Why Taking Your Own Path Does NOT Mean Traveling Alone

Do you really think you can make it on your own?

Last year, Diana Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective cage. It took her 53 hours of battling wind, exhaustion, and box jellyfish. If you haven't heard of Diana, do yourself a favor and listen to her TED Talk here.

You'll notice that Diana isn't even a minute into her TED talk before she mentions her team: The people who trained, motivated, and supported her throughout the journey. She doesn't mention them just to be classy; she does it because she truly could not have completed the journey without them.

It's easy to see people like Diana and assume that she made it happen on her own. But what sets high achievers apart isn't just the quality of their work. It's also the quality of their relationships. Even the most independent entrepreneurs, creatives, and freelancers live or die by these connections.

Here are three reasons why you should never travel the path alone:

1. Connections Are a Shortcut

After banging my head against the wall for months, I’m finally starting to understand the power of real connection in blogging and business. The things that have moved me forward the fastest have all been related to other people.

Last week I went to Chris Ducker’s Virtual Freedom book launch, where I met Jenny Blake for the first time. She ended up filling me in on exactly how she prices her coaching sessions and why she structures them that way. It would have taken me years to figure the same things out for myself (thanks again, Jenny!).

The takeaway? You don’t have to draw your own map. Just learn the terrain from someone who has already been there. If you're lucky, they might even clear a path for you.

2. Connections Make You More Productive

It is both a blessing and a curse to work independently. With no one there to look over your shoulder, it becomes a lot easier to procrastinate. The key is to find other people who can help keep you accountable.

When my girlfriend goes on a trip, I am almost always less productive. Sure, I may work longer hours, but I’m a whole lot less efficient knowing that she won’t be there at the end of the day to ask what I did.

Friends, mastermind groups and coaches can help you get more of what matters done. They can also provide an objective view on what matters in the first place so that you don’t waste your time headed in the wrong direction. 

3. Connections Make You Happier

In the book Walden, Thoreau talks about going into the woods, on his own, to live deliberately. He argues that those two years of solitude made him a happier person. While I agree with Thoreau’s outlook in general, and often choose solitude myself, research does not support his claim.

Strong social ties have been found by psychologists to be the most reliable indicator of a happy life. In their landmark study on 222 university students, Diener and Seligman found that the happiest 10% of students had better social and romantic relationships than the remaining 90%.

As a society, we love to hear stories about rugged individualists like Thoreau. It can be tempting to imitate these examples and just go rogue. Thing is, going rogue can end up being pretty damn lonely.

Finding Your Tribe

Human beings most likely evolved in small tribes of around 150 people. The only way that our early ancestors survived was by sticking together. If you were out on your own for too long, you died.

Today, it's actually possible to survive alone. The question is: Why would you want to? It’s not very easy, productive, or enjoyable to exist as a tribe of one.

You might have to sacrifice certain things in order to create relationships. You might have to alter your schedule, get out of your comfort zone, or pay for someone to help guide you. But it's worth it in the end.

The only decision now is who you want in your tribe. Jim Rohn is famous for saying “You are the average of the five people you spend your time with.” Whether it is a colleague, coach, or life partner, your fellow travelers can be even more important than the path you choose.

Be honest: Is your tribe moving you forward or holding you back?

(Photo credit: Johan Rd via cc)