The bumpers in your life.

// This was originally written a few weeks ago but I think it’s a relevant thought worth sharing. I’m attempting to conquer emails before a trip to Kansas City and I noticed there are lot of bumper style e-mails in my inbox today //

Bumper is an incredibly generic word. In this sense I’m talking about people who know where you’re going in life and are taking a proactive role in helping you stay on track to get there.

I started thinking about it one day while watching a pretty awesome 4 year old throw a bowling ball down a lane with bumpers. The big orange ~6lb bouncing ball forging forward… It didn’t matter at all to him that these bumpers were keeping the ball where it should be. He was just filled with this glorious excitement when the ball knocked anything down. If it knocked down everything… Life couldn’t be better in that moment and even though I knew the bumpers helped it happen, I too, was incredibly excited for him when it happened.

I guess maybe I over analyzed the bowling experience but it stayed with me ever since. I’m sure my life is like that for some of the people watching / advising / mentoring / checking in on me. They see everything in play, step in once in a while to help, and whether I hit a home run or just kind of screw it up… They keep giving me feedback and my life is significantly better for it.

I don’t care who you are or how old you are, it’s really very difficult to get anywhere on your own.

Life is good when you have great bumpers. I’ve also found it to be an emotional fiasco when you don’t have good people in your life providing rational feedback. When you remove rational thinking from any conversation things just fall apart quickly.

Obviously. Not all advice is good and filtering it becomes just as tough with big decisions.

Good bumpers is key. Lots of good advice means a lot of good education.

There have been some points in my life where I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere and just constantly had to start over. In retrospect, a big part of that was taking advice from the wrong people at the wrong times. They were trying to help… I just wasn’t being selective enough about whom I was asking for feedback.

These things seem to help me filtering bumpers:

  • Realizing that taking everyones advice will only hurt you and put you on an endless stream of worthless tasks where you’re never taking ownership for your success or lack there of. You’ll be busy though! Feedback is important but drowning yourself in unproductive feedback can be o so troubling.
  • Taking business advice from people who haven’t been where you want to go can many times do you more harm than good. There are times when you don’t have a choice and you have to make a gut decision but those times are few and far between. I know it was a struggle for me to accept that if I was going to pursue something unique I needed unique advice.
  • Being louder does not mean being right and being more insulting almost never does. Good arguments come in all shapes and sizes but loud irrational ones are almost never a good bet. Emotion + logical thinking = Passion and conversation. Emotion + illogical thinking = bat shit crazy and unproductive.
  • Consciously start forcing yourself to be aware of what people’s motivations are. The “what’s in it for you” is a pretty important question even if it feels uncomfortable.

Collectively, you become the people around you. If you’ve found yourself spinning in circles accomplishing nothing, asking for handouts constantly or always focused on what should change about other people… You might just be spending time with the wrong people.

For whatever reason, my bumpers seem to be almost religiously engaged in keeping me on the direction I’m headed. There is without fail a group of people who are always sending me things like:

  • Check this out – You missed this deal Ben.
  • ZOMG – This blew up. Probably would skip it.
  • Boom. API plan.
  • This is an awesome idea – GRAPH
  • Reminder <insert anything>
  • You didn’t call. That was lame.

This is all relatively meaningless from the wrong people. From the right people it’s actually a strong system of keeping you going in the right direction for the right reasons.

Since I started thinking about this I’ve come to recognize how fortunate I am to have a lot of people in my life who do this on a regular basis.

Recognizing who I’m doing this for has also been a helpful exercise. It helps me take ownership over what feedback I give and be self aware of my own motivations.

I’ve failed a lot of times in the past 15 months in more ways than I can count but there are a lot of bumpers who constantly help me narrow focus, strip out what isn’t necessary, and not spin my wheels on the wrong things. Much of what I’ve done correctly in the past year I attribute to them.

We all have bumpers that help us from time to time and ultimately… I think that’s a good thing.