09/12/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Support Doesn't Always Mean Saying, 'You're Wonderful'

Who's got your back?

Do you have people in your life that you can count on to support you, no matter what?

Sometimes it all depends on how you interpret the word "support."

We all need people who will be there for us in our darkest hours. People who will drop everything to come hold our hand in the hospital as we await news about a sick parent, spouse or child. And who doesn't want to have someone in their life who will stick up for you if others try to take you down?

But how many people do you have in your life who will tell you the truth? You know, the kind of people who will be candid with you, and who care enough about your success to give you real honest feedback, even when you're messing up.

We might like to believe that success comes from within; after all, we're the country of the Lone Ranger. But more often than not, super successful people usually have a close intimate circle of what Keith Ferrazzi calls "lifeline relationships" -- deep, close relationships based on mutual generosity, vulnerability, candor and accountability. (Yes, candor, you know that thing where people tell you what they really think.)

Your mother may be generous to a fault, your preacher or shrink may encourage you to get comfortable with your vulnerabilities and your spouse may be bitingly candid and hold you singularly accountable for everything.

But Ferrazzi suggests that a true lifeline relationship -- one designed to catapult your personal or professional growth -- possess all four qualities: generosity, candor, vulnerability and accountability.

Because it doesn't matter whether you're trying to lose weight or climb the ranks of corporate America, the difference between success and failure is often determined by the amount of support you get. And while we may like to think of support in terms of praise and validation; if you really want to get better at something, you can't just surround yourself with people who only feed you compliments.

For example, if your mother keeps telling you that your jelly belly makes you more cuddly as she pulls another batch of cookies out of the oven, or your employees continually fawn over your brilliance as they line up for their bonuses, chances are, you're not going to get thinner or become a better leader. (Are your reading this Mr. CEO?)

In "Who"s Got Your Back," Ferrazzi suggests that becoming a winner in any field of endeavor -- be it overcoming bad habits or creating world peace -- requires a trusted team of advisers who can offer guidance and hold you accountable for achieving your goals.

Ferrazzi defines these deep, trusting lifeline relationships as "someone who will never let you fail." If you're shooting for the moon (or the corner office) you'd be well served to create a team of at least three people who are willing to offer encouragement, feedback and generous mutual support. Three people are enough, Ferrazzi says, to dramatically change your life.

Think about it. How might your last boss have behaved if he or she had a trusted friend they could count on to be candid about their leadership skills? How might your parents have benefited from getting expert, unfiltered feedback on their parenting skills? (What parent couldn't benefit from good coaching? )

And where might you be, if you had a team of knowledgeable advisers holding you accountable for accomplishing what you really want to do with your life?

Life is too short to go it alone. Everybody needs someone to cover their back.

Who has yours?

Lisa Earle McLeod is a syndicated columnist, author, and inspirational thought-leader. A popular keynote speaker, she is an expert in in why seemingly normal people make each other crazy. Her newest book, The Triangle of Truth: The Surprisingly Simple Secret to Resolving Conflicts Large and Small is slated for release January 5, 2010 from Penguin Putnam. Visit her site