When great business, sports or creative personalities grant interviews they are often asked what inspires them. They then generally pat off countries and cultures they’ve visited, one off moments they experienced and things they have seen, and almost all admit to becoming who they are because of the people they have surrounded themselves with.
Many career and lifestyle gurus attest that if you want to achieve a goal, spend time with the people who will help you get there. Today, let us consider the four people that everyone has met during their lives who have been formative in who we have become.
The Family Member
Of course every single member of your family is important. Indeed, it is the numerous individuals which constitute a family unit. This said, there is always one member who seems to ‘get’ you more than the others.
I grew up as daddy’s girl but come the age of thirteen I began gravitating towards my mum both in looks and personality. We are so similar this can even cause friction. On one occasion, as a student home for the holidays, we were having a rare spat when my mum’s partner turned to her saying, “I don’t know why you’re so angry, she’s just being like you.”
Helping to walk, my mum has always been there.
Because Mum sympathises with my ambitions and desires she is the first to send me career inspiring articles, drive me at stupid o’clock from a triathlon to our holiday ferry and tell me I can hold old when there seems to be nothing to grasp on to. On occasions she has also been the one strong enough to tell me what I need but do not want to hear.She notoriously declared she cannot retire because having worked her entire life and had the family to look after she has never developed hobbies to occupy herself.
Each family has that one saintly member who simply gives and never takes.
Facebook friendship counts would suggest we now collect friends our entire lives and never let any go. This is false. At most we can count on one hand those people who we can share absolutely anything with, can call any time of day or night and will have our back no matter what. I can name two such people. The first is a girl and my longest standing friend. We were born ten days apart and met because we lived on the same street until our teenage years. In 27 years of friendship we had our first and only argument this year. It was such a shock to us both, we were in floods of tears, and our mothers didn’t think it possible. We never refer to this moment. We travelled in India together as teenagers and inevitably nursed each other’s ‘Delhi Belly’ and have literally run out of the house at bizarre hours to comfort each other when relationships have broken down.
My other true friend and I are an unlikely couple. We met at university, he an unbelievably tolerant and easy going guy, me a distrusting control freak. We were classmates and lived in the same halls. At the end of our first year a group of our friends congregated at my family home in France for a final hoorah before he and I went to China for our year abroad. It was this exotic land though where we became a platonic couple. For ten days I found myself in hospital suffering from a pollution induced lung problem. Every single one of those hospital days after class he completed the two hour round trip to replenish by food and DVD supplies and keep me company. He negotiated my medical bills and sat in on doctor visits. My family taking him to stay in a swanky Shanghai hotel and the ballet in London is poor repayment for his enormous heart.
My oldest girlfriend gave me this as thanks for doing her a favour, as if I wouldn’t! I am most definitely nor more Wonder Woman than the next lady but true friends make you feel you are.
These friends back your corner whether you are world champ or have been KO.
The School Teacher
We sit under the eye of many teachers in our lives but there are only a couple whose names we remember as adults. These teachers excite us into absorbing knowledge, act as guardians and disciplinarians when our parents are not present, kicking us into action when we might be reluctant or think we are unable to do so.
One such teacher of mine simply made learning creative, fun and rewarding. As each of her students turned 6 years old we were granted to sit in the decorated ‘birthday chair’ for a day and have the entire class recite A.A. Milne’s ‘Now We Are Six’ poem to them. To this day I can still recite it. Work submitted (that set or of our own free will) was rewarded with varying stickers for effort and achievement; the child with the most points at the end of the week was the sole student bestowed with a shooting star sticker. Our young lives were filled with creativity and a sense of achievement which everyone celebrated in each other. We should remember this as adults when we complain of the daily grind and not being recognised; stop, smell the flowers; compliment someone and life’s beauty will be returned.
Jam jar from my Ramadan work secondment. The best teachers set you with a positive perspective of the world lying ahead.
Another teacher in many ways stood in for my mum from Monday until Friday when I was at boarding school. She was English but taught and acted French. She witnessed my battle with grammar (and the institution), she understood my difficulties with both, but instead of allowing me to fly into tears of frustration or wallow in self-pity I was strictly instructed to calm down and tackle the challenge calmly. Really, this is the only way to approach crises.
Teachers are the ones who set how we perceive the tasks in life.
This person is different to the teacher on account of us buying into the individual rather than them being forced upon us. For some, ‘coach’ is a career mentor, lifestyle practitioner or literal sports coach.
The coach also inspires because they lead by example. Looking back on my professional and athletic career I can identify figures who have influenced my actions and made me work harder because of the way they conducted themselves. There is a sense of if they can achieve what they do by adopting those strategies and traits then perhaps I can accomplish the same. Likewise, it is easy to recognise those managers and drill sergeants who bark orders at you with the result that you put in the least effort and care you can get away with.
Playing sport took up large portions of my life right up until completing university. Starting a career was not going to change this but due to time issues the team aspect of sport had to go. Regularly going to a gym to look at the same spot on the wall did not appeal so I signed up for various physical challenges and races to motivate myself until one day, inspired by the Brownlees at London 2012, I committed to participating in their 2014 triathlon. 18 months later I qualified to compete in the 2017 European Triathlon Union Championships in Austria. This is no small thanks to my coach. I like to think we found each other because by serendipity she teaches at the pool closest to my family home, suffered the same medical condition I suffer from and also stumbled on the sport relatively late. She need not ask how I feel, she can see it in my eyes, the way I stand and how my arms move through the water. Coaches can see your potential and know how to set tasks which push you to each level of progression and put themselves wholeheartedly into your growth but they also sense when you need to rest and consolidate.
Just one year after my first triathlon I would never have thought I would be training under a world champion coach in the French Alps.
“Each great athlete became great due to a coach who believed in that player more than the player believed in himelf.” (Brian Souza)
The Coach believes in you and guides you to the top whilst they sit back quietly and enjoy your accomplishments.
Who are these four people in your life? Find them, work with them and the sky will be a mere starting benchmark.