured out on my own in 1984. You have social networking capabilities that I never imagined even ten years ago. You have, quite literally, millions of people whom you can contact right now from where you’re sitting. If you can use facebook to find someone interested in your favorite band, you can sure as hell find someone interested in your career goals.
So what is it you want? To be an actor? Go find an actor you respect and start up a conversation. Maybe he won’t have time to respond, but maybe he will. Keep looking until you find someone who is willing to mentor you.
You want to be successful in business? Track down the great minds of the Wall Street Journal or maybe the CEO of a major corporation. Maybe they won’t talk to you and maybe they will. I promise that your quest will eventually lead you to someone you can follow. You may not even know their name today, but someday you’ll remember that person as your greatest mentor.
Of course, face to face always works best. Your mentor may be next door. Do you know what your neighbors do for a living? Find out. What about the woman in line at Starbucks with you each morning. She seems happy and content. Offer to buy her Cappuccino today and strike up a conversation.
Spend Your Time with People Who Will Lift You UP
And this isn’t just about the mentor. This is about your peers as well. Who are you choosing to spend your time with? Are you spending your free time with others who share your passions and desire for success? Or are you hanging out with people who have no ambition and spend a considerable amount of time criticizing those who do?
Do this for me today: go onto facebook, twitter, Google+ (my favorite), and seek out the writer, the surgeon, or the carpenter who is living the life you envision for yourself. You’ll find others like you, of this I have no doubt. They can join you in your search. Maybe you’ll do nothing more than make a new friend who is struggling to pay the rent herself.
And maybe this is the day your journey into your dream life begins.