Build Your Village

“It takes a village.”

You hear it all of the time, and if you haven’t, it means to be successful as an individual, you need the right people around you. I may be biased, but I think athletes understand this the best. To build a high level athlete, for example, it takes years of different sports coaches and teammates, strength & conditioning coaches, teachers, academic advisors, physical therapists, athletic trainers, doctors, nutritionists, and the people who dedicate their time and money towards those resources. When you see a collegiate or professional athlete, that’s what goes into their on field presence. It takes many years and many people.

Off the field, the same applies. Every athlete, no matter how rich or famous, is just a human after all. Everyone has their set of family and friends that build them up as people, too. That’s where our villages start. Making sure that these people and more fit into our lives is a vital skill, and because I’ve been blessed with a special village, I hope to share that perspective with you.

I’ll start with one of my favorite analogies, the turtle on the fence post. Picture that, a turtle on a fence post. Here’s the visual:

Credit: Eric Tank/Flickr

When you look at that turtle, you should wonder what it’s doing there. A turtle can’t climb, a turtle can’t jump, a turtle can’t fly. That turtle didn’t get there on its own. In a way, we are all that turtle at times. We don’t get to where we are in life unless the people around us help to get us there. If you’ve found yourself in a position of power or success, I promise you didn’t get there alone. Often times we take those people for granted and we lose the appreciation for how they’ve helped to elevate us in our lives.

For me personally, it starts with family. I carry a strong belief that the only role models a child should idolize are their parents. A parent is the most prominent example for a young person, and I hope that parents genuinely realize that. Our political leaders, Hollywood stars, and all-pro quarterbacks aren’t raising our children day in and day out. Whether you hate them or love them, these figures aren’t as important in your kids’ lives as you are.

In my own life, I’ve been blessed to have grown up in the perfect balance of tough love and generosity. I have two parents that have never been afraid to hold me accountable for my shortcomings, yet they’ve given me so much love, appreciation, and opportunities to find success. I’d be mighty proud to turn out like my parents. When I say that, I don’t mean I want to grow up to find a job in the real world in sales or marketing. But I’ve been raised in faith with respect and love, and all of the values that are interwoven in that fabric of my family are what I hope to emulate. That’s the true impact that parents should strive to have on their children, and those intangible things can be made prevalent in any situations life deals us.

In addition to parents, there are siblings. The bond between siblings is unlike anything else. As a younger sibling, you look up to the older one. As an older sibling, you feel you have the job to protect the younger one, hopefully also conscious of how your actions effect your brothers and sisters. Personally, as the oldest of two, I had my cousins to look up to and admire through their endeavors and successes before me. Those ideas of how we view our family give us our first inclinations as to who we want to be.

But, as I’ve said from the beginning, family isn’t limited to blood relatives. The strongest relationships we share are often with our closest friends, and man I am blessed with some special friends. I can’t even begin to act like some of the friendships I’ve been a part of are normal, I’m not that naïve. I truly recognize the significance my friends have in my life, and all I can suggest in friendship building is very simple.

Just be you.

I’ve learned that by being yourself, you attract the right type of people for your life. If you stay true to your morals, goals and beliefs, then you will attract the right type of people for yourself. Notice how I didn’t say you have to follow a certain set of morals! You just have to stay true to the ones that you believe are right, and the right type of people in your life will gravitate to that. Far too often, as I’ve seen in high school and college, people change for others. It’s in these relationships that something gives because people tend to lose their own way. The best friendships give each other the room to grow together, and even that takes things like accountability and appreciation for each other.

That’s where the core of my relationships start. Those people are the baseline foundation for my life. But, there’s much more than that to success. I think the next level outside of family and friends are teachers. Elementary and developmental teachers are far more important in society than they get credit for… especially monetarily. Coaches or bosses are teachers, too, just in a more mature sense. They’re also the types of behavioral teachers in that if you don’t agree with them, they can help to teach you what not to be like in aspects of your life.

Then we have our classmates, teammates, and/or co-workers. The collection of these people either implement and follow what their leaders say, or they don’t. Either way, they are peers with similar learning experiences, beliefs, and goals. If these peers have goals and beliefs that we like, they become friends. It’s a very poetic cycle.

Beyond that, we all look to different people for specialization and advice when we need it. Whether that be financial advisors, life coaches, or even therapists, those people count, too. Pretty much every job in society is set up to help and serve other people, because together we make our lives better.

Any way you slice it, none of us go through life alone. If you feel that you are going through life alone, take a step back and recognize that there are more people in your life than you realize. Heck, maybe even take this time to re-connect and thank them for what they’ve added to your life. Actually, I challenge you do to that. It’ll make both of you feel special because we definitely do take some influential people for granted in our lives.

The bottom line is strive to be a trophy person. I’ll always remember this saying, and I’ll leave you with it:

Trophies attract winners. All winners want are trophies. Being a trophy person attracts winning people, and those are the type of people you want to be around in your life because they elevate you. On the contrary, don’t be a pile of dung. Dung attracts flies, and flies are not very smart creatures. You don’t want to find yourself surrounded by idiots.

Thanks for that one, Dad.

Appreciate those special people around you. To all of those people in my life, thank you. Until next time,


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