Green and Red Lighters: Who is in Your Life?

Written by regular contributor hannah lewis

Original artwork done by author and illustrator,   Hannah Lewis

Original artwork done by author and illustrator, Hannah Lewis

I went to a business conference a few months ago where I got to hear from a number of entrepreneurs and listen to their stories and advice. One of the speakers, a guy called John Lee, spoke about having the right people around you and the concept of the Green lights and Red lights. This concept stayed with me and it’s shaped a lot of the way I view and handle my relationships. It’s made me realize that the people around you are just as important as yourself in your journey.

The concept is simple.

Think about this; you have an idea that you’re really excited about and you start to tell the people around you about this new idea. Two things will happen. You’ll have people who will green light you, or you’ll have people who will red light you. 

Green lighters will say things like ‘That sounds awesome!’, ‘What are you going to do next!!?’, ‘I know this thing that you should look at’.

Red lighters will say things like ‘But you can’t do that because of X, Y and Z?’, ‘You should concentrate on getting a steady income’ and the dreaded ‘be realistic’. 

Green lighters will be excited with you, they’ll help you figure stuff out and hold you accountable.

Red lighters will make you second guess yourself and make you think you shouldn’t bother. This could be because they are worried about you, concerned about your stability, or don’t understand the idea you want to undertake. They don’t necessarily mean it in a negative way, but it can have a negative effect on you. 

If you go through you’re closest relationships and divide them into the green lighters and the red lighters, what do you find?

Do you have a lot of a greens or a lot of reds? 

The Green lighters are going to be the people you’ll be able to work with, they’ll support you in your endeavors and this could result in collaborations, meeting new people, referrals – who knows.

The red lighters, Lee advises, are people you should think about cutting out. This is easier said than done. Red lighters can be people who are very close to you like your parents or other family members.

So what do you do when those close to you are the ones that are holding you back?

I think it’s important to note that relationships are all unique and different. I don’t have all the answers but here are some things I am trying as I’ve been pondering over this concept.

Once you assess your relationships and the effects of the responses you get, you will know who you should go to and with what. You can identify those who encourage you and help you, and those who won’t. It’s not worth the negative impact telling those who will question your endeavors. I talk to certain people differently about my work now. I talk about what I am doing, not what I’m thinking about doing.

The next way could be to fully explain your situation. Show them success stories, take them to events, make them watch the TED talks that pump you up. Talk to them about the podcasts you listen to that you find really positive. Talk to them about the how and the why you’re doing what you’re doing. 

With time and success, I think those who were wary for reasons of care and misunderstanding can change their color to amber and then even to green (traffic analogies!). They will see your vision. They’ll help you out, ask you what you’re doing next, and admit you’ve proved them wrong. 

Assessing my relationships and their effect on my ventures has been a learning curve.

I understand the benefit in surrounding myself with the people who are supportive – and the benefit of supporting them in their ideas too. I hope you find the same success.


Hannah Lewis for #createlounge

hannah lewis

Hannah Lewis is an illustrator living in London. She likes making work that makes people think and makes people happy. She has a whole side of her wardrobe dedicated to skirts. When she's not drawing, she likes to watch theatre shows and make friends with her friends pets.