I know a lot of awesome people. And I’ve noticed that although they are all really different, there are some patterns among them. I think the world will be a much better place when there are even more awesome folks, so here are some things we can each do to make that happen.
Surround Yourself With Awesome People
My grandmother once told me, “Give your time to the people you want to be like.” I’ve found this to be excellent advice. People are social creatures, though of course, we vary in how much. Social networks have been shown to affect rates of cigarette smoking and obesity. But perhaps more relevant is that our social networks affect our happiness:
People who are surrounded by many happy people and those who are central in the network are more likely to become happy in the future. Longitudinal statistical models suggest that clusters of happiness result from the spread of happiness and not just a tendency for people to associate with similar individuals.
This makes a lot of sense to me. I find that when I’m around happy people, they inspire me to move towards my joy. And when I’m in a hard place, they’re more like to to be able to offer me support and useful suggestions. I also find that the more I’m around people who are living their lives with joy, love, and care, the more they help me to do the same.
So here’s a suggestion. Think about the people you give your time to. How many of them would you describe as awesome? Be honest about it. And consider why they’re in your life. If you met them for the first time today, what would you think of them? Do they inspire you? Do they support you? Do they help you be the best person you can be? Are they doing things that make you proud to know them?
Just to be clear, I’m not telling you to end all connection with everyone who doesn’t fit some set of standards. Instead, I’m suggesting adding more awesome people to your social circles. The more you do, the more you’ll find yourself becoming more awesome.
Be Yourself. Relentlessly.
It might seem like a contradiction to suggest creating a social network full of awesome folks because our networks influence us and then to say that you should be yourself. But I think these two things are entirely compatible because when you’re around the right people, they’ll help you be the best person you can be. And that means being yourself to the very best of your ability. Relentlessly.
When I look at the amazing people around me, I see them doing all sorts of incredible stuff. I see talented artists, skilled writers, wonderful parents, talented teachers, dedicated community organizers, and folks who are supporting some impressive organizations and innovative companies. It doesn’t matter that some of them doing things that I personally have no interest in. We can still celebrate each other’s triumphs and offer help when we’re stuck. That’s because people who have found their passion can help others with theirs. And that makes it easier for us to each be ourselves and do amazing things.
“Whatever you do may seem insignificant, but it is most important that you do it.”
Learn To Receive Appreciation
One thing that awesome folks often have in common is the ability to give and receive appreciation. When you do amazing stuff, other people will respond. It can be hard to receive that gracefully, as I know from personal experience. But there’s an irony there. A lot of people find that they enjoy offering thanks and appreciation, even though they might have difficulty receiving it themselves. When you hide your light and deflect other people’s gratitude and admiration, you take away their opportunity to do something that makes them happy. It can be difficult to learn how to take appreciations in, especially when our shames get in the way. So one path to being awesome is leaning into that discomfort and letting go of any tendency to self-deprecation.
This can be an especially challenging task, given how often people mistake pride and arrogance. I can recall an occasion when I finished a huge project and was feeling really proud. When I told a friend about that feeling, they said to me that “pride goes before a fall,” which was like a bucket of ice water being poured over me. I think that part of the confusion around this comes from not knowing the difference between pride and arrogance.
Pride is the feeling of “I have done something fantastic.” Arrogance is when we let our egos take over and think that we’re bigger than we really are. Pride lets us speak our truths and acknowledge our achievements without trying to hide our flaws. Arrogance tells us that being successful in one area makes us infallible or perfect. Pride has room for humility. Arrogance doesn’t.
From what I’ve seen, being awesome means making room for pride. After all, if you don’t feel proud of your accomplishments, how are you going to keep building upon them? That doesn’t mean denying our limitations or mistakes. It means bringing them into our lives, working with them, and making room for them. And sometimes, it means letting them be the catalyst for even more grand accomplishments. But it’s only when we can do that that we can really allow ourselves to accept appreciation without deflecting it and without letting ourselves slide into arrogance.
So take a look in the mirror and say to yourself, “I am awesome.” Is that difficult? Do you have trouble believing it? Do you find yourself looking away? What would it be like to look yourself in the eye and be honestly appreciative of the awesome things you do without sliding into arrogance?
How much fun do you have in your life? I’ve noticed that most of the awesome people I know find lots of different ways to have fun. So what do you do that brings you joy? What fills you with delight?
A lot of people think of fun as something frivolous, as if we need to get all of our chores done before we can enjoy ourselves. Of course, there’s always something else on the to-do list, so fun never happens. Other folks numb themselves out, as if they can’t enjoy themselves unless they’re drunk or high. So what do you do for fun? And can you stay fully present with the experience?
I know plenty of awesome people who play music or sing or create art or dance or play games and sports or build things or draw or hike or watch birds or knit or write. I think the big thing to be mindful of is whether you’re doing it because it brings you joy or whether you’re doing it to show off or to perform or to win. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those things, but I’ve noticed that awesome people seem to be more able to have fun just for the sake of doing it.
Fun is one way we practice experiencing joy. And the more joy you can feel without being overwhelmed, the more you can do awesome things that bring you and other people joy. It’s a self-reinforcing loop and it’s easy to get it started. So think about how much fun you have in your life and consider what you can do to have more.
What else makes someone awesome? When you see amazing people, what are they doing? What makes them so wonderful? I’m sure there are things I’m missing, so comment below. Let’s see what else we can come up with!