If you’re into self-development, you’ve probably heard the phrase “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” It comes from the late Jim Rohn and has also been popularized by Tim Ferriss. It may sound cliché or even obvious to you, but its importance cannot be overstated.
Although you may not fully agree with the language from a philosophical standpoint, the gist of Rohn’s maxim is that you should be conscious of who you surround yourself with. You may not have had a choice in who you spent your time with growing up, but if you’re reading this, you do have a choice now.
Consider the circle of friends you regularly hang out with. Do they have a life purpose? Are they dreamers or are they doers? Have they even changed since high school? No matter the answers to those questions, chances are they apply to you too. If your best friends don’t have a life purpose, you probably don’t either. If your best friends are just dreamers, you’re probably just a dreamer as well. If your best friends haven’t changed since high school, you probably haven’t changed much either. That’s why your “inner circle” ought to be selective, as Aristotle implies in his Nicomachean Ethics. It’s better to have a small circle of driven friends than a large circle of mediocre friends.
In your day-to-day interactions, you’re not just “taking,” you’re also “giving.” The traits and qualities you glean from ambitious, hard-working people will not only benefit you, but they’ll go on to positively influence other people. When you surround yourself with people who push you to succeed, you’ll in turn push others to succeed as well. But the converse is true too: when you surround yourself with people who live life on autopilot, you’ll in turn project that vibe onto others as well.
All this does not mean that you should cut contact with any and every person who doesn’t influence your career ambitions or doesn’t actively make you a better person though. People are not expendable components, they’re human beings. If someone actively drags you down, only then is it necessary to consider cutting ties with them. But otherwise, don’t do it.
You only get one shot at this life. Don’t sell yourself short by keeping poor company. Show me your close friends, and I’ll show you who you are. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.