When I was working in the office last month, I stayed in a nearby hotel and made myself go swimming each evening after work to get some exercise and relax. Each evening I was the only one in the pool. The last night (that’s right, I blatantly ignored them for four days), I read the posted rules for the pool. The last one read simply: DO NOT SWIM ALONE.
My first thought? Oh no! I’m going to die in here and no one will even know! Second thought: That’s ridiculous. I’m an adult and a competent swimmer. Third thought: I think I feel a metaphor coming on…
If you’ve read this blog at all, you know I love a good metaphor whether it comes from watching some fishermen or straight out of a fortune cookie. And here was a brilliant one, right on the wall of the hotel pool.
It’s basic. But swimming through life and navigating your way to your goals is not like swimming in a hotel swimming pool. It’s like swimming up a river. It’s hard. It’s dangerous. And you really don’t know what’s around the river-bend (sing it, friends!). Doing it alone is not only dangerous, it’s stupid!
You may have heard the phrase:
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. — Jim Rohn
“Oh great!” I think. Only 2 of my 5 are actually adults (reminder: I have 3 kids)! If we’re talking net worth here, 3 of my 5 have $0!
But do I agree the people around you can make ALL THE DIFFERENCE? Yes. If I’m swimming, I don’t want to go swimming with 5 people that can’t swim! If I’m trying to save money, I don’t want to spend my time with 5 people that are big spenders! If I’m trying to be a good person, I don’t want to be with 5 people that are jerks (tip: NEVER hang with jerks!).
More than just: Do Not Swim Alone, I would add: Swim only with strong swimmers heading in the same direction.
As a researcher, if I’m trying to learn about a topic, I begin with a basic search, maybe even Wikipedia (gasp!) to get an initial overview of the topic. Once I know enough to have some search terms, I get my search skillz on and start compiling and reading the scientific literature on the topic. Scientific literature is definitely the way to go if you’re trying to understand how much we understand, how much has been studied, etc., but it also has limitations. Current studies aren’t published until there are results. “Next steps” aren’t published because they currently exist in the minds of the people that work on these things all day every day. So do you know what the next step is? Calling these people!
What’s the one thing you love to talk about all day every day? (ok, if you’re anything like me, it might be personal finance. But I can also add “research” and “theatre” and “travel” to that list for myself.) Now you get the idea. If you call someone who is so passionate about this thing you’re trying to learn or do and ask thoughtful questions, they have to respond! They can’t help themselves! (If someone asks me: “What’s the best way to get to Guatemala in June 2017?” I have to drop everything and spend hours pricing it all out. Because THAT’S WHAT I DO FOR FUN!)
The right people can be found everywhere (thank you internet!). If you’re doing research, universities are great places to look. If you’re looking for money advice, don’t go to the people who are paid on commission. Talk to the people that are so passionate about the subject that they talk about it without a paycheck in mind! If you’re trying to learn how to program, you don’t want to talk to the guy that does it all day at work and comes home and creates art (ahem, *Mr.T*, ahem). You want to talk to the girl that programs in her free time because she loves it!
If you’re starting up a new river, find the people passionate about swimming in that river and swim with them!