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Given Family, Chosen Family

In the latest Podcast episode, I talked about the Given Family and Chosen Family. The “family” we are born with, and the “family” we choose to be with.

What is your given family?

With given family, I refer to your blood relatives, such as your parents, grandparents, siblings, and cousins. But also, I refer to the friends you never chose. The friends you have simply because you were born in a town, you went to the only elementary school in that town, and you met other children. Of course, when you are 6 years old, you do not exactly choose your friends, and these friends become part of your given family.

Now, the chosen family.

This is the interesting piece. I changed 15 houses in my life and I realized something interesting: I could choose to stay in touch with some friends, and to not nurture the relationship with others! In other words, I could start building a chosen family, a family of people who were in my life because I wanted them in my life!

Starting my business has been incredibly difficult, and one of the most painful realizations I’ve had was that some people in my family and in my circle of friends did not support me. I felt like a lone wolf at times, very much misunderstood in his willingness to give a contribution to the world and re-writing the script of his life. 

Why does it hurt when your given family does not support you?

Let me ask you a question: what are the two innate fears of all the human beings on this planet?

Maybe the fear of public speaking? The fear of judgement? Of abandonment? Of dying? Of confrontation? Of being perfect? The fear of failure or the fear of success?

Nope. We were all born with only two fears: the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling. These are the only two fears which are common to every human being on this planet.

You may ask: so why am I afraid of failure? Because someone passed their fears down to you! It could be your parents of your friends. Every fear you have is a learned fear. In particular, studies show that there are two main fears that all human beings develop over the course of their lives: the fear of not being loved, and the fear of not being enough. This already explains why it is painful when your given family does not support you, right? You do not feel loved.

And you also understand that true love should not have any conditions. If your parents only love you if you do what they expect you to do, that is not real love.

The same rationale applies to relationships: if you love someone if they behave, or dress, in a certain way, or do something for you, well, that’s not love. That is called control! And it’s the basis for a toxic relationship.

Unfortunately, parents will always try to control their children in some sort of ways, and there are two main strategies, two main instruments of control, that they will use: shame and guilt!

For instance: “Why are you wearing this? You should be ashamed of going out like that”. 
Or: “When you do this, you make me feel so sad”. Hearing that makes you feel guilty. 

I will record an episode where I explain more of what happened when I told my family about my business idea, but I am not ready yet. I am still processing, and it still hurts.

What I can tell you is this: the people closest to you are the late adopters. Your given family are your late adopters. They will criticize you, they will tell you horrible things because they associate being self-employed with being poor and they do not want that for you. They hurt you because they love you.

I once asked my mom and I encourage you to ask the same to your parents:

Mom, would you prefer me flying low in the smog of the city like a pigeon, or high in the skies, in the storm, like an eagle?

She hesitated, and I knew the answer. Your family wants peace of mind for you, and even more for themselves! They are afraid that you, little pigeon, might be eaten by the eagles or might die in the storm. But what if, and I am just opening the possibility here, what if you became an eagle? Or even better, what if you had always been an eagle and you were just flying low because that’s what everyone around you told you to?

After the critics, your given family will reach a point where they develop some trust and tell you "Just do your thing, you know what you are doing!". They will not understand it, but they will support you. It might take years, so be prepared for the lack of love!

What about the friends in your life?

How do they react when you tell them about your entrepreneurial efforts, or when you share some news with them?

To understand this, we need to add another piece of knowledge: the difference between Takers, Matchers and Givers. Do you know this difference? If you don’t, you will find this interesting!

In his book “Give and Take”, psychologist and Wharton’s top-rated professor Adam Grant divides people into three groups (of course it is a generalization because we all belong to all the three groups): takers, givers, and matchers. He explains: “Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return.

Since this topic is incredibly interesting, I will have a full episode on this. But today I want to reflect with you on: what kind of person are you? And what kind of people do you have in your life?

You see, takers do not care about you. They care about themselves. And be careful, this does not mean they do not appreciate you, they do not wish you all the very best, they hate you, nothing like that! They simply focus on what they can take, on what can benefit them.

I have some of these people in my life. For instance, in the past two years I helped two friends who are, today, quite successful entrepreneurs; when I launched my business, I asked them for some help in return, and guess what: one avoided the topic, and the other told me “You are not successful enough to do some collaboration”; this person was in my situation one year ago. It was a great lesson: never expect anything from a taker. 

What about matchers? Matchers give if they see an opportunity. They give on a condition they will get something back.

You might say: “Well at least they give something!” but from experience I noticed something interesting. Some people prefer takers to matchers, because takers are easily predictable, while matchers aren’t. At least takers are not shady, they are not fake. This is so interesting to me; some people prefer someone who is a genuine asshole, who is a jerk but they are honest about it, to someone who is ambiguous, difficult to read, you never know how they will behave, is not predictable.

He is a jerk, at least I know. But this person? I never know if they are helping me because they want something back and I do not like that. I smell some fake here”. 

That’s how much people appreciate genuineness and honesty, and how important it is to develop those qualities!

Finally, givers. Givers give. And I know what you may be thinking: “I am a giver, I am an amazing human being”. Are you a true giver? Let me ask you: how many times did you do something for others, and you were disappointed because they did not do something in return? You gave them your 100% and, when the time came, they gave you their 20%?

How many times you had an expectation of other people? It can be something simple, such as giving a gift to your friend, and the latter does not reciprocate. Or washing the dishes for your girlfriend, and she does not clean the floor. 

All of us are, or have been, matchers in some circumstances. Every time you do something and you get upset because you are not receiving anything in return, you are not a giver. You are a matcher.

If you want a successful relationship with people, try to trade expectations for appreciation and you will see how your life changes!

When you start moving in a direction with focus and intensity, you will realize that some people in your given family you thought would be on your side, are not really on your side.

Many people will try to block your Vision, and here is what we did with my friend Anil: we wrote on the whiteboard “You block my Vision? I block you!”. We made a promise to each other that we would never allow anyone, not even ourselves, to stand between us and our Vision.

Ask yourself: “Who are the people I want to keep in my life? What is my chosen family?" You want people who support you, people who love you, people who demonstrate their love with actions every time you need! Actions always speak louder than words.

It often happens that when people invite me over, they ask me “Bring some friends!”. It’s funny because sometimes I think they are more interested in my friends than me! But to me, there is no greater compliment. I proudly say that I have the best friends. Because I chose them, and they chose me. We hand-picked each other throughout the years, one by one.

Many in my given family were bullies who threw firecrackers inside train carriages, who went to jail because they employed children to sell drugs. That was my given family. My parents were worried, because I am a fast learner, I adapt quickly, I am like a sponge, and my parents were afraid I would take a wrong turn at some point. But I realized that if I had chosen the right friends, I could have accelerated my growth! I could have completely changed my life. And so it was. 

I am incredibly grateful to my chosen family because they saw the light in myself when I didn't see it.

So let me ask you: who saw the light in yourself when no one else saw it? That’s a very important question.

Will Smith once said:

"Set your life on fire and seek those who fan your flames. Don’t be hanging with no junkass jokers that don’t help you shine! The prerequisite for spending time with any person is that they nourish and inspire you. They feed your flame! There has been very few times in my life that I looked left, I looked right, and didn’t find a person who believed and supported me. There has always been a person next to me fanning my flames. Look at your last five text messages: are those people feeding your flames or dousing your fire? Look around you. Are the people around you throwing logs on your fire or are they pissing on it? The people you spend time with are going to make or break your dreams, everybody don’t deserve to be around you. You have got to defend your light with your life.

I wanted to quote this word by word because I believe there is no better way of putting this.

My invitation is to make a list, get clear on who are the people in your life who are fanning your flames. Send them a text to thank them, and make sure this beautiful relationship is nurtured in the years ahead. I do it twice a year with some of my closest friends, and I can tell you it is worth my time and effort because having great people in your life will make your life joyful and worth living.

That’s what I have got for today’s article; if you liked it, please share it with someone who could benefit, the only way we grow and impact more people is if you guys share it so I greatly greatly appreciate all of you who will do it.

Make your life a masterpiece, see you next week, I appreciate you and I hope you have an amazing Thursday.

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