Natasa Lekic is active in Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO)'s business Accelerator program, which empowers entrepreneurs with the tools, community and accountability necessary to aggressively grow and master their businesses. As founder of NY Book Editors, a book editing service where authors are matched with experienced editors from the Big 5 publishers, Natasa has found friendships developed through the Accelerator program to be invaluable as she grows her company. We asked Natasa about her experience. Here's what she shared:

We've all heard the saying, "You're the average of the five people you spend the most time with." It turns out that social influence goes well beyond that. You're affected by all the people in your community (and three degrees beyond them). They influence whether you're happy, healthy, productive, empathetic?even how long you live.

When I became an entrepreneur and started my company, I noticed that interactions with my old friends gave me less and less satisfaction. Most of them were on an established corporate path and the tradition of grousing about our jobs over cocktails no longer resonated with me.

Connect with like-minded peers

I wasn't conscious of it at the time, but when you're taking a big risk to create something as significant as a new company, a strong mindset isn't just a nice-to-have. It's a necessity. Optimism and gratitude form a bridge to resilience, resourcefulness and persistence.

Within my first two years of entrepreneurship, I felt progressively more isolated and lonely. I didn't realize that it was because I needed to enhance my mindset by connecting with peers who were on the same journey.

One night, out of sheer desperation, I googled "entrepreneur group New York" and found the EO Accelerator program. It was a group focused on one goal: To help entrepreneurs learn and grow to $1 million in revenue. A great deal of that growth can be attributed to the network we develop.

The culture of the business accelerator program is designed to facilitate connections with like-minded entrepreneurs.

The first Accelerator event I attended?a Learning Day?started with a group huddle in which everyone introduced themselves and shared a Big Win. To hear these people excitedly sharing their wins at 9 a.m. made me feel like I had stepped into a fantastical Willy Wonka-verse. They were full of verve and, based on the enthusiastic way they greeted each other, the bonds between them were clear.  

Why it works

The Accelerator program's culture is based on three key components:

  • Confidentiality: We share sensitive information such as financials, strategies and weaknesses. All the things I had kept to myself for too long finally came out among peers. The reason people open the kimono on their businesses is that we're in a safe, confidential environment.
  • Gestalt language protocol: This is a specific way of communicating. Instead of sharing opinions, we only share stories about our own relevant experiences. In other words, no one will tell you, "You should do x." Instead, they'll say, "When I did y, z happened." The value of this is tremendous. If you have an issue and you hear the experiences of people who were in a similar position, you understand to a far greater degree where they're coming from. You're free to interpret their experience rather than to hear their judgment of it applied to you through an opinion.
  • Five percent: This third cultural component can only be realized because confidentiality and gestalt are firmly in place. As my coach, EO South Florida member Stephen Spiegel, puts it: "Five percent is a term used for your most private experiences that elicit strong feelings of vulnerability. The benefits of vulnerability include forging strong relationships, higher levels of intimacy and trust that can help you excel in business and in your personal life."

A friend and fellow Accelerator program participant shared this quote from C.S. Lewis a year ago:

"Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another: 'What? You too? I thought I was the only one.'"

Share the mindset of success

Joining a business accelerator program was a way for me to find people who are as weird and driven as I am. It attracts folks who are consistently growing, challenging themselves, and developing the kind of mindset that allows for that.

When my husband and I decided to leave New York, I had a non-negotiable criterion for selecting our future city: It had to have an EO Accelerator program. That's how deeply I value the program and its benefits. I needed to live in a city that could give me access to a network of friends who would have a beneficial influence on my life.