follows is a streamlined version of the Buddy System,
Barbara Sher's technique of joining forces with
a friend to meet both your goals. Whereas a Success
Team typically has six members and meets once a
week for two hours, the Buddy System allows you
to use the same principles on a smaller scale.
1. Pick a Buddy
The person you pick can be your best friend, but
she or he can also be someone you know casually
from work or aerobics class. Some people are happiest
working with a bosom friend; others find a close
personal relationship too competitive or too cozy
for business. Your buddy SHOULD be someone you respect
and can count on to stick to a short-term commitment.
She or he can be working in the same field as you
(as two actresses I know who rehearse and brace
each other for auditions), but it's at least as
much fun if your goals are wildly different.
2. Weekly Business
Agree to meet with your "buddy" each week
for at least one hour at a regular time. At first,
this may seem like just one more demand on your
poor schedule, but you'll find that the hour will
immediately pay for itself in increased energy and
efficiency. If it's too difficult to meet in person, you can do this by phone.
Each of you should keep one rule firmly in mind.
For one hour, you're not going to talk about the
great movie you saw last week, or the coming elections;
you're going to stick to business. The temptation
to socialize will be great. Use a timer, and resist
3. Pick a Goal
At your first meeting, each of you should set a
first goal that seems reachable within three to
eighteen months (depending on how long you're willing
to commit yourself to work together), such as "get
a raise," "make up a portfolio and slides
and show art galleries," or "sell at least
one of my needlepoint designs to a boutique."
Pick a goal you really want, even if it seems improbable
or scary - not something you feel lukewarm and safe
about. Your desire to achieve the goal will be your
chief energy source.
On the other hand, don't aim too high too soon.
If you've never drawn a line in your life, "become
a commercial artist" is too big a goal to shoot
for; "enter and successfully complete a life
drawing class" would be more like it.
4. Set Target Dates
on a Pocket Calendar
You can always change the dates if they turn out
to be unrealistic, but you have to have them or
you'll procrastinate. The later of your two target
dates is your joint target date. You'll agree to
keep meeting until both your goals are met.
5. Plan Backward to the First Steps
Starting at your goal, plan backward ("Before
I can go to medical school, I have to apply and
get in; before I can do that I have to pass pre-med
courses; before I can do that I have to find and
enroll in a college that gives them at night"),
until you arrive at something small and manageable
that you can do within the coming week to set you
on the path to your goal ("This week I will
request catalogs from all the local colleges").
If you have a creative goal, such as writing a children's
story, make your "first steps" small enough
so that you'll do them. The point is to get moving.
Carol, the head of personnel in a major department
store, was confident in her job, but timid when
it came to her lifelong dream of learning to paint.
She doubted that she had enough talent and was reluctant
even to try. Her buddy, Donna, a secretary and would-be
city planner, cheerfully gave her her first week's
assignment. "Bring in five bad drawings of
your cat. And they'd better be bad!" The assignment
got Carol laughing — and drawing. Enrolling in a
class would come later.
6. Schedule First
Steps for Specific Days and Times in the Coming
If either of you has something especially difficult
to do, which you might be tempted to avoid, schedule
a morale-booster call from your buddy for right
beforehand. (You can call him or her back afterward
and say, "I did it!") Booster calls should
be limited to three minutes, out of respect for
the value of each of your time frames. (In
real emergencies, though, your buddy might be willing
to come with you right to the interviewer's door,
or sit in the next room working on his or her goal
while you practice the cello.)
7. Think Through or
Rehearse any Unfamiliar Things You'll Have to Do
How long will it take you to dress and get to the
audition? What are you going to say in that phone
call or job interview? "We often think we lack
some mysterious thing called 'self-confidence,'"
Barbara Sher says, "when the real problem is
that we don't know what the hell we're doing."
Advise each other on how to be informed and prepared.
You'll find that you have more common sense for
each other than you do for yourself.
Now you are both ready to go into action - promise
to report the results to each other at the next
meeting. You've just done something very important.
You've created a structure of expectation outside
yourself that will help keep you on track. As it's
much easier to do something when you've got a boss,
a teacher, or a deadline, your buddy is set up to expect
you to do the things you want to do, but wouldn't
do just for yourself.
Second Business Meeting (and All Subsequent Meetings):
Remember, No Socializing Until Business is Over
Using a clock or timer, each of you gets half an
hour. For the first five minutes, report on what
you did (or didn't do) and what the results were;
then talk about any problems you ran into, or ways
you're stymied about what to do next. You may need
to divide this problem-solving time into two parts:
Planning: If you're discouraged,
depressed or scared, you may not be able to
solve practical problems until you get negative
feelings out of the way. So if you need to,
take ten minutes or less to gripe your heart
out. Make it as mean, low-down, dirty, and even
funny as you can. "I hate my goal. I'm
going to give it all up and run away with the
exterminator." During this time, your buddy
should simply listen, or cheer you on — not
try to cheer you up. When you feel better, you
can move on...
You and your buddy should now come up with as
many inventive solutions to your problem(s)
as you can, including outrageous ones. Don't
censor. You can always weed out the "joke"
ideas later — even they often contain the seeds
of brilliant solutions. Legitimate subjects
for brainstorming include: how to raise money;
how to get inexpensive, or free, equipment,
materials, or services; how to solve the problem
of child care; and anything else you can think
Sara, a painter on a tight budget, who wished she
could buy a house with lots of studio space, brainstormed
with two friends, and they came up with these ideas: