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Show me the company you keep and I’ll tell you who you are. 

It’s something my friend Erica’s grandmother liked to say but Erica was never a big fan of it. 

She thought her grandmother was trying to get her to judge people—to look down her nose at those who were different. So Erica remained consciously un-choosy about whom she made friends with. 

As a small-town girl, her love of writing, the arts, and music made her different, and for most of her life she was labeled the “weird” and creative one.  She took up with whatever friends were available—even if they weren’t the people who really understood her interests. 

By the time Erica got to college, where there were plenty of people who finally shared her interests, she resisted making friends with them. 

They were wealthier, more confident, and came from very different backgrounds. They were okay with being “weird” and outwardly creative.  She wasn’t.  And even though she had more in common with them than anyone else, she couldn’t bring herself to socialize with them. She still didn’t fit in. 

She wanted to be a writer. The problem was, she didn’t know where to begin.

So Erica took a job in a grocery store while her peers took jobs in literature departments, magazines, PR firms, and film and radio stations. She surrounded herself with people from all different backgrounds and interests like she always had, while her peers surrounded themselves with people of the same interest—writers and creative types.

It was then that she realized what her grandmother had meant all along.  Show me the company you keep and I’ll tell you who you are. 

 “I had three things going for me,” Erica told me. “I had a strong work ethic, a stubborn nature, and a genuine interest in people.”

The last one was what propelled her forward. 

This time she sought out more friends—being careful to include the kind of company that suited her nature—the creative, writer types.

Eventually, as it always does when you start putting yourself out there, someone needed a press release written and Erica’s name came up. Through him, she landed her first freelance article with a magazine. 

From there, she landed another article… and another… until one day she landed her dream role—working with a publication that sent her all over the world on editorial trips. It’s here where I met her and we became friends.  

Today, she has so much work she needs to turn it down sometimes and this snowball effect isn’t uncommon.  I hear it from a lot of freelance writers.

So what can we do?

Well, for starters, we can listen to Erica’s grandmother…

Show me the company you keep and I’ll tell you who you are.

If you want to be a writer, surround yourself with writers.  If you want to be a photographer, surround yourself with photographers.

The relationships you build will compound your success.  And while that was hard for Erica growing up in a small town, it’s easy enough today with groups on social media.

Time and time again, our biggest success stories come from our live events and groups like our Travel Writer’s Café.  There’s something very special about surrounding yourself with the right people.

Tom Farley, President of the New York Stock Exchange said: “When I think about my own career, I owe every job I’ve ever had to networking.” 

And Terri Marshall, one of our most successful members says the same thing—she doesn’t send out queries anymore.  One hundred percent of the stories she writes and the free trip invitations she receives come from people she’s met along the way as a travel writer—the people who form part of her travel-writing network.

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