At my 50th birthday party, I had the amazing opportunity to hear timeless country music stars at a tribute concert for the late Guy Clark at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. I was starstruck watching Vince Gill, Rodney Crowell, Jerry Jeff Walker and others perform and tell stories about Clark on the same stage.
At the end of the concert, every performer got onstage to perform “Old Friends,” one of Clark’s hits from the late ’80s. One particular line hit me.
“Old friends, they shine like diamonds. Old friends, you can always call. Old friends, Lord, you can’t buy ’em. You know it’s old friends after all.”
With tears in my eyes, I was reminded (again) of the important things. As time goes on, you learn that the friendships, relationships and partnerships you build in life are what make you. They are the measure of your success. People, not awards, are what you will remember in your declining years.
Relationships aren’t easy, but they’re necessary. And every one of the people you surround yourself with has a role to play in your continued growth—some special people might fill multiple roles for you, but rest assured that everyone close to you serves a purpose. These are the nine vital roles I’ve discovered in my life, and the ones I believe every successful person needs.
When you feel fear and self-doubt creeping into your mind, The Believer is there to remind you of your capabilities. Don’t confuse this with someone who tells you only what you want to hear. That doesn’t help anyone improve. The Believer can be a parent, spouse, best friend or business partner, who knows where you started and where you are now. This person is realistic about your accomplishments and isn’t afraid to speak up when you’re wrong. The Believer knows your potential and will be a positive force when negativity clouds your brain.
If you subscribe to this magazine and read my monthly columns, this person won’t be a surprise to you. Winston Churchill is my greatest inspiration and my greatest teacher. I think he’s so inspiring because of his stance on failure—another great teacher. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts,” he said. How powerful is that? You will fail a million times in your life. But what if you took each of those failures as an opportunity to learn and grow and act differently? Churchill lived that principle. Your Teacher can be someone from history, a respected elder or someone in the cubicle next to you. But the bottom line is this: When The Teacher is speaking, listen.
The Believer knows your potential and will be a positive force when negativity clouds your brain.
I was an only child. I grew up in a little town in southern Georgia where everyone knew everyone else. My parents were the lifeblood of my success because they taught me what it is and isn’t. They taught me patience, kindness and communication. That’s what a Pusher does. It’s not someone who leads with an iron fist, who inspires with fear. It’s someone who pushes you to be better by example. Their example is how I’ve tried to live my life as a leader, a husband, father and a friend.
Don’t get caught up on the title of this one. The Lover isn’t always a romantic person, though in my case, it is. My wife, Loveanne, is my biggest supporter. She keeps my best interests at heart at all times because she loves me. Now don’t get The Lover confused with someone who will blindly follow you on any path you choose. Loveanne is the first person to remind me that it’s time to slow down, re-evaluate, reprioritize and strategize. She’s also the person who listens patiently when I need to talk through a tough decision in the middle of the night. Cherish this person. They will be your rock.
There is always one person in a group who seems to have all of the answers. That’s my former business partner. He’s not a know-it-all; he rarely feels the need to correct or give an opinion. No, what makes him so intelligent isn’t measured on an IQ scale. He’s a listener, a watcher, a thinker. He takes a moment to gather the facts, organize and analyze them. This person balances out the dreamer in us. When we want to rush full-speed ahead, they pause to make sure the data makes sense. Listen to this person. Include them in all of your big decisions.
Everyone comes across someone in their lives who inspires them to dream bigger than they once did. One of my oldest and dearest friends comes to mind. He has always been a benchmark of success for me. The man just doesn’t slow down. But it’s not just his hustle I admire; it’s his inability to accept failure. We’ve all experienced failure throughout our careers and this friend is no different. Instead of caving to the thought of I can’t do this, he stands up and finds a new (and often better) path. The Achiever is the photo on your vision board, the motivation when obstacles arise, the mutual celebration when you succeed.
My assistant, Dayna, is my Anchor. She’s been handling my chaotic schedule for many years. When I’m eager to say yes to any opportunity that seems like it could benefit my career, she’s the voice in my ear that says, “We can’t say yes to everything.” The Anchor is realistic, grounded, trusted and reliable. They often know you better than you know yourself. They know your limits. They understand when a great opportunity isn’t great right now. Treat this person with respect, and they’ll be your guiding force to achieving your dreams.
Work-life balance is almost a cliché. We hear advice on all sides about where to be for how long, what to prioritize and how to leave work at the door. But the truth is, balance is personal. What works in my life could never work for a 23-year-old single parent. We have different dreams, priorities and realities that simply don’t fit in the same box. The Scale is your priority. For me, it’s my two boys. When I was in the early stages of my career, I was so determined to work harder and climb higher. I wanted to build better lives for them. My balance was drawing a line in the sand. I simply wouldn’t miss important events in their lives. If that meant a red-eye flight after a long day of meetings to be home when they woke up on their birthdays, so be it. The Scale is difficult, and often pushed to the back burner. Avoid that temptation.
Fighters are fierce but not aggressive. They are the cornerstone of a solid team. The Fighter might be your top employee. For me, it wasn’t one person, but a type of person. Whenever I hired a new team member, the interview process wasn’t just a conversation between the two of us. My team of other Fighters needed to meet the potential candidate because they can sense the spark of intensity in another Fighter. Loyalty isn’t about fear; it’s about trust, communication and transparency. I wanted this person to see my company from the inside out. We’re not just making sure they’re a good fit for us, but that we are a good fit for them. After all, a company is only as strong as its weakest link.
People, not awards, are what you will remember in your declining years.
As you read through the nine roles, you no doubt identified some of the people in your life who fit the descriptions, and I hope you took a moment to consider how grateful you should be to have their support. Everyone close to you has a role to play. If you don’t know who fills any of these roles, think deeply about what you should be asking of your friends and family to keep you moving forward, or consider expanding your tight-knit circle to include people who will push you to reach your potential.
This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
John Addison is the Leadership Editor for SUCCESS and the author of Real Leadership: 9 Simple Practices for Leading and Living with Purpose, a Wall Street Journal and USA Today best-seller. Renowned for his insight and wisdom on leadership, personal development and success, John is a sought-after speaker and motivator. Read more on his blog, and follow John on Facebook and Twitter.