How The People Around You Affect Personal Success

Recently I sat down with a new friend I met for dinner. We talked about what it takes to achieve the goals you want to achieve in life. My friend is already a very accomplished marketing professional. And yet, there was lots more she wanted to do. One conclusion I kept coming back to in this talk is that a large amount of how successful you will be in life comes down to the people you spend time with.

Image remixed from Leremy

This is why:

‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.' Jim Rohn

This quote is one of the most powerful ones that I keep reminding myself over and over again. I am the average of the five people I spend the most time with. Others around myself determine how I think, how I act, and ultimately how successful I will be.

Fighting your way through the law of average: The sower and the reaper

This video from Jim Rohn is amazing. In short: You'll face many struggles along the way if you are seeking success and happiness. If you are the sower, your seeds will get picked up by the birds first and won't give a return. Then they will fall on shallow ground, leaving you with nothing again. Then they will fall on thorny ground and the sun will shine so hot that your small plant will die after the first day. No return either.

Then, one day, the seeds will fall on good ground and finally give you the expected return and success. The only way you can make sure that you will fight your way through this hardship is with the right people by your side.

Who are the people you spend time with?

It doesn't matter how smart you are. It doesn't matter how talented you are, which skills you have, where you are born, or which family you came from. All that counts if you want to be successful in life is the people you surround yourself with.

It's a notion so simple, yet so difficult to get started with. Something I tried to do very specifically is this exercise:

  • Who are the 5 people in your life that you spend time with? As in, if your day has 24 hours, how many of those hours are spent with which people. (I'm guessing amongst people will be some members of your family, your spouse, co-workers and some close friends.) Write those 5 people on a piece of paper. (It's ok if they are less than 5.)
  • Once you have a list of those 3-5 people, ask yourself this: Who are they? What do they do with their lives? How ambitious are they, how successful have they been, how happy, optimistic, and enthusiastic are they?
  • Evaluate carefully if those people will really be those that will help you get to the next level you want to get to. Do they push you forward when you come to them with new ideas, no matter what? Or do they tell you that what you have in mind won't work? Will they keep you going once the birds pick up your seeds, once your seeds fall on shallow or thorny ground?
  • Make a choice of who in your list you want to continue spending time with. Don't be afraid if none or only 1 or 2 amongst your 5 people today meet the standard of excellence you want to set for yourself. Keep going, decrease the time you spend, and increase the amount of time you keep your eyes looking for people that you want to have as one of your 5 closest people.

It's OK to end up with this:

"Since last you heard from me, I lost some friends, well, heh, me and Snoop we're dippin' again." ~ Dr. Dre (Still D.R.E.)

Don't be afraid to lose some friends, support from your family, or anything else if that means you start surrounding yourself with the right people. Instead of becoming the average of some average people, dip with the best.

The people I spend time with

I believe I'm someone who took longer than most people to understand this concept. I clung onto relationships with people far too long. All of them were great people, people I respect like I want to respect every other human being. Yet, I always knew these are not the people that are dying to be incredibly successful, incredibly happy, and doing no matter what it takes to chase their dreams.

Gradually I learnt this, working my way to spend less and less time with them. Today, the people I spend time with are just 2 people. Joel and Tom. They are most likely the smartest people I have ever worked with before. Both have a focus and determination I'm constantly blown away by. I cling onto their enthusiasm, try to learn from their skillset as much as I can and get myself lifted onto the next level: purely by being in the same room with them.

There is no one else I spend as much time with as Joel and Tom. 90% of my daily interaction happens with these two guys. The power they have is therefore incredible. I'm highly influenced and seek to be from them and their input. I know, because of their actions, experience, and daily work, the only impact this can have on me is a positive one. It is pushing me higher and onto the next level every day.

I'm the average of Tom and Joel.

Whether you want it or not, I believe this is how it works. The people you spend the most time with make you. You are their average. Do you think that's true?

The people you spend time with [Leo starts up]

Leo Widrich is the co-founder of Buffer, a smarter way to share on Twitter and Facebook. Leo writes more posts on efficiency and customer happiness over on the Buffer blog. Hit him up on Twitter @LeoWid anytime; he is a super nice guy.


    I'd hate to be an aged care worker then.

    There is a certain logic to this. However, it feels quite limited. The people you spend time with enable your success but they do not define it. I am an introvert and spend the majority of my time either alone or with my immediate family. I see my friends sometimes and my colleagues sometimes but they do not influence my choice of job, education, career or anything else except at the smallest margins. Nevertheless I have achieved everything I want in my career, everything I want in my relationships. I am a firm believer in balance - success if achieving what I want to achieve, not how much money I make or how big my house is or what job title I have. The further you take your career the less you get out of your social life, your family, your experiences of life. Efficiency helps you achieve more, that's why I read lifehacker. But it's easy to be more efficient and still be a rat just turning the wheel faster.

    Maybe this all makes sense to extraverts who need to draw energy from others. Or maybe I just don't get it.

    Definitely true. I've never been so successful as I have been with certain key people in my life (of which I have none right now, having been dumped by the most recent of the three as a friend about a y ear ago).

    Unfortunately, the same people with high success factors also tend to have, ahem, "issues", which mean that it's unlikely they'll want ANY of the same people around for long term. They seem to run through friends like I run calendars -- new year, time to find some new ones and dump the old ones I've gotten all I can out of, or whatever.

    Just a warning that people with high success factors also tend to have high "user" factors.

    And regarding the poster of, "the further you take your career the less you get out of your social life" isn't quite true if your social circle are a bunch of geeks that you have LOTS of fun with. Social-life-outside-of-work suffering, yeah, I'll buy it. But that isn't highly important to those who get their social needs met by socializing with workmates after hours.

    this article really made me rethink the reasons I have for hanging out with the people I do. it seems like it should be easy to surround one's self with quality people who will consistently push you to the next level and create an environment that will nuture one's "up-and-coming" potential , which will Inevitably benefit the spiritual aspects of our lives and work ethic aspects of our careers.

    When did it become okay, no wait, desireable to choose your friends based on how they influence how 'profesionally succesful' they make you? This site honestly makes me sick to read, is there any way to make it dissapear from the bottom of the Gizmodo and Kotaku sites by any chance? I know I shouldn't click, but it's like watching a disaster occur, you can't draw your eyes away, you need to confirm it's actually happening.

    I understand the notion of spending time with people that motivate, support and inspire you. You know, the real go-getters that make you go 'wow, I should really get my ass into gear to be successful like them'. But at the same time - to give advice about decreasing the time you spend with your current friends, evening cutting them out entirely is utter bullshit.

    Does it ever occur to you that if everyone around you worked this way, everyone that you are seeking to befriend would then ditch you in search of someone even more successful?

    The idea of friendship and family is support regardless of circumstance. If you don't have that, you have shit friends. If you don't provide that to the ones around you, then you sir, are the shit friend.

    This isn't what the parable (story) is about at all!

    The seeds in the story represent Jesus' message and the places where the seed lands represent the people that hear the message - some will fall on a hard surface and be snatched away immediately- the idea never takes hold. Some will grow quickly in the rocky ground, but will have shallow roots and be scorched by the sun (circumstances stop the idea). Some will fall amongst other weeds (thorns, and bad company) and even though it grows, will be choked by those around it. Other seed falls on the good soil. This seed grows and produces 1000 times what was put into it.

    I like the keep going message in this. However, I also like the optimism. The sower keeps sowing in the hope of getting good soil- but he doesn't deny the chance of the path, the rocky soil or the thorny soil of producing good stuff. To go back to the video- there is no point looking only for good soil- you have no idea that 'John' will get got by the birds before you talk to him!

    AK mentioned that concept of the s**t friend- I agree. You should aim for a triangle- be mentored or influenced by someone 'above' you. (someone older, wiser) you should in turn be that mentor for someone younger. and also, you should have a peer that you can walk the journey with, who will share it with you and you with them.

    Well that's a good way to end up with no friends at all.
    It may work well if you associate with lots of people most of the time as they are probably ever-changing but if its a small group - you just lost any help your friends were ever prepared to give you.

    So... How does it feel to be the one pulling down Tom and Joel's average..?

    I have long lived with a variation of this idea - 'you become like the people you associate with' - and I take that in a way that means I avoid people I don't respect. For example, there was one friend I had who I realised lied all the time so I decided to stay away from her because I want to be honest and surrounded by honest people.

    I don't see it as a nasty thing that will lose you friends (although it could be used that way like many other ideas). Choosing a friend who inspires and supports me doesn't mean I have to choose soemone who is rich or high powered - the support and encouragement can come from people of all sorts. It just means don't hang around with people who steal your dreams, make you feel bad or stifle you in some way.

    And if you steal others' dreams, perhaps losing friends isn't about them following a nasy path but about you looking to see if you are being the sort of friend you respect and want to be.

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