It's (Not) All About You

That’s right, buddy. It’s not all about you. Lots of people think it’s all about them, but they’re wrong.

Who is it all about? Is it about this handsome chap in a sharp suit?


No, silly. It’s not all about me either. Even though I’m handsome and I have a sharp suit.

It’s about other people.

Here’s another photo from the same day. This time, I’m just one person in a sizeable group that includes well-known actors, athletes, TV presenters and high-achievers of other kinds. Have a look at the assembled faces and you’ll recognise a few of them.


What an impressive collection of accomplished, famous and good-looking people! But, surprisingly, that day at Buckingham Palace wasn’t in our honour. Rather, it celebrated the achievements of young people who had earned their Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Gold Awards. We were there to speak to the students and present them with their certificates. Talking to them, I was reminded of how important it is to surround yourself with the right people. Each one of those individuals had challenged themselves and grown into a more confident and capable person over the course of their DofE. This was partly their own personal triumph. However, it was also largely to do with the people around them. Most of the award recipients will have been lucky enough to have supportive families that pushed and encouraged them. Some of them won’t have been so lucky. But what they had all done - whether lucky or unlucky - was find themselves new support networks.

The DofE Gold Award has five stages: volunteering, physical activity, skill acquisition, an outdoor expedition and a residential trip. On each of these stages you’re bound up with other people - helping them and being helped by them, teaching them and learning from them, struggling alongside them. Because they’re all doing DofE, most of those people are just as driven and hard-working as you are. You take your cues from the people around you and, because of their own personal qualities, you’re lifted higher than you would have gone without them.

The type of people you surround yourself with will influence the type of person you are. Jim Rohn said that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. I don’t know where he got the number five from - I suspect it was somewhat random - but I agree with his basic point. If you know what sort of person you want to be, make sure that you’re spending time with people who fit that description. You need to, as they say, “find your tribe”. One of the wonderful things about DofE is that the students who participate have found their tribe.


Of course, you’ll have many tribes throughout your life and you might have multiple tribes at any one time. Each different tribe will shape you in a different way. In my days with GB Wheelchair Rugby, I grew as an athlete and as a person just by existing in that environment. The discipline, ambition and grit of my teammates were a daily example for me to follow. When I became captain I was a leader on paper, but every member of that squad was an unofficial leader. You can be a leader in any group that you’re part of. Whatever level you’re at - even if you’re the most junior member of a massive organisation - your behaviour will influence the behaviour of those around you. That, to a lesser or greater extent, makes you a leader. Or, to put it a better way:

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
— Simon Sinek

This idea is hugely important. I wouldn’t want you to be a part of any group and assume that it exists only for your benefit. You have a duty to help others. It’s only through selflessness and cooperation that humans can achieve anything worthwhile. In GB we had a mantra: Trust, Honesty, Respect. I trusted my teammates, was honest with them and respected them; I knew I could expect the same from them. This laid a secure foundation for everything that we did. Standing on that foundation, we felt empowered to push ourselves and each other to constantly improve. I was happy to help raise up my eleven teammates because I wanted them to achieve all that they were capable of. I was never worried that this would be too much of a burden for me to bear because I knew that my teammates would collectively raise me up at the same time. If you exhibit trust, honesty and respect in all your interactions, you’ll raise up the people around you. This is what strong people do. As Simon Sinek said: “A star wants to see himself rise to the top. A leader wants to see those around him rise to the top.” You might have lofty ambitions for yourself and think that focusing too much on your teammates or colleagues will get in the way of your personal advancement. However, Simon Sinek has also made the point that if you see your teammates or colleagues as rivals you will actually place obstacles in your own path. “When you compete against everyone else, no one wants to help you. But when you compete against yourself, everyone wants to help you.”

For your own good, as well as other people’s, don’t live an isolated life. Find your tribe. Help and be helped.

We are made for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another is unnatural.
— Marcus Aurelius

Luke White