‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’ Jim Rohn
There is no shortage of thoughts on success. Some people say success is something determined by your birth, and only your family has the ability to help you fail or succeed in life. Others put the outcome of life as a result of education. Famed author Malcolm Gladwell has an entire book, called Outliers, dedicated to the subject.
The thing is, we can’t pick our family. We can’t change how we grew up. We often can’t go back in time and go to Harvard Business School. But we can make changes to our lives that make us happier, and more successful.
The Five People You Spend the Most Time With
According to Jim Rohn, a recently passed entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker, we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. That is an astounding thing to think about.
Who are the five people you spend the most time with? They likely contain your spouse, a couple of co-workers, and a couple of close friends. When you think about them, is that how you want to be? Are they a model of what you want to become?
If the answer is no, which is very common when thinking through this exercise, you might consider making some changes to your life. Is your best friend a deadbeat or someone who encourages and elevates you? Are your friends people who help you reach your goals and become more successful?
This is a very logical conclusion when you start to think about your friends. Think back in time to college, high school, and other times in life. I bet you had a lot in common with your old friends, and every time your friends turned over with a big life change, you became more similar to the people who took their spot.
I recently moved to a new city, so my top five for the foreseeable future is something that is coming together right now. I am happy that the friends I am making here are likeminded people who want to be successful, self-reliant, and are motivated to work hard to reach their goals.
What About Everyone Else
I have had close friends in the past that I don’t talk to anymore for one reason or another. Some I intentionally moved away from, others simply grew apart. That is okay, and it is not something to feel bad about.
While Facebook may tell you that you have 500 friends, 1,000 friends, or even more, it is highly unlikely that you are really friends with that many people. According to British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who did research on the topic, a human brain can only successfully maintain between 100-230 social relationships. The most common value cited for “Dunbar’s Number is 150.”
What does that tell us? It says that you don’t have to cut people out of your life to cut them from your top five, but you do have a limit on the number of people you can be friends with, and that includes your family.
With only space for 150 friends in your life, you may have to make decisions about who you want to spend your time with. Do you care to spend time with people who are negative? Negative Nancy and Debbie Downer, or would you rather hang out with people who are positive and enjoyable. I certainly don’t have time for people with a poor me complex, but I do make time for positive, likeminded people.
Where to Find Positive Influencers
If you realize that the people in your life are not making it better, it is time to look for people who will. Depending on your goals, they might be in different places, but in my experience they are not hiding, they are just waiting for you to show up.
If you want to be a famous DJ, meet the local DJs who play big clubs. If you want to be a web entrepreneur, go to startup events, incubators, and co-working spaces. If you want to be a musician, find successful musicians (not starving ones) who make a living playing music. If you want to be a writer, go to events for writers. You can see where I’m going here.
I am very intentional when I decide to join a new group or become involved with something. Since arriving in Portland, I have sought out groups like the local finance blogger meet-up, the local World Domination Summit group, and I am thrilled with the connections I have made.
Getting Rid of Bad Friends Gracefully
Now that you have your new friends picked out, there is that issue of people you don’t want to spend so much time with any longer. Just because someone isn’t a successful entrepreneur like you want to be, that doesn’t make them a bad person and they don’t deserve bad treatment. But you can distance yourself from them gracefully.
The best way to distance yourself from someone without being rude is to simply slow down and lessen your contact with them. Make other plans, and keep them. Call to say hi less frequently. If you make yourself busy and less accessibly, they will slowly start to grow further and further from your core group of five influencers.
If they try to make you feel bad for being busy and having other priorities, remind them that you are busy trying to achieve certain goals, and you are working to achieve them. If you explain that your goals are your priority, and they still push and pressure you, it may be time to have a discussion about the status of your ongoing friendship.
This is One Part of the Puzzle
Remember, just because you surround yourself by successful people doesn’t mean you will become one overnight, or at all. It is just one piece of the puzzle. If you are lazy, make bad decisions, or don’t give it a great effort, your life will pretty much stay as it is.
Richard Branson, famed entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin companies, recently received a letter from a 12 year old aspiring entrepreneur. His response included a quote that we can all take to heart regardless of our age.
“The key enterprising skills I used when first starting out are the very same ones I use today: the art of delegation, risk-taking, surrounding yourself with a great team and working on projects you really believe in.”
Photo Credits: INMA/Jarle Naustvik