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The biggest thing I’ve learned this year

[ 14 ] August 30, 2011 |
three friends

Image by Photo_by_Lis on Flickr.
Used under Creative Commons License.

“People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”
— Bob Merrill (Funny Girl)

I always thought this quote was nuts. Lucky?! What if you need people and they let you down? To me, people who don’t need people were the luckiest.

Part of it comes from growing up an Air Force brat. Every few years during my childhood, we’d move someplace new. That meant starting over with all new schools, neighbors, classmates, friends, clubs, stores… everything.

Most of the other kids were in the same situation, which helped. Kids who move all the time recognize the value of forming friendships with new people quickly, before one of them leaves again. But still, this was before text messages and facebook. After either of us moved away, most of those people dropped out of my life after a few letters.

Growing up that way teaches you to be resourceful and independent. I think these are two of my best traits–I wouldn’t trade them. But it also teaches you that you can’t count on anything, or anyone but yourself. At least, that’s what it taught me. It usually took me a year or so to find the people I could really relate to. Another year to get close, and you’ve only got one year left for a great friendship before it’s time to move on again. And that’s assuming the other person sticks around that long.

It probably sounds like I’m complaining, but I’m not. It was a great life, and I attribute most of my strength to growing up that way.

I’m just saying it set me up with a mistaken idea about the world. I always thought the ideal situation was to be totally independent, do everything yourself, and not need anybody. But lately, I’m discovering that the opposite is true.

A few years back, during my darkest hours, I really leaned hard on my friends for the first time. I don’t know that it was a conscious choice so much as a necessity. They came through for me in a big way, and we got so much closer! I don’t know if they’d appreciate being mentioned by name all over the internet–some people are uncomfortable with that–but Mom, Daddy, D.S., J.F., J.C., D.R., and E.J., thank you! I don’t know what I would do without you!

Even when it’s not hard times, I’m finding how great it is to let other people in. I’ve always been afraid to get involved with people, or even to have them look at me much. I was convinced that if they got a good look, they’d see through me and realize I didn’t know what I was doing. I don’t have it all figured out, I’m not perfect, I don’t have it all under control.

Shocking, right?

I’ve discovered that nobody is perfect. Nobody has it all figured out, and nobody expects me to, either. If I thought I was fooling anyone all those years, what a joke!

I’ve also discovered that people are nice. They want you to succeed. They’re happy to help. (It feels good to help someone! I know that, but somehow I thought it was different for other people. It’s not.)

Over the past year, in good times and bad, here are just a few of the awesome people who have helped me out in one way or another. I’ve grown exponentially because of them, not just by the things they’ve done for me, but also by the way they’ve changed my whole mindset about people and what it means to depend on them.

Big thanks to everyone on this list, plus everyone I’ve forgotten. (I know I’m forgetting someone, and I’m sure I’ll feel horrible about it when I realize! I apologize in advance.)

Big thanks to you, too. I am continually blown away by the awesome comments, emails, and encouragement you give me. 17000 Days would be nothing without you.

Many people already know that people are awesome and don’t really need to hear it from me. But as you’re reading this, if you notice that you don’t really have anyone to call on if you need a bit of advice or another opinion on your work, someone to bounce ideas off of, or someone to tell you it’s going to be all right when you’re despairing at 2 am, I urge you to change that.

The amazing part is it’s easier than I ever dreamed! I swear Twitter was built to be the perfect crutch for the people-impaired, which I have been for years. It’s the lowest-risk, easiest way to reach out to someone and start building a relationship from absolute zero.

As you find other people who resonate with you or who are doing similar things to what you’re doing, reply to their tweets. If you like their stuff, retweet it. Start interacting with people and see who starts taking root. If the other person needs something and you can give it, offer your help. Let the relationship build over time and be willing to be vulnerable. Not everyone will be a good match for you, but a few people will stick, and you’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes in your life.

It feels so great to have people you can count on and the synergy that comes with working together. That’s really become obvious to me as I’ve put together Beyond Fear, and as I worked on the Only72.com sale back in June. What I could have done alone is nothing compared to the awesomeness that is produced when people get together. This was a huge surprise to me–I always hated group projects in school! But it’s totally different having collaborators, as opposed to freeloaders,ill in your group.

I could go on all day about the great ways people have helped me. What about you? If there’s a time when someone came through for you or helped you when you least expected it, please share in the comments! I love stories like that.

About Cara Stein: I'm a writer and dreamer with a PhD in self-reinvention. (Or was that computer science?) Whether you're stuck, lost, or just looking to enjoy your life more, I want to help because I've been there!

Comments (14)

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  1. Where would we be without the people that shape us and make us grow.

    I am with you one that. I am pretty good at being independent and free of the need of others, but man does it make a difference having them.

    What a great reminder.

    Maybe I’ll make my way to one of these lists someday. That would be a great accomplishment in anyone’s book.

    Bryce

    • Cara Stein says:

      Where would we be without the people that shape us and make us grow.

      Definitely!

      About the lists, at first I misread your comment as “Maybe I’ll make one of these lists someday.” (as in, “maybe I’ll write one of my own.”) I thought, why not? It didn’t seem like that big of an accomplishment. Ha ha!

      Maybe it would be a good first step for what you really wrote, though. :)

      You look familiar. You didn’t go to Alfred University in the late 90s, did you?

  2. Cordelia says:

    I am so honored to be featured on this list with such incredible, big name people.

    YOU have helped me immensely too just by doing what you do. It feels like we’re on very similar paths, but you’re always several steps ahead of me, and it’s so encouraging to know that it’s entirely possible to make your dreams happen with enough determination and hard work.

    I’ve really valued our friendship and it’s helped me feel bold enough to keep pursuing my own goals. And I’m kind of a loner myself, by nature, but blogging is definitely teaching me the value of connecting with people and reaching out.

    Here’s to both of our journeys going forward!

    • Cara Stein says:

      Cordelia, you’re the first blog friend I ever had–of course you’re on the list! I’m frickin’ delighted to have helped you, too. :)

      Here’s to both of our journeys going forward!

      Hear, hear! :)

  3. What a great article!

    No man or woman is an island. People need people. If you are struggling in any area of your life, have the courage to ASK for help! When you need help in your marriage, make an appointment with a marriage counselor. If you need assistance in your business, hire a personal coach. When you need encouragement, seek out a friend. If you are struggling with a personal issue, seek therapy.

    Rachel Lavern
    Personal Transformation, Enlightenment and Development Coach
    “Live without limits because nothing is impossible to you.”

    • Cara Stein says:

      Thanks, Rachel! For years I was so afraid to ask for help with anything or admit that I couldn’t do everything myself. I can’t believe how much nicer it is to let people in and accept their help. You’re right, it’s definitely the way to go.

  4. Harley says:

    Cara!

    Many thanks! I’m honored to be included in a list of such great people. 😀 You rock.

    You are absolutely right about how you can’t do everything yourself. (still learning that myself) The internet is a funny thing. 😉

  5. Louise says:

    I too like you once felt that the ideal life was one in which I was completely independent. I lived with a man for 17 years until his death 2 years ago. Upon his death I found I had to move into a little cottage I had bought years ago in case my lover kicked me out. At first I tried to fix the house up by myself and was doing all right but slow so I put my pride on the shelf and called friends and family to have a work day. I was so afraid no one would show up and almost called everyone to cancel so I wouldn’t be embarrassed that no one cared. That morning nearly 20 people showed up. They put in new windows, new lighting, cut out the weeds and brush that had grown up in the yard from years of neglect, etc. I can never thank them enough. You are so right. People are awesome.

    Louise

    • Cara Stein says:

      Awwww! I love stories like this! It’s amazing how people come through if you can just bring yourself to ask. Sometimes they do even if you don’t ask! I’m really glad you had this experience–thank you for sharing it!

  6. Chris Barba says:

    Cara – Awesome post.

    Letting people in is certainly not the easiest thing as it requires a great deal of trust, but it is also one of the single greatest things to live for. SO great that even if you get hurt, it’s worth taking another try.

    For me, it was my one good friend who came through for me when I was having some particularly rough months where being at the crossroads of life was starting to take its tole on me. What I found particularly amazing is that as much as I love this friend, words of wisdom, was not one of his character strengths.

    None-the-less on one not so special day he came through for me, pretty much giving my a birds eye perspective of my entire world. Very enlightening, very helpful, and who would of thought it would of come from him.

    You never know where or when things will turn up, but they always do!

    • Cara Stein says:

      Thanks, Chris!

      Very enlightening, very helpful, and who would of thought it would of come from him.

      I’ve had some moments like this, too! It’s almost more effective than if someone you expected had done it. Right on!

  7. MB says:

    Do you really have a PhD in Comp Sci? Wow! I am a software developer but went the 2 year technical diploma route.

    • Cara Stein says:

      Yep! I thought teaching was my dream job, so I went and got the PhD. Seems crazy to me now! :) (I taught for three years but burned out and went back to research/software development. But grad school is where I learned how to write a book, so it was still a useful experience.)

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