Don’t Take The Stairs. Use Elevators.

No, not the fancy machine that employs a system of pulleys and levers to move you in vertical directions. I want to talk about the kind of elevators that come packaged in flesh and bone who push you to the next levels of thought and understanding as you pursue your destiny.

In America, we have long glorified the “by our bootstraps” mentality, telling tall tales about how one person single handedly changed the course of history or created an everlasting economic empire. But that really isn’t how it works. In the words of John Dunne, “No man is an island”, and even the most iconic movers and shakers of our time did not go it alone all the way to the top. Each rise to to fame or success hides the people behind you pushing you forward and underneath you pushing you up. And if you want to make it to that deluxe apartment in the sky, you need to have key people in your life who keep you moving in the right direction.

The Encourager
We all need a cheerleader, a yes man who will agree with you no matter what. People like this build a sense of invincibility in you–which you will need when you need to level up. Yes men get a bad rap because so many folks have fallen prey to the pride that may override your good sense (if everybody in your circle is shouting yes to everything), but make no mistake: you need at least one or two people who will never say no to anything you say. It keeps you thirsty for more.

The Challenger
Total opposite of the encourager. You have to have a party pooper in your circle. When used correctly, a challenger will help you see the holes in your idea and make you fill them. They help keep your game tight because every challenger will tell you all the reasons why your plan won’t work. They zoom in on weakness, and you cannot be weak trying to get to the glory you see in your mind.

The Critic
These people are a little different than the challenger in that they do not outright say ‘no way’ like a challenger. Instead, they look at the sum total of the arguments made by the encouragers and challengers then tell you what you need to fix and why AND HOW. They come with solutions to problems and if they are really good, preventative measures so there won’t be problems.

The Believer
A believer may initially start off as an encourager, but they have a deeper connection to you. The believer understands you, your history, your mindset. They see the greatness in you and remind you of who you are when the going gets tough. Encouragers may walk away when life gets hard; believers stay with you through the try AND the fail, then sit back with tears of joy when you make it to the other side.

The Number Cruncher
Nothing sucks worse than being great but still being poor, than doing great things but not having a thing to show for it. Number crunchers keep your wallet right as you transition. They find money, suggest ways to better use it. Real number crunchers play the long game with the aim of keeping you in it to win and not just to place. You want to be number one? A numbers person is a must have.

The Gambler
This is the number cruncher’s evil twin. You rarely make it to the big leagues without taking calculated risks, and gamblers are the short term, high yield investors of your squad. Somebody has to show you the spots where you can take huge leaps; otherwise you will grow stagnant on whatever levels you have reached. A gambler will force your hand, pushing you out of your comfort zone for a maximum return on investment.

The Detailer
Who is keeping the lights on? Filing the paperwork? Making the calls? Buying the ink? Proofreading the copy? Feeding the dog? Taking the kids to soccer practice? Detail people know that the devil lives where they work: in the day-to-day drudgery that visionaries hate to deal with. You can have the hottest idea on the street but without someone willing to help execute all you have is an idea.

The Lookout
Listen. Somebody has to be watching your back. We would all love to live in the Magic Kingdom where we make a wish and our dreams come true, but the real world is cutthroat and ugly. You need protection: from vultures, bad decisions, haters, competition, interlopers, traitors, liars, thieves, and otherwise evil intentions. Lookouts observe and report on the shenanigans that you will miss in the tunnel vision everyone gets when they lock in on a goal.

The Rough Rider
I do not advocate skulduggery, but let’s be real. You need somebody on your team who has zero chill. A hatchet man. A killer. No fear. No concern for feelings. A real thug. I believe the mafia calls these kinds of people the “caporegime”. These are the people who run your crew with the iron fist you may not have the time (or stomach) to use. You need someone who gives zero dambs about getting rid of dead weight and cracking the whip.

The Contact
This person is KEY. They always know someone who “knows someone” whom you need to know. They have telephone numbers, email addresses, business lunches that you need to drop in on. They are known, and use their knowing to their advantage. This type of person can take a struggling business and make it boom just by whipping out their smartphone and shooting a tweet, text, or stat about you. The connect can make you a celebrity overnight.

The Mentor
Mentors in your field of dreams can tell you what pitfalls to avoid, who to leave behind, where to build, why this will work and this won’t–really all the other elevators in one. The difference? They KNOW OF WHICH THEY SPEAK. These folks have been where you are trying to go–they have summer homes inside success with permanent addresses in the land of “I Made It”. A mentor is literally worth the weight in gold, and finding an involved one will change your life. Obviously these are extremely busy people but even a quick checkin can give you new perspective on a problem that has kept you from moving forward. I cannot sing the praises of a good mentor enough.

We all desire to say “Look Ma! I made it!” with a side order of “I did it all by myself!” but let’s face it–having some help is way better than going it alone.  You just get more done that way. Even Jesus had a squad. They all had a spot they filled on the team that made the ministry effective. If the King of Kings and Lord of Lords had a crew, why are you trying to be the greatest with just you and maybe one other person? Get on the elevator: build a team.



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