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Balcony People

We all have a subset of people in our lives who, by definition, are completely different from all others. They’re not really friends, although they’re certainly friendly. They’re not really professional associates, unless only for short periods of time. And they’re definitely not spouses, partners or other family members; these play a far more important role in our lives.

The people I’m talking about seem to come into our lives only for a moment when we somehow need them most – and then exit as quickly as they came. They exist on the upper periphery of our lives, rather than center stage, and are there largely to cheer us on.

These are the Balcony People of our lives.

My family knows exactly what I mean when I refer to “balcony people.” The term has been part of our collective vocabulary for many years, but it’s not one that created. I only wish I had.

I first heard the words “balcony people” from a friend years ago over hot coffee and a warm buttered scone. (Meetings that include coffee and special foods always create strong memories for me). My friend mentioned that her brother had just read something about identifying the balcony people in our lives – and I instantly knew what she meant. I couldn’t wait to share this with my adult children and all the other important people in my sphere.

A little research revealed the term Balcony People was actually coined by Joyce Landorf Heatherly in her book of the same name, published in June 1989. But over time, I’ve also managed to amend and amplify my definition of the term.

To me, balcony people are individuals who do more than cheer you on; they also challenge and force you to think from the top of your brain. They lift your eyes from the path right before you, elevate your level of thinking and raise you up mentally so you can see farther down the road.

As I mentioned at the outset, balcony people are rarely those you would expect. They’re usually not your spouse or partner; not your best friends or professional allies. They’re just incredibly brilliant, crystal clear thinkers who are somehow connected to you through concurrent circles and shine new light on your world when you’re in the midst of making a life decision.

It can be someone you meet at a business lunch or charity event, encounter in a waiting room or find yourself sitting next to in the airport bar. But if you’re vigilant, if you pay attention, over time you’ll start recognizing these unique men and women when they appear. You’ll begin to build a set of common denominators and conversational cues that flip a switch and turn on that light bulb over your head.

Of course, the trick to meeting balcony people is opening yourself up to meeting more people, period. It’s a simple matter of seeking out new activities, new events and new opportunities to become a “balcony person” to other people, as well.

Who are your Balcony People? And who are you cheering on? What’s the best part of having or being one? Can’t wait to hear your stories in the Comments section.

“You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains. You raise me up to walk on stormy seas. I am strong when I am on your shoulders. You raise me up to more than I can be.”  – You Raise Me Up (Performed by Josh Groban / Lyrics by Brendan Graham)

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Lee Ann Monfredini

Lee Ann Monfredini

Lee Ann Monfredini is the founder of 360Women and a life-long advocate of women’s issues, political activism, social volunteerism, organizational accountability and personal responsibility. A graduate of the University of San Francisco with a degree in Non-Profit Management, she’s not only served on the boards and executive teams of some of the most respected health organizations in the Bay Area, but built a successful second career as one of the most respected realtors in the market. She can be reached at leeann@360women.net.

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