Jim Rohn once said:
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
It doesn’t matter much how smart you are (Although it certainly helps). It doesn’t matter how talented you are (There are so many untalented, yet successful people), which skills you have (Bright people delegate things which they can’t do to skilled experts) or which family you came from. All that counts if you want to be successful in life is the people you surround yourself with.
While it’s ideal to be closely surrounded by positive, supportive people who want you to succeed, (Your mom probably still thinks you are the most beautiful and smartest – at least mine does) it’s also necessary to have your critics. Novices have a preference for positive feedback, but real achievers want brutal feedback, so that they can make progress. The more successful you become, the more criticism you’ll face (plus, as always, Haters gonna hate).
There are two variables that interplay in determining how much of your thoughts and actions are influenced by people around you. The first is your consciousness and resilience as an individual. The second, is the collective sum of the consciousness of the people you are with. These combine to give you a weighted impact on who you become.
You may be the most conscious and smartest individual around, but if you are constantly surrounded by negative, fear-based people in your life, it will have an impact on who you eventually become and your progression in life. Reduce their involvement in your life. Not doing so may hinder your energy, vision and ultimate success.
I saw many of my friends and few family members falling into the trap of their embittered close ones. You-should drown-with–me personalities.
Make hay while the sun shines
Some time ago I had a conversation with a good friend of mine Carlo, who is already paving his way to successes in significant and visible ways (and he is younger than me). He is a reporter and speaker to the major newspapers and media outlets. I asked him how important for him is to chase well-accomplished and recognised people who “made it” in their life, or rather spending more time with those ambitious, curious and hungry youngsters who are yet to break through.
Carlo had exactly the same view on it as me: You need to spot the talent and youthful desire to do things and cultivate these kind of contacts for for this one reason: when this person will finally make it, he/she will know that you’ve been with him/her through the difficult moments of self-doubt when the success wasn’t yet visible. Surely you should also chase the big players and learn from them, as their experience is very valuable and can help you not to do the mistakes their did. Most often, however, their fire of curiosity has been burned out. They made it, you still have not. Buddy up with those people who understand your current situation and go through the same (It’s also less intimidating). You will be surprised that you are not an isolated case.
You become a product of your environment. If you stay still, eventually, you will no longer know who you used to be.
All is people
Entrepreneurs need to surround themselves with the most extraordinary people they can find – whether it’s co-founders, mentors, family or friends. I need people around me who will challenge me and make me better, thereby raising my average or helping me maintain my motivation. Striving for perfection and self-doubt it’s a pretty killing mixture and cut wings of many aspiring entrepreneurs. I’m not giving up that easily.
If you’re always the smartest person around (or think you are one) then you’re hurting yourself. You want to surround yourself with people who can run circles around you in as many areas as possible, people who are exponentially better in a variety of ways. Nobody can be good in everything, so instead of wasting our time into dealing with something you can’t or don’t like doing, leave it to the experts.
Mark Zuckenberg wasn’t an orchestra man either. Maybe he was a good programmer but he lacked everything else needed to succeed – especially social skills. He wouldn’t be where is is today if he didn’t:
- hire Sean Parker as President.
- hire Stephen Venuto as Corporate Counsel.
- hire Matt Cohler as Facebook’s first business executive.
- sold Facebook stock to Peter Thiel (10.2% stake acquired in 2004 for $500,000)
Later talent acquisitions and hiring Sheryl Sandberg (a bit phony but definitely effective) as COO helped significantly. People make all the difference in the world. And Zuck, at a very early age, surrounded himself with the best. Everything else followed from that.
Unfollow (out of politeness), unfriend, unfollow, unfriend, unfriend, unfollow…
In my gymnasium and high school years, I was immersed with people who thought they know what they want and those, who were of pretty low consciousnesses.
It’s funny but over those few years after graduating from school, those classmates who were hanging around in courtyards and causing problems, stayed there. They found themselves working as kitchen chefs in the restaurants (no disgrace in it, just not my social target), driving trucks, being shop assistants – its manager at best.
These are people I know, but are not my close friends. Not because I feel superior. On the contrary. I know that no job is too humble and it takes a lot of guts to do these menial jobs. I was trying to do them while at uni and more or less after a month or two, I was either quitting or being fired with the speed of light.
I just don’t have much in common with these people. My world view and life priorities are much different. I know I would be unhappy living their life, but I know that they may be perfectly fine with what they do and where they are. Maybe I am perceived as a cold, mercenary bitch by my same age girl friends (certainly by some of my “well-wishing” aunties), as I still haven’t managed to lock a husband or activate children production line. (FYI: I want and will have 3 children, a dog, a cat and a great husband who will obviously plant a tree next to our villa) In any case, I don’t care what others say as long as I’m true to myself. I prefer making conscious choices instead.
We associate subjects and put labels on people whom we know.
First impression is always the most important, but we should stray from judging a person on their capabilities without knowing them better.
I am usually very careful with judging people and do not do it by the cover, but it takes very little glimpses of their stupidity for me to lose an interest in the conversation and seek elsewhere.
For those who know me, I know I’m the first point of thought/contact for executing crazy ideas (nothing is too crazy), motivation, start-ups and innovative technology related things, organising events and providing good time to the people I care about, negotiating better deals, finding discounts/vouchers, parties, travelling and bold decision-making. I am very open minded and I am a ‘Miss Yes’ to everything which I find amusing and new. I build my reputation by sharing (in my opinion) quality things and thoughts, which can be of use to others (either taken directly or as a motivational stimuli to prove me wrong). I try to showcase my expertise, and when I lack it, I work out my networking skills to connect a person with someone who may help. Pay it forward kind of thing.
In the past I’ve got many business opportunities (and most importantly – good contacts) just because somebody whom I helped in the past recommended me to their friend / or friend of a friend. Which brings us to concept of the…
6 degrees of separation
I am a 2nd degree connection on LinkedIn with Barack Obama (the account is managed by White House), which means that I have some influential people in my circle (I try not to thoughtlessly add contacts on my LinkedIn so I tend to have valuable connections), but I have not had a chance nor I’m ready to meet and offer value to people like him, Barraco Barner.
One day I will know influential people like him personally, without feeling inferior. Maybe I won’t do it in a cruel a’la Frank from the House Of Cards (which character I simply adore) but I will work out my ways to get deserved recognition.
If concept of 6 degrees of separation assumes that we are separated from anyone in this world in no more than 6 levels, then we should ask ourselves why we don’t focus on cultivating friendships with people who want to better themselves and always reach higher and instead, we favour a mind inertia. If I want to be around influential and accomplished society, it would be natural for me to act as one (≠faking), be conscious of my limitations and learn from the best.
I sometimes wonder (but waste for it only few moments) how my life would look like if I didn’t decide to quit my university in Poland after one year and come to London to continue my studies. Even the slightest change would have significant butterfly effect on the shape of my life today. But if I had done something in different way, I wouldn’t have been who I am today. I don’t regret any minute of my life – because I love where I am now and who I have around. I don’t even regret helping people who didn’t deserve my help (besides, it would be a waste of my energy to hold grudges).
D is for Douchebag
You (almost) never know if the person whom you chose to be friend with (or a business partner) is not going to f*ck you up. I totally get it when big $$ comes into play. Lots of great business partners departed their ways, music bands broke because the lead singer decided to go solo, families split embittered due to the family member’s last will.
There is a Latin saying Homo homini lupus (“A man is a wolf to [his fellow] man”) but I believe that people are good by nature so I tend to help anyone, no matter the social status or background.
Sometimes, however, people screw their relationship with others who want only good things for them. They do to it out of their stupidity, complexes and insular thinking.
Few years ago I had a friend in Poland (whom, at that time thought to be my one of the best, closest friends), whom I knew he was living a lie due to his sexual orientation. He felt tamed, chose ‘suggested’ studies instead of what he really wanted to do in his life. He needed to be dragged out of this inertia, and I thought I can be of help. In the end, he was calling for help loudly and clearly. At that time I was already living in London for few years so I was well rounded. He was still in Poland, just failed his 4th year at uni and had no idea for himself. I invited him to stay with me for few days, paid for his flight tickets and tried to show the greatness around. He really loved it and when he came back home, we decided to help him to transfer to London. After few months of unnecessary hesitation, he finally arrived.
Through my connections, I found him a job so he didn’t need to worry about money. I let him stay with me in the same room (initially he was supposed to stay few weeks till he found some place, but in the end he stayed few months). I told him all the savvy tricks and introduced him to my friends, so he didn’t feel an outsider.
I saw incredible creativity and talent in him. I wanted to help him to get into London College of Fashion. I wanted to be that tough but understanding Miranda, pushing him to reach higher. I always demand from people a lot, but not as much as from myself (no one would take it well :). I wanted to disinterestedly share my life with him, out of pure joy. He was calling us a happy Mariage blanc. People around me were telling me that D. often behaves selfishly, but I was trying to ignore it. Live and let live.
I was as caring as he was letting me, involving him in my successes and failures and motivating him to demand more from himself and balance his constant sexual escapades (Hey, he was finally a free bird with the social concession). Time was passing by, I was making lots of changes in my life (for the better), new job, new travels, new people met…
I guess he couldn’t take it. His limited reality crashed (it was his limited thinking fault) and he decided to eliminate me from his life. For the reason he said: You are like an overdose to the junkie (that’s quite poetic actually, so thank you D.) as I’m always very energetic and full of life. He told me off with the worst to feel better himself.
At that time it hurt. I even cried for losing him. But now I see that he only flattered me.
Yes, I am fucked up (positively), I am on constant energy kick because I live my life to the fullest and I always try to give the same to others.
(D. I hope you are well. I know you cut yourself from people who wanted more out of you and left those who are in the same stagnant/or worst position than you, so you can feel strong.)
Pay it forward.
So I guess my advice would be, leave your featureless acquaintances and toxic family members in the sandbox, let them destroy each other and instead, build your dream castles with people who are going in the same direction as you. That does not equal to making mercenary “friends”. I despise people who seek interest and surround themselves with people who may serve a purpose (I guess you know who I’m talking about). Life is always about giving & taking, that’s correct. But the beauty of reciprocity rule is that everybody wants to payback with good, even if you don’t ask for it.
The more gratuitously you share, the more people want to have something in common with you and praise you to others.
Go on, show off
WM Homer pointed out that the person who doesn’t argue with a self-proclaimed authority, but instead apologetically asks a “naive” question that is perfectly designed to expose the fallacy in the logic or the faulty premise behind the argument.
Smart-ass words, but what does it really mean? For me, it means being humble and knowing your value, without falling in the trap of The Rule of Authority. If you know that you are a kick ass in something, show it. If you don’t – shut your mouth and turn on your social consciousness.
That’s why I also don’t see the point of e.g. taking pictures with famous people, if behind that scene doesn’t lay any special connection (You’ve “met”, your conversation/monologue was limited to “I admire your work, can I have a photo/signature with you Mr X?”).
Why? Simply they don’t give a shit about you and you are not any different from the mass queuing to stand cheek by cheek. You are that flash face which is not linked to any story these recognised people can relate and refer to.
Who are you trying to impress anyway? Your same level mediocre friends? The real deal people won’t get impressed at all. They will find it trivial. I would rather get out of their way and not waste any time, if I wasn’t sure that I can actually give value to their life e.g share original insight about their work, etc.
And, as Josh Manson pointed out, simply not falling into common traps can be a big clue. Over time, the people who don’t say anything to indicate that they’re especially smart, but never say anything dumb or get stuck on the losing side of an argument, are probably smarter than they want you to think they are.
Wisdom is humble and is shown in the right moments.
You are in the inferior position in the end, you need to build the rapport by giving something valuable. Most great relationships are symbiotic, whereby people bring out the best in one another. What can you bring to other people’s lives to help them without adding noise?
Always be true to yourself.
Don’t mistake choosing the right people around you with faking friendship while having hidden agenda.
Here’s the truth:
Dishonesty works…until it doesn’t. Everyone messes up and when you are dishonest, you are given only one chance and then it’s over. You’re out of the game—at least until you get your act straight and you have to start from scratch with your tail between your legs.
No matter what happens in your bank account, in your career, in your love life, in your start-ups. Honesty compounds exponentially, not over days or weeks, but years and decades. More people trust your word and spread the news that you are a person to be sought out, sought after, given opportunity, given help, or given money. I know that this is what will build my empire – around ambitious, positive, happy and innovation seeking people.
Cause hey, the people you spend the most time with make you. You are their average.
Wait a minute… what was your name?