Who’s Got Your Back

by bsrubin on January 21, 2013

Who’s Got Your Back?

Who’s Got Your Back highlights the extreme power of deep, open relationships in our business and personal lives. This is a concept that can transform me.

Many of my interactions are shallow – even with good friends, close colleagues, and family.  It’s a point that we often lose in the hubbub of life.  Some of my most treasured memories and personal growth experiences occurred during the course of long hikes.  Hours of walking with a good friend and nature.  Discussion ensures – often profound.  We don’t have these moments often enough.

I’ll quickly summarize what I learned and my action plan.

Have Deep Relationships, not Just ‘Connections’

Keith’s first book – Never Eat Alone – is about the power of having a wide network that you keep in the loop as you move through business.  Only after having challenges in his personal and professional life did he realize that depth of relationships are perhaps the key to growth and fulfillment.

I agree.  Having truly deep and meaningful conversation about hopes, dreams, and fears has been the driving force between almost all of my masterpiece days.  Especially important are deep relationships with people who are different from you.  I’m surrounded by brilliant, challenging, fun-loving folks – who are generally quite a bit like myself.  I’m looking forward to expanding my circles.

It’s about Vulnerability through Safety

‘Talking about my fears and making myself vulnerable has, quite simply, changed me.  I can now see my behavior clearly and work to overcome it.’

Keith lays out the foundation of deep relationships quite well.  My takeaway – it comes down to mutual safety and the resolution to be vulnerable.

Both are challenging. It takes resolve and guts to be vulnerable.  It’s much easier to have a light conversation about how great things are than bringing up something that is really making you sweat.  Safety is particularly tough for me.  I can be very aggressive, I don’t always listen, and I am not as empathetic as I’d like.  And a deep conversation isn’t possible unless people feel safe.

Accountability is Key

Once you’ve established deep relationships you’ll immediately want to begin working on what comes up.  Anything from a resolution to lose weight to a commitment to giving back – talk must lead to action.

‘The key is to formalize the accountability relationship and give it structure and a regular schedule.’

Organizations like YPO and EO are formal peer mentoring groups that create an environment for deep relationships and a structure for accountability.

Product notion: There seem to be two options for support groups.  Either pull it together yourself or join an exclusive, in-person, expensive moderated group.  There may be a place for a lighter, virtual offering for entrepreneurs, product managers, etc.  Join up and state where you are coming from and what you’d like to accomplish.  Get matched into a group of 5-7 like-minded folks and take part in moderated, structured monthly half-day virtual meetings to make progress.

Product notion: Our first product experiment at Revv is Co-op – a Google+ Hangout App that matches you with a ‘study buddy’ to get work done.  Accountability is key – but it’s pretty heavy-weight.  I’m intrigued by the concept of a ‘Personal Daily Stand-up.’  Each day you make a short list of what you hope to accomplish and share it with a small accountability group.  Report in the next day on progress and give good feedback and encouragement to other members of your group.  Light, easy, valuable.


It’s not all about peace and love in deep relationships.  Verbal sparring is highly encouraged.  I originally thought ‘yeah – I have no problem with sparring!‘  But upon reflection others have said that I’m belligerent, stubborn, and argumentative.  Not what I’d like to put forth in the world!

Here is what I learned that will make verbal sparring far more effective for me:

  • Know I am biased.
  • Realize that I would love to have my mind changed – that’s progress and learning!
  • It’s not about winning, it’s about intellectual progress.
  • Make sure people feel safe and respected.
  • Truly listen when someone speaks – rather than formulate ‘winning’ arguments.
I was a huge Model United Nations dork in high school and college.  I think many of my bad habits around verbal sparring stem from this period in my life where winning an argument and partisan behavior was encouraged.  Life is not a Model UN debate.  Learn from conversations, don’t win them.

My Weaknesses and My Plan

I’ve been inspired by the resources this book provides. Here are two major goals for my personal growth:

  • Become a leader who directs his actions through empathy, compassion, humility, and emotional calm.
  • Understand and resolve issues related to fear of abandonment that cause anxiety in relationships.
Flip them around and you’ve got my key interpersonal weaknesses as I current understand them.
Here is my action plan:
  • Learn about empathy, compassion, humility, and fear of abandonment.
    • Read great books, watch great videos.  (Open to suggestions!)
    • Surround myself with people who know much more about these areas of life.  Start with people I know and then branch out.
    • Seek organized help in the form of coaches, councilors, etc.
  • Build empathy, compassion, humility, vulnerability, and self love deliberately.
    • Use habit building principles to establish triggers, routines, and rewards for these behaviors.
    • Deepen and expand my meditation practice.
  • Build deep relationships that help me develop this area of my life.  Make it a formal process.

I’ve got some early wins to demonstrate the power of these concepts.  While having a ‘light’ conversation with a friend recently – I recognized the opportunity to deep dive and have a meaningful discussion.  I led with humility and vulnerability.  I had a problem she could help me think through and it was close to an open wound.  That led to a long discussion that covered both of our childhood fears, our mentors, and our improvement plans.  Being open and vulnerable was hard in.  The rest was easy.


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