I have a theory that there are three types of people:
- and Anchors
Balloons are awesome. They are the friends and family who help propel you to great heights. They are the wives who refuse to book financial planning meetings on Wednesday nights because that’s when you record your nerdy podcast. Balloons are your friends who sit on a couch with you and listen to your awesome ideas about merch. They are the friends who get ten emails a day (if they’re lucky) from you with ideas about a project you’re working on together and never mark you as spam.
Balloons are the family members, friends, helpers, mentors, and teammates that work with you or offer you tips on how to become great. With an open hand and smile, they take you into the sky with them.
Balloons want you to succeed and are not trying to gain from your achievement. They help you and support you when you’re sick or sad, or when you’re down and out. They give you enough fuel to get back on your feet if you give something an honest try.
I am trying to live my life like the house in the movie, UP. I want to be tethered to as many Balloons as possible. I see such greatness in Balloons that I want to be one and help someone soar to great heights.
Boats are acquaintances. Boats neither fly in the sky, nor sink to the bottom like a stone. They are sometimes people who offer support in a, “we’re all in this together” sort of way. They are often coworkers or friends of friends. Boats can be people on the street, or employees at the donut shop.
Most people I meet are Boats and are neither good nor bad. Some Boats are Balloons in waiting or Anchors bubbling up from the bottom. For the most part, I think we all try to give Boats a chance, to see where they can take us. Whenever I meet someone new, I hope they’ll be a Balloon. Most Boats are people I meet only once, or online, and never really get to form a relationship with. Usually after a few minutes you can tell whether a Boat will become a Balloon, an Anchor, or remain a boat.
Being a Boat is not a bad thing. I would say that 90% of us are Boats. We sail the ocean together, taking care of business, looking for Balloons, and avoiding anchors.
Anchors are people that tether you fixed locations and never let you go. They are the exact, evil opposite of Balloons and they are bad Boats that’ve run aground. I’ve met and befriended quite a few anchors in my life.
For some reason, Anchors have always first seemed awesome to me. Most of the anchors I’ve met are very talented people who have some serious skills to pay the bills. After about three months of hanging around them, my opinion always starts to sour. They are often bitter, lazy, and/or defeatist. If you suggest they try to do something great with their skills they get down on themselves. If you learn something from them - like an illustration technique or video game move - and show them the result, they get defensive and insult your achievement. If you are proud of what you’re doing, they use comments or words that try to pull you down to the bottom of the ocean where you’ll slowly drown with them.
Hanging around or listening to Anchors for any length of time is not good. In my experience, the reason Anchors are like this is because they see you as a threat. They see someone who has learned something from them, or someone who isn’t happy in the dregs of sarcasm and bitterness and are trying to move on and do good things and they see their own awesome skills or life wasted. They want to be the person who is moving on with their lives, and resent you for trying to do so. Anchors are the people who, if helped by a Balloon, become dependent on that person until they become like a helium filled balloon with a hole in it - eventually it shrivels up and rolls around on the floor until you have to put it out of its misery.
That’s when they wrap the chain up tighter. They try to use the friendship connection you once had to keep you under the surface with them. They are nice to you to get you back, then treat you badly again. And you (if you’re like me and suffer from depression and low self-esteem) get sucked into it over and over again.
I am very lucky that in my professional and personal life I am surrounded by some pretty awesome Balloons. The team that does The GAMES DAY Podcast with me (hi Matt, Ian, and Raph) is incredible. They put up with my ~30 Google docs called “Ideas for the show” and my talkative nature. They are patient with my ideas, and eager to share their skills and knowledge and learn from me.
The Balloons I live with and share my personal experiences with, my family, are equally uplifting. My wife (hi Jammer!) is the most patient and supportive person I know. She sends me kisses via text messages, she patiently listens to me brainstorm ideas that she has no interest in. She eats food that I burn and gives feedback on artwork, photos, code, or plans that I have even if she has no expertise. She wants me to succeed and be better than I am now. When I am sick, she does not try to out-sick me (ie: if I have a cold, she has the flu) and wants to take care of me. My children (hey guys!) are just as awesome. My 3 year old son talks to me about Twitter and knows the GDP logo and asks me about the show.
Except for the one in my head that I can’t fully escape, I always end up cutting the chain in relationships with Anchors. I never know how to comfortably part ways with them - it’s always been cold turkey. I’ve tried laughing off their comments and negativity and giving them another try, but it a) never works, and b) really doesn’t benefit either of us: I don’t grow and that Anchor continues to live in the illusion that always being negative and abrasive is good. Yes, some people make good money and do great things being negative - but none of the Anchors I have ever known have been one of those people.
In your life, I hope you more of the Boats you meet become Balloons than Anchors, and that you’re able to escape the Anchors dragging you down.
I’d love to hear what you have to say about this post, good or bad. Do you know any Anchors? How have your Balloons helped you soar? Please share your story!