In 2015, I took the big blind leap into entrepreneurship. Despite the horrendous odds for success, my startup grew and thrived, and in 2018 it was acquired by a large company. As I showed up to build the company, day after day, I felt encouraged by my immigrant family, all of whom wanted me to succeed. My father, who had passed away shortly before I started my company, was among those that wished most vehemently for my happiness – and for that reason I taped a picture of him to my monitor. As I reflect back on this period of high output, I’ve come to realize that these close others made a huge difference on my performance.
Research corroborates that close others who believe in you and your achievement of a goal can increase your motivation and actual performance toward that goal. At the University of Wisconsin–Madison, researchers led by James Shah designed five separate studies to evaluate the impact of close others on task performance. Their consistent results showed that those who felt close to a significant other (mother, father, sibling, partner, etc.) who was supportive of the task (getting a good test score) performed better on the task when primed with the role of this close other. If primed with an image of a person who wasn’t “close” or didn’t support the task, performance didn’t improve.
For example, let’s assume that you are sitting to take the GMAT, you are close to your mother, and your mother believes you should pursue your MBA; then this research would say that priming yourself with an image of your mother would increase your test performance in a measurable and significant way. Simply put, close others who believe in you have super powers when it comes to your performance.
Only after reading this research (a couple of times) did I begin to understand I had been priming myself for performance throughout the creation of my startup. I primed myself in the presence of close others (my partner, mom, brothers, kids) who were supportive of my entrepreneurial pursuit. I primed myself with the memory of my dead father and that picture taped to my monitor!
As you set to create great things in the world, consider who surrounds you, and to the extent possible, and despite social distancing – create a supportive community of close others. These could be family members, friends, teachers, coaches or mentors – and as I’ve shown you, they might not even need to be alive.
Here are a few prompts to evaluate your close others.
- Do they believe in you?
- Do they want what’s best for you?
- Are they supportive of your specific goal?
- Do they encourage you to keep going?
- Is there a feeling of reciprocity in the relationship?
Those who surround you during periods of creation can make a huge difference in your performance. In order to thrive, as you set to create your next path of impact, craft a cocoon of close others who will uplift you by simply believing in you.
Excerpt from New Startup Mindset: Ten Mindset Shifts to Build the Company of Your Dreams, posted with permission from the author and publisher.