I was putting together a talk about the values that we have at aSweatLife.com, the content site I founded about four and a half years ago. Slide one proclaimed “everything is better with friends,” which is our way of saying that all arenas of life – work, play, fitness and side hustles - benefit from partnerships.
Slide two was stark-white and I stared at it for more than a handful of minutes before I realized that was it:
It was the only thing that really drove us forward and made us stronger.
That was a hard lesson for me to learn after I’d spent the bulk of my life thinking and operating as if I could do it all myself.
I was taught to figure it out. Find a problem. Solve a problem. Ask for help only if you really need it. The most telling illustration of this in my childhood was a time when my mom told me, a demanding five-year-old that she did not have time right that second to braid my hair. I locked myself in my bedroom, kneeling next to my bunk bed twisting and untwisting strands of my hair until I figured it out.
I operated that way for more than two more decades before I realized there’s loneliness to that sort of existence and in business not only is it lonely, it’s limiting. It just took near burnout to figure that out.
After running aSweatLife by myself as a side-hustle, I read an email from a reader offering to help. It wasn’t the first email like that, but I was just tired enough to read it and spread just thin enough to consider this perfectly timed, well-written email. Over coffee, we talked about where I saw the site going and quickly I realized that I couldn’t do it alone. Three years later, she’s still writing for aSweatLife along with 20 other people.
Because we write about the intersection of health, happiness and fitness, we know the human connection makes you happier and happier people are healthier with potentially improved immune systems, but I still have to learn some big lessons for myself.
In that slow and methodical first year, Kristen, aSweatLife’s first contributor helped me take the walls around my city down and welcome in partners internally and at other complimentary companies. Here’s what we learned.
1. Partners show up. This aspect of relationships is the most important for us. Making commitments and honoring them shows your team and your partners that their interests are your interests too.
2. Partners share resources. Sometimes we can’t give our partners our time, but we can help connect them to someone who can – helping to forge connections within our network is rewarding.
3. Partners work through mistakes. Human relationships hold business together, but they’re filled with miscommunications and mistakes. If you insist that no one around you makes mistakes, they’ll learn to fear accountability for their mistakes, which leads to blame-seeking. Instead, partners work through mistakes, learn from them, figure out how they can be prevented in the future and move on.
4. Partners celebrate success. We live by a couple of mantras at aSweatLife that I’ve had to reiterate to myself as I’ve worked my way out of my old mindset and into this one. This most important is “your success is not my failure” This helps us to shift our thinking from, “how can I stop you” to “how can I help you.”
The magic is that when you do partnership right, all four of those pieces come right back to you.
Starting with a little background, I am an anti-bullying advocate and have recently graduated from The Parent Leadership Training Institute, where as part of our studies we were asked to come up with a community project close to our hearts and put it into action. My cause was bullying, and I began a blog and Facebook page to address issues pertaining to all forms of bullying. Implementing this project was followed by a thre- minute speech to my peers, and, after all this, here is what I have learned about bullying.
Bullying makes people feel bad about themselves, leading to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem and even physical symptoms. The repercussions of bullying can cause people to miss school or work as well as countless other negative side effects.
I have been bullied both at school and at work, and I know of others who have suffered the same plight. It is not fun!
My first bullying experience was in seventh grade as a young teen. There was a group of three "mean girls" who harassed me and, I later found out, several of my friends; they thought it was funny to pick on others about their clothes, their looks or whatever else they could come up with (who knows). It felt awful at the time. Supposedly, I was chosen to get picked on because they claimed I bought my clothes at the Goodwill. That wasn't true, but really who cares? Why they were picking on me was never really the point. Luckily, after a while, the meanies went on to the next victim(s) like a never-ending cycle. I tend to think once a bully, always a bully, which goes to show how good a lifestyle that is, because those "mean girls" never amounted to much. In hindsight, I feel sorry for them. Watch the movie The Gift if you're really curious about what happens to bullies when they grow up.
And bullying was not just an issue when I was a teen, since then nothing much has changed. My own nephew was bullied in eighth grade, and he recently talked to me in depth about of how the bullying took a toll on him. Especially because I had the same experience, I could relate to him in ways that some others couldn't. Like reliving my own memories, I was incredibly broken up to hear how it made him feel.
Even worse than that, bullying does not end in the school yard. Employees are being bullied on the job at an alarming rate. When you are bullied on the job as an adult, it taken an even bigger toll. Further it doesn't just go away like those middle school "mean girls." Unless you can quit your job, you might just be stuck. There are all kinds of physical symptoms, stomach pains, migraines and even panic attacks. Beyond the physical, people's mental and emotional state is extremely sensitive to bullying, and as a result work performance might suffer. Furthermore, it might feel like there is no recourse, no one to believe you. You can hope that the HR Department is willing to listen and do something about it, but the whole process can be so disheartening. And in the hierarchical corporate environment, sometimes the bully seems to get ahead and you are left lagging behind in a subservient position. This is what happened to me as a victim of workplace bullying. It started with me being told by a co-worker that my boss was following me to the bathroom, staring down the hall whenever I left my desk to make sure I came right back to my seat. Then it was standing over me as I typed, ordering me to get in a car with them, not allowing me to sit somewhere if it wasn't within their sight. The list of offenses could go on endlessly. There were times I felt like I couldn't breathe. And then, the bully torturing me got a promotion. Like the character of Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, the classic bully is revered by her peers, despite the fact that all of her employees are terrified of her. Yet, she is in a role of high stature and praised as a bully. We live in a culture that is not only complacent in the existence of bullies, but one that actively allows them to thrive.
It makes you realize how unfair life can be. Of course, no one said that life would be fair; maybe you just assumed that bad people would not get ahead. But, they do. Even now, I cannot help but to shake my head in disbelief. I often wonder what makes a person feel the need to laud their power over another. Are they insecure? Were they bullied themselves? They must feel bad about themselves in some way? Do they feel the need to do this to make themselves look good? Whatever the reason, it certainly isn't nice at all. I have found myself at different times in my life standing up for people who have been bullied around me. And I certainly do not allow anyone to treat me in any way that I find disrespectful. I truly believe in karma, and I tell myself that at some point in time, the bullies will get it back in some way. I have seen it happen, and in the meantime, I just say to myself "What goes around, comes around."
Bullying shows no sign of slowing down, and in this day and age, it's even worse than I have experienced in the past. Cyber bulling, rumors, fist fights, knifes, guns and other forms of both mental and physical cruelty, it truly sickens me. I know that I cannot save everyone, but I try to be an advocate as much as possible and encourage others to do so as well. NO ONE SHOULD BULLIED! It is disgraceful to say the least. You should always practice grace as much as you can. With every person who chooses to do so, the world gets a little bit better. I will be writing more on this topic on a regular basis; I feel it helps to talk about this subject aloud and spread the word. and, if nothing else, be kind.