Positive Relationship Building: Surround Yourself with People who Get Sh*t Done

Have you ever noticed that some people energize you while others drain you? In some groups, you feel smarter while other groups make you feel less intelligent? Perhaps your productivity differs depending on the type of company you’re with.

So I’ll just come out and say it – yes, your friends matter.

In the 1950s, a psychologist named Solomon Asch did an experiment with a group of volunteers to study group conformity. Imagine that you, a participant in the experiment show up to the experimental room where there are seven other participants. You don’t know this at the time, but the others aren’t actually participants, but co-conspirators of the experimenter. You’re the only real participant. The experimenter tells you that the study is about visual judgments, and places two cards in front of you. One card shows one straight vertical line, while the other card shows three lines of various lengths, labeled A,B, and C. The experimenter then asks each person to indicate which of the three lines matches the length of the card with only one line. You’re the last person to answer. You can tell that line that perfectly matches is obviously C, but one after the other, the “participants” say that it’s B.

What would you do in this situation? Would you conform? Or stick to what you know is right?

While in the control condition, where participants did not have pressure to conform to a unanimous answer, only 1% chose the wrong answer, yet in the experimental condition, over 1/3 of participants chose the unanimous and obviously incorrect answer.

What happens in our brains from a neurological perspective is that when we have an opinion that matches those of people around us,  our brain’s reward center releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which gives us a jolt of pleasure. We feel good, validated, and closer to others. Yet when our opinion differs, we feel bad. The area of our brain responsible for pain is activated, and we can either pretend to agree with others but secretly hold onto our own thoughts, or more likely, our brain will actively change how we think and molds our thoughts to align with those of the crowd that surrounds us.

When we choose to hang out with those who bring us down, the naysayers and pessimists, who tell us “no” and rain on our parade, we get less done. Misery loves company, and people who don’t get sh*t done don’t want you to either! Our brains are rewired to say, “it’s okay, I don’t have to do it.”

But yet, if we choose to spend our time with high achievers, people who are dreamers and more importantly doers, they inspire us and supercharge us to do even more than we ever thought we could. If you surround yourself with like-minded people, who are full of energy and ideas, are excited to put themselves out there and to make things happen, you will too. While misery demands company, so does success. People who are successful actively surround themselves with people who also successful. When we spend time with these people, our brains are rewired to say, “They did it, and you can too.”

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”

— Richard Tirendi, CEO and Co-Founder of VisionQuest

So how can seek out mutually beneficial relationships with other successful people to help us achieve more?

Who You Should Spend Time With

Spend time with people who inspire you. Have you ever looked at a friend and thought, “Wow! I wish I could be more like you in ___ area?” Spend more time with people who inspire you to be a better person through their own behaviors and examples. Ask them their secrets to success and pick up a few life hacks!

Spend time with people who share your values. Authenticity matters in friendships. When you spend time with people whose values differ vastly from your own, you not only run the risk of setting off your brain’s pain receptors (ouch!), you also might end up changing your opinion to match theirs.

Spend time with people who you can learn something new from. I love having friends who come from different backgrounds and have different skill sets. It not only makes life more interesting, but it also gives me the opportunity to learn something new.

Spend time with people who make you a better person. Real friends who will call you out on your BS are gems. They not only tell you the truth, but they will also continue to raise the bar on your personal growth. Treasure them!

Who You Should Not Spend Time With

What you don’t want to do is spend time with people who are consistently negative, who aren’t achieving their own goals, who don’t share your values and are constantly dragging you down with drama. This person doesn’t have much to offer you but is always asking for help. They spend a lot of time tearing others down, gossiping and complaining. If you have people like this in your life currently, make an active choice to minimize their role in your life.

What About Networking?

The word networking is intimidating, but it shouldn’t be. People who are getting sh*t done are all around you, and in fact, are likely your friends, family, and colleagues. Take a look at your personal network. Are there people who you would like to be spending more time with, but you aren’t currently doing so? In this day in age, where we have social media, email, and more importantly, smartphones, your future cheerleaders are often just a few clicks away. Notice that they’ve done something extraordinary lately? Send them an email of congratulations and let them know how much you admire their achievements, then simply ask if they would like to grab a coffee or drink sometime. After all, the worst they can say is no, and more often than not, people are usually quite willing to spend time with you.

Another idea is to host informal gatherings or parties to bring people together. Do you have different groups of high achieving friends who might benefit from getting to know one another? Make the introduction simple by inviting a curated group to happy hour, or perhaps an intimate dinner party. The activity of breaking bread tends to break the ice, and to me, people who eat together often also achieve together.

Ultimately, it’s scientifically clear that you are the people who you choose to surround yourself with. According to the motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, “The law of averages says that the result of any given situation will be the average of all outcomes. Therefore, you are the average of the five people you most associate with.” So take a good look at your innermost circle. Are you associating with those who are bringing you up, helping you become a better person, and get sh*t done?

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An Italian Inspired Elegant Afternoon Brunch with Great Friends

On Saturday, I hosted a get together for amazing friends. When you work closely with people for several years day in and day out, you develop a very special relationship that often extends beyond your tenure at the organization. I changed jobs about 9 months ago, and since moving on I’ve rarely had the chance to connect with three of my close ex-colleagues. These guys had contributed significantly to my professional growth and we have so many amazing memories of not only working hard, but playing hard together. Since it’s been a while since we’ve all spent time together, I wanted to make something really special for them and their spouses.

As a hostess, I knew that I wanted to make sure that my guests felt especially cared for. Even though all of us live relatively closely (with the exception of one person who moved out of state), our lives, work, extracurriculars and family often take up our free time. Knowing that my guests had to make special arrangements to travel to Queens, I wanted to create a really relaxing yet elegant vibe, where deliberate mindfulness and hospitality appear effortless.

The start time for the party proved to be challenging in setting a menu. With one person traveling from out of state, we decided to start at 2 pm, for a late afternoon brunch that went into the early evening. I took some time to think about the menu, and decided to break the meal into three distinctive parts – appetizers and salad, main course and dessert.

To prepare for the party, I decided to batch a cocktail earlier in the morning so that as my guests arrived, I would be able to greet them with a drink. I had an amazing tiki cocktail at our local favorite bar a few weeks ago and loved the beverage and the presentation. I ended up purchasing the same glasses and created a similar drink.

 A special homemade welcome cocktail made with dark rum, spiced rum, amaro, lime juice, simple syrup, pineapple juice and orange juice.  A special homemade welcome cocktail made with dark rum, spiced rum, amaro, lime juice, simple syrup, pineapple juice and orange juice.

To create a comfortable environment, I set up the appetizers on our coffee table, on a neutral toned tablecloth. Using slate boards and a slate and wood stand created both an elegant yet modern appearance, and the dark backdrop really helped to make my colorful crostini pop!

 Great parties start with a great cheeseboard. My favorites: truffle gouda, wensleydale with cranberries, cave aged cheddar, creamy goat cheese, truffled marcona almonds, dried apricots and cranberries, fresh strawberries, fresh figs, fig jam, and wildflower honey.   Great parties start with a great cheeseboard. My favorites: truffle gouda, wensleydale with cranberries, cave aged cheddar, creamy goat cheese, truffled marcona almonds, dried apricots and cranberries, fresh strawberries, fresh figs, fig jam, and wildflower honey.    A little tower of crostini: pea pesto with baby tomatoes, ricotta with lemon zest, strawberries, basil and honey, and ricotta with figs, pistachio and honey.  A little tower of crostini: pea pesto with baby tomatoes, ricotta with lemon zest, strawberries, basil and honey, and ricotta with figs, pistachio and honey.   Pro-tip: use the same base (in this case, ricotta cheese), while varying up the toppings makes it easy to serve different types of crostini without a lot of extra work!  Pro-tip: use the same base (in this case, ricotta cheese), while varying up the toppings makes it easy to serve different types of crostini without a lot of extra work!   Providing a few printed menus on the table helps to let guests know what they're having while you make drinks, greet new arrivals, cook hot dishes, or deal with last minute details. This also gets them excited for the next course!  Providing a few printed menus on the table helps to let guests know what they’re having while you make drinks, greet new arrivals, cook hot dishes, or deal with last minute details. This also gets them excited for the next course!   My husband called this the best bacon he's ever had. It's called Praline Bacon, and it's an easy recipe using thick-cut bacon, pecans and brown sugar. Alton Brown has really perfected this, so if you want to try it out, check out his recipe here . I would recommend checking the oven often - mine didn't need as much time to crisp up.  My husband called this the best bacon he’s ever had. It’s called Praline Bacon, and it’s an easy recipe using thick-cut bacon, pecans and brown sugar. Alton Brown has really perfected this, so if you want to try it out, check out his recipe here . I would recommend checking the oven often – mine didn’t need as much time to crisp up.   These pretty little mushrooms taste even better than they look. I learned about these after having dinner at the recently crowned #1 restaurant in the world, Eleven Madison Park. These are organic maitake mushrooms. They're fluffy and woody, and all you need to do is slice them up, add olive oil (a little more than you think you need, mushrooms soak up oil), salt and pepper, and pop them into a hot 400F oven for about 15 minutes.  These pretty little mushrooms taste even better than they look. I learned about these after having dinner at the recently crowned #1 restaurant in the world, Eleven Madison Park. These are organic maitake mushrooms. They’re fluffy and woody, and all you need to do is slice them up, add olive oil (a little more than you think you need, mushrooms soak up oil), salt and pepper, and pop them into a hot 400F oven for about 15 minutes.   While my guests settled in and enjoyed their first appetizers, I threw together a quick salad of oranges, blood oranges, grapefruit, avocado, arugula, microgreens, fresh mozzarella, pistachios and lemon zest. I had prepared the fruit in advance by removing all of the skin and slicing it into rounds. A quick dressing can also be made in advance - mine was a citrus wildflower honey vinaigrette with a little bit of balsamic vinegar that I brought back from my trip to Italy last year.  While my guests settled in and enjoyed their first appetizers, I threw together a quick salad of oranges, blood oranges, grapefruit, avocado, arugula, microgreens, fresh mozzarella, pistachios and lemon zest. I had prepared the fruit in advance by removing all of the skin and slicing it into rounds. A quick dressing can also be made in advance – mine was a citrus wildflower honey vinaigrette with a little bit of balsamic vinegar that I brought back from my trip to Italy last year.

After appetizers and catching up, we all settled in for a bit of competition. Using the Jackbox Party Pack, we played a few games that involved using our phones to come up with lies while discovering truths, and others on trivia. After the second quick game, I excused myself to cook the pasta dishes, which were the main course.

 Making pasta for a crowd is really challenging! Timing is key. You don't really want pasta sitting out for a long time as it loses its al dente texture. Since I was using fresh homemade pasta, I started by making the sauce and kept it on a low simmer on the stove while I boiled the pasta. Here is a fresh pasta dish of homemade garganelli, proscuitto, fresh shelled peas, arugula, microgreens, cream, lemon and parmesan.  Making pasta for a crowd is really challenging! Timing is key. You don’t really want pasta sitting out for a long time as it loses its al dente texture. Since I was using fresh homemade pasta, I started by making the sauce and kept it on a low simmer on the stove while I boiled the pasta. Here is a fresh pasta dish of homemade garganelli, proscuitto, fresh shelled peas, arugula, microgreens, cream, lemon and parmesan.   For the main course. I wanted to feature two different types of homemade pasta. This one was a sweet sausage, tomato and ricotta ravioli with cacio e pepe sauce. I had made the sauce the day before and put it in a squeeze bottle. Warming it up in the microwave took about 1 minute. This made it really easy to serve! I set out plates on the kitchen peninsula and once the ravioli were cooked, spooned them onto each plate. Then I topped each with warm sauce, a few sprigs of microgreens and a healthy dose of freshly ground black pepper.  For the main course. I wanted to feature two different types of homemade pasta. This one was a sweet sausage, tomato and ricotta ravioli with cacio e pepe sauce. I had made the sauce the day before and put it in a squeeze bottle. Warming it up in the microwave took about 1 minute. This made it really easy to serve! I set out plates on the kitchen peninsula and once the ravioli were cooked, spooned them onto each plate. Then I topped each with warm sauce, a few sprigs of microgreens and a healthy dose of freshly ground black pepper.   These little ravioli pack a serious punch. The squeeze bottle and microgreens take this dish from deliciously homemade to top restaurant quality.  These little ravioli pack a serious punch. The squeeze bottle and microgreens take this dish from deliciously homemade to top restaurant quality.   Both pastas!  Both pastas!

After letting our pasta digest briefly, I served an Italian pear almond cake, which I had baked the night before. I found the recipe on Pinterest from a popular Canadian food blog, Seasons and Suppers. Served with a simple cream of mascarpone, marsala wine and orange, it was more fruity than sweet, yet still very decadent.

 My light and fruity pear and almond cake. Unfortunately we didn't snap one of the cream, which was delicious and totally made this simple dessert shine!  My light and fruity pear and almond cake. Unfortunately we didn’t snap one of the cream, which was delicious and totally made this simple dessert shine!

So there you have it! It was an absolutely lovely afternoon-evening where we shared great food, lots of laughs and made memories that will last a lifetime.

The One Social Media Habit That Will Make You Feel Better, Not Worse

Study after study has shown that social media makes us feel bad. Whether we browse through Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat or Pinterest, we get the sense that other people are more successful than us, look better than us, are having more fun than us, or even just living a better life than us. Social media has been linked to higher levels of loneliness, envy, anxiety, depression and decreased social skills. It’s all about that comparison – and usually, we’re comparing our real lives to the highlight reels of others.

It’s easy to forget about the promotion we just got, the vacation we just took, or even just the nice dinner we just had, even if we did post it to social media, and got a thousand “likes”. You know what I’m talking about here. It’s when you save up for some type of large, extravagant purchase that you’re absolutely sure will change your life for the better. Or when you’re chasing that goal achievement of making a certain amount of money. Or perhaps getting to your goal weight. The, “If only I…” creeps into your mind. If only I had more money. If only I could lose those last 10 pounds. Yet when we actually reach those goals, our happiness is rather short-lived. We forget about it and move on to the next thing.

This is because of the phenomenon of the hedonic treadmill. The hedonic treadmill is a term coined by psychologists Brickman and Campbell to describe the tendency of people to keep a relatively stable baseline level of happiness despite external events or changes in our demographic circumstances. This is why lottery winners aren’t happier months after their big win, and people who go through difficult times tend to often bounce back to their former disposition. Rather than changing our circumstances, we need to change the way that we look at the life that we’ve already experienced. Instead of chasing the next dream all the time, what if we were to spend some time re-living, or savoring our memories of the past?

“It’s not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.”

— Charles Spurgeon

The good news is while changing our external circumstances often doesn’t lead to increased happiness, changing our internal circumstances does. According to Martin Seligman, one of the founders of the field of positive psychology and a past president of the American Psychological Association, “there is quite a number of internal circumstances (…) under your voluntary control. If you decide to change them (none of these changes come without real effort), your level of happiness is likely to increase lastingly.”

So here’s my suggestion for the one social media habit that will make you feel better:

SAVOR YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA MEMORIES. 

That’s right, instead of going through the social media feed of others, go through your own highlight reel. Connect with the good memories, those moments where you felt pride and joy. The moments that are a part of your past, but rarely a part of your present.

According to Denis Waitley, author and motivational speaker, “a good life is a collection of happy memories.” Well luckily for you, you’ve got that collection in your hands right now.