What All Successful People Have in Common / by Jahan Sharif

I’ll make this one quick. 

Picture this: I’m in a stairwell backstage at this year’s Black Girls Rock taping in Newark, NJ backing full force into a wall so that Angela Bassett can pass without tripping over me. When she clears my airspace, I pop out into the green room area (where, yes, I had absolutely no business being) and run into a star struck Ari Lennox whispering to herself, “This is the best day ever.” Across the room, Regina King is hugging Issa Rae, and Common and Erykah Badu are making an entrance behind me. 

We’re all on a high. Common and Erykah just surprised the crowd with a freestyle, and Angela Bassett brought down the house with a praise worthy, spirits-raising, goosebumping testimonial to the power of Black women

The taping, for me, was the culmination of nearly two months of breakneck and backbreaking work producing the honoree packages-- interviewing Angela Bassett, Regina King, Ciara, the Mothers of the Movement, H.E.R., and Debra Martin Chase. Over the years, I have had the privilege to hear the stories of dozens of people who have achieved truly unfathomable levels of success. Many are celebrities, some are not. 

A common question people ask me, is What are they like? My answer is the same-- they’re all nice enough. Some are warmer than others. Some prefer to maintain a level of separation between themselves and the crew, while others eat lunch with the rest of us. Everyone who makes it to their level is extremely professional, and legitimately excellent at their jobs-- there are few frauds. (We can talk about Helen Mirren offline, she’s at a level even above the rest.)

Here are a few things they all have in common: 

  • Take their craft seriously and practice a lot to master it

  • Continuous and broad learners

  • Persistence and consistency over perfection

  • Faith

And there’s one more common element that I’ve yet to hear listed explicitly, but I hear in each story: Friendship. 

Each tale of eventual success has the chapter where the phone doesn’t ring. The opportunities dry up. And all the work up to that point seems to have been in vain. The hopelessness takes root, and the faith starts to waver. It’s at this point when each of these people say they made it through, because their friends held on to that faith for them. There was no conversation about it, it was just one person investing in their friend because they believed in them. 

That’s what good friends do: They help you do, you, even when you’re sick of doing you!

Be grateful for good friends, because true friendship should change your life.

Los Angeles, CA, USA
September 2019