Product of Your Environment? How the Company You Keep Determines Your Growth and Success
The other day I was speaking to a friend late at night. The subject of the conversation was; what does it really take to attain success and everything you want out of life? I’ve known this person for close to four years now and I can honestly say he is one of the smartest and most perceptive people I have ever met… and as expected he said something profound that I’ve been mauling over since our conversation.
I’m fairly sure you have heard that famous John Rohn statement,
‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’
It’s a statement I have heard severally but never really took into account until my friend told me that one of the most overlooked factors for achieving success is the people you choose to surround yourself with, that they play a significant role in your character, your ambitions… and ultimately how successful you will be.
Whether you realize it or not, the company you keep plays a huge role in who you are. Think about any period in your life when you were introduced to a totally new crowd, for example, when you transferred schools, or joined boarding school, or moved to a different city… Didn’t you adopt the new place’s slang, mannerisms, popular way of dressing, even their perceptions of various issues?
Yes it’s much easier to be influenced by your environment as a kid but do not for a second assume that as a young adult or a grown up you are impervious, because I assure you that you are not.
Spend enough time in any crowd and you are bound to pick up a trait, a habit, a point of view… or two. Coupled with your own thoughts, habits, mannerisms… what you pick up from the people around you integrates to determine who you become, what character you have, what thoughts you have, and what perceptions you have of the world.
You may argue that you are a conscious, intelligent, and self-aware individual who is not easily swayed by the crowd and this may all be true. But if you are constantly in an environment where you are surrounded by pessimistic, fear-based people, it is bound to impact your own confidence in yourself and the possibility of your dreams, therefore, slowing down your progression.
However, if you surround yourself with confident, optimistic, and insanely ambitious people, you are bound to pick up on their confidence, which will influence you to fiercely believe in the possibility of your own visions and follow them through to the end.
It quite simple, if you are spending time with people who are holding you back, you will lag behind, if you are spending time with people who are fueling the fire in your soul, you will thrive… Its ‘simple mathematics’, so to speak.
The purpose of this article is to demonstrate to you how the company you surround yourself with affects you, how you are drawn into them, and how it determines whether you will succeed or fail in the long run.
WHY YOU ARE THE COMPANY YOU KEEP
When you were younger it’s is highly likely that your parents/guardian warned you to be careful about whom you’re spending your time with, even going as far as telling you which kids not to spend time with, right? This was not simply because of the perception society would have on us but also because of the impact that our friends would have on us.
In my opinion, the perception of society on your character should be a lesser worry, because they could be wrong anyway and you can’t walk around worrying about what people think about you, that’s their business. Of more concern is the impact that the people you surround yourself with impact your character.
‘Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most all, surround yourself with those who see greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.’ – Steve Jobs
Each day has 24 hours and of the 24, we spend an average of 10 hours with other people and in most cases unless you’re travelling, you spend time with the same people. In the hours you spend with others, most of it is spent engaging one another in conversation. Through these conversations you will pick up schools of thought, perceptions, character traits… even simple habits such as hand gestures, voice intonations, body postures…
This may all sound so harmless and you may be thinking that you’re own character is strong enough to repel such subtle influences but observational learning has been defined to be a mode of learning where you learn through observing others. So while you may notice it, you may find yourself taking a similar posture to your best friend’s.
If your best friend is a very confident person you will find yourself being more confident whenever you take up his posture, if he is not very confident you will find yourself feeling less confident whenever you take up his posture.
Whether it is apparent to you or not, who you are as a person drifts towards the direction of the people you spend the most time with because all important traits are contagious… your beliefs, values, mood, attitude, mannerisms, habits… You become exactly what you surround yourself with, it is a human inevitability that you will be influenced by your surroundings, which is why it is important to choose who you surround yourself very carefully.
I remember a period in my life when I began surrounding myself with people whose character I admired. Smart people who were interested in books and growing their knowledge on numerous subjects, people who were interested in learning new concepts, who were not interested in being the conventional cool kids (even though that’s exactly what made them cool to me) and suddenly my view of the world expanded and there were all these possibilities, there were no limits. I was challenged to be more like that and as a result I pushed myself… and I thrived, I was happy with what I had become.
Later in the second stage of my education, what I like to term as ‘teenage rebellion’ kicked in and I abandoned that environment and joined a rebellious crowd… I can’t explain how or why, I really don’t have an answer. But with this crowd the world was small, fueled by fleeting pleasures, like sneaking out of boarding school to get snacks we couldn’t get inside school, skipping study periods to play cards…
This world was closed up, there were no ambitions for the future, there were funny conversations but none stimulating, you know the kind that fires you up inside and challenges you? In the midst of all our escapades I almost got myself expelled but luckily for me I realized that we were heading nowhere fast and I decided to go back to what felt honestly meaningful to me. I sought the company of books and the company of people whose characters I could genuinely say I admired and could learn something from.
I don’t mean to bore you with my teenage rebellion stories, I’m certain you have yours too… it’s a stage of life that most of us go through I suppose. The point was simply to illustrate how different crowds will affect the kind of people we become in the long run. It is inevitable that the people you choose to spend the most time with will eventually rub off on you, and you will assimilate. Who you choose to spend time with will determine the path you will end up taking and their influence will ripple through all aspects of your life.
One of our most fundamental needs as human beings is to be accepted, to belong, to be loved. We are always looking to make connections. But what connections are worth the effort? Each and every one of us desires to be prosperous and successful, but this can never happen if you are surrounding yourself with the wrong people. Make it a priority of yours to seek the company of ambitious people, and trust me, there is no shortage of those… you will find them as long as you’re looking
Everything of worth ever built began with the idea of an ambitious person who was determined to see his vision through to the end. You don’t even have to become best friends with each ambitious person you come across, you can simply engage them and learn what you can from them, learn how they think and how they perceive the world… even if for a moment, it will not be a waste of time.
Now I am not encouraging the discrimination of any person who is different from you. If you happen to cross paths with a person who wants to pick up a few traits from you, you should under no circumstance dismiss them. There was a time you could have used a hand yourself in finding your path, let them feed off of your passion and ambition, there’s more than enough to go around… don’t be selfish.
All I’m saying is, be very cautious who your biggest influences are, be watchful and avoid drifting in an environment filled with people who compromise your growth as a person and the development of your dreams and ambitions.
HOW YOUR COMPANY DETERMINES YOUR SUCCESS OR FAILURE
I believe you are in agreement that the people you surround yourself with play a key role in whether you become successful or not. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are, whether you were born into money, or even where you were born…
Let’s go by John Rohn’s theory, and under the assumption that you spend an average of 10 hours every day with other people. These people could be family members, a spouse, co-workers, or friends. Whoever they are, note down the 5 people you spend the most time with.
Ask yourself what you want from life; what level of success do you want to reach? Then ask yourself what each of these 5 individuals want from life, how ambitious are they? Are they making significant efforts towards their goals? Do their ambitions and efforts challenge you to better yourself? How happy are they? How enthusiastic are they? How supportive are they? Do they believe in you?…
Answer these questions as honestly as you can, evaluate each one of these people carefully and determine if they are helping push you to the next level of your destination. Evaluate and determine if they are helping you bring your vision to fruition or deterring you from progressing. Once you have determined who is a positive influence to you and your goals then continue to spend time with them and distance yourself who is unhealthy for you.
I know it is a difficult move to make and it doesn’t mean that you stop being friends or spending any amount of time with the ones you eliminate, it is simply removing their influence from your life because it is holding you back. It is simply seeking company that will mold you into the person your goals need you to be. It is being true to yourself and what you want out of life, which reminds me of a short statement I stumbled upon recently… ‘There is nothing selfish about doing what’s right for you.’
However, note that during this process, it is not necessary for the people you choose to keep to be successful themselves. They just have to have a positive influence in your life, they just have to challenge you because they are dreamers who are working towards their own goals, they just have to believe in you and your dreams, they just have to accept you for who you are, encourage you, and inspire you to do the things it takes to accomplish your goals.
Remember it’s about who you are around them and how they make you feel every time you encounter them. And if you have this kind of company, you will drive each other towards success, it’s just a matter of time, don’t let those ones go.
Let’s look at what key aspects the people around you heavily influence, aspects that may very well be the determinant of whether you eventually succeed or fail.
Friends will commonly bond by giving one another the support to resist their vices/temptations. However, friends will also bond by encouraging one another to indulge in vices. For example, consider a habit such as smoking, when resisting the temptation once you have decided to quit, it is highly likely that you will indulge if your friend decides to ‘just have one’ and from there it’s a snowball effect back to indulgence all over again.
You are highly likely to act like the people you choose to surround yourself with. Surround yourself with people who consistently make poor decisions and you will find yourself eventually making similar decisions. On the other hand, surround yourself with people who challenge and inspire you to better yourself and you increase your chances of attaining your goals.
If you are struggling with your will power and discipline, surround yourself with people who have already mastered a high level of discipline in order to boost your own. Discipline is absolutely necessary for any kind of accomplishment, big or small. When you surround yourself with undisciplined and inconsistent people you will eventually begin to allow yourself to slack off because they make it all look so easy and, let’s be honest, it’s much easier to slack off than to push through your schedule when you are not in the mood.
Seek out people with an insane level of self-control/will-power and keep them close, this could very well be the secret to success. Whether you are feeing tempted to skip exercising at the gym or you are tempted to spend the week’s budget in a day or to skip a particular work session, having disciplined individuals around you will boost your motivation and willpower, helping you to stay focused on the bigger picture and eventually enabling you to master your own discipline.
As mentioned before, your company doesn’t need to have already attained success or even share similar goals. Your closest companions may not know too much detail about your passion, but they need to be people who cheer you on in your quest to see your vision come to fruition. For example, if you are planning to become an author, your best friend doesn’t necessarily have to have an interest in writing but he can engage you by asking you how your novel is coming along.
When the company you keep is encouraging and shows genuine delightment in your progress, you will be motivated to keep up with your project. However, if you surround yourself with people who constantly put you down or who are always making sarcastic or demeaning remarks about your ambitions you might end up feeling discouraged, which will stall the progress of you growth and in a worst case scenario, lead to the failure of what would have possibly been a great success.
Great advice can save you a lot of time, money, and effort in your quest to achieve your goals. If you are fortunate enough to have a close companion or companions who has expertise in your field of interest and who is more than willing to give you guidance, this is the kind of person you should keep close.
For example, assume you are starting a marketing company, it would be much better for the achievement of this goal to surround yourself with individuals who share similar passions or who are already established in the same field. If you are passionate about writing, seek out authors or people who share similar interests, with whom you can consult with and exchange advice and ideas.
Note that although your closest companions may be encouraging and supportive of your vision, practical support is invaluable for the achievement of your goals, it may be the determining factor of whether you end up succeeding or failing.
Actual guidance from the people who are capable of practically guide you, advising you on how to avoid common mistakes, recommending the best approaches towards your vision… offers you a higher chance of success. However, practical support can also come in other forms, for example, a friend who regularly watches your 5-year-old as you burn the midnight candle.
So I do not mean completely abandon any good company that doesn’t share your passion, I just mean spending more time with people who share your interest or who are already established in that field will enable you to reach your goal faster, while spending more time with who do not may stunt your growth.
If your friends are indeed good genuine friends, they will give you the space and support necessary to pursue your own ambitions as they are also pursuing their own.
Shape the direction of your life by carefully selecting the people you surround yourself with today. Begin by determining your own ambitions, what do you want out of life? Determine what kind of person you need to be to attain exactly that, then honestly examine the people you spend the most time with and determine whether they are good for the person you need to be. Are they pushing you towards your goals or are they dragging you down?
Choose to reduce contact with anyone who is not encouraging your vision and increase contact with people who encourage and support you to be the person you need to be to reach your goals. Choose to spend time with people who already possess the qualities you wish to master.
For example, if your goal is to get into better physical shape by shedding off some weight, spend more time with people who take care of their own physical well-being and this will motivate you to keep at it. If you spend more time with people who do not care for their physical well-being, you will be demotivated to care for your own and indulge in the same unhealthy habits that put you in a not-so-healthy state to start with.
If you want to start your own business, avoid spending time with pessimistic people and expose yourself to dreamers, enthusiastic and ambitious individuals who are determined to achieve their own dreams. If you spend more time with these driven high-energy individuals you will find yourself feeling increasingly ambitious and motivated to go for it. Am I right?
Now, there is a second side to this coin. As much as other people are influencing you, do not forget that you are also influencing the lives of others. Ask yourself; are you a good companion/friend? Are you a healthy person to be around? Are you motivational, supportive, encouraging?… Are you a positive influence t those around you?
Make sure that you are the best influence that you can be to those around you and ensure that you offer the best guidance, advice, and practical support to anyone who seeks it from you. Remember there is nothing wrong with doing what’s right for you, but you can’t just take all the time, you have to make time to give. Be a good example, who knows, maybe the people around just needed a little shove to transform themselves and position themselves for greatness.
I hope our discussion has opened your eyes to the impact that our closest companions have on us and how they determine whether we reach the heights of success that we desire or not. It’s not easy to make a decision on which friends to keep close and which ones to distance yourself from, but has anything worth doing ever been?