Samuel H. Kim, Founding President, Center for Asia Leadership (CAL)
Everyone needs supporters. Sometimes they can be sounding boards, and sometimes they can be lightning rods. Both types of supporters are critical for our survival in the future.
Sounding Boards: These are people who care about you as a person rather than for the sake of your work. They may not even fully comprehend what you do, and they may have little or no stake in your work. Their interests and expertise may lie in something quite different. But because they care about your well-being, happiness, and success, you can discuss with them the questions and problems that keep you awake at night. Not only will they listen, but they will help you understand more clearly what is happening. Precisely because of their limited understanding of your situation, they will help you see it in a new light.
Lightning Rods: These are people you work closely with and who share the same stakes in what you do. A lightning rod might be your spouse, a colleague at work, or a business partner. They are people you need to work with in order to achieve your aims, and vice-versa. A lightning rod will both help you face reality and work with you to do what must be done for success. While doing so, he or she will instill hope and inspiration into your life so that you can find the energy and confidence to keep sailing. We all need friends to share our burdens, critics to help us see the strengths and flaws in our ideas, and supporters to cheer us up and remind us that our work is important. Lightning rods are all three.
Supporters matter, especially in tough times. All of us now face great difficulties and must expect to face many more. To survive and thrive in the precarious future, we must act together. One of the most powerful things we can do, starting now, is surround ourselves with good people—not people who always say what is pleasant, but supporters who can help us understand reality, inspire us to face the challenges ahead, and help us overcome them.
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