Yesterday a longtime colleague and friend gently revealed a challenge/weakness of mine that is holding me back professionally, if not personally. She wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t know. Her revelation reminded me of a weakness that I’ve not overcome.

Can you think of a “weaknesses” -personal or tribal- that you can’t seem to transform?

What happened next, in the conversation, brought me back to my own work (Tribal Alchemy). My friend revealed that I wasn’t practicing my own prescriptions (physician heal thyself).

“Dave, you are going to solve this through tribal alchemy, right?” she said with a gentle but intentional tone.

Her question was a reminder that I would only overcome this challenge with the help of other people. Only through others, would my weakness, and the situations that revolve around it, transform into something better.

I agreed, but I was stumped. “OK, who? Who can help me?” I said with a familiar frustration.

I couldn’t see who and therefore I couldn’t see how.  A few more moments in the conversation, and my colleague had identified a small tribe that could help me bust through this challenge. The irony is that this collection of people live and work in my personal universe. I had never considered how they could become part of my tribe to help me overcome a challenge. I was looking too far beyond my current network, believing that my solution would be found in a distant place with unknown people. Yet, each person that my colleague identified was either already in my primary network or just one or two clicks next to it.

When we face a difficult challenge or promising opportunity, we often believe the people who can create alchemy with us are “outside” our network. This makes it far more likely we will remain stuck. What if the people and assets we need are are closer than we think?

In 2010 Melinda Blau and Karen Fingerman wrote a book that addresses this very issue. Consequential Strangers–which I read and haven’t practiced very well–invited us to look at secondary and tertiary relationships and how they might be important connections to move our lives along. This of course works both ways. You might be the consequential stranger someone else needs.

How do you know that who and what you need isn’t nearby? Do you have the right eyes to see what’s close by in a new way, and the courage to cross a boundary to explore it? 

These are questions I’m asking myself after a good friend gently kicked me in the butt to practice what I preach.