This age-old saying, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” is typically used in the context of financial wealth. The assumption is that if the five people you spend the most time with are each worth $1 million, average of ($1 million x 5)/ 5 = YOU. Yes, I kept the math very simple mostly because I didn’t want to do it (lol).
However! Some people seem to take this expression quite literally, and turn a blind eye to a more important component of the make-up of your social group other than monetary success… Character.
Throughout my life I have worked with people in executive positions, knowing that if I show up for them, I can get to their status one day. Conversely, I have worked with people in lower-grade positions, knowing that if I show up for them, I can be as generous as them one day.
Now, I ask you… Which is better? Of course the answer is the latter, but sometime the latter is hard to come by. So what do you prioritize? I’ll leave that up to you but just remember that a dollar figure may equal income but it does not equal character.
I think about this concept as I think about the five people I surround myself with most often on a daily/ weekly/ monthly basis. Who are these people? What would their association mean for my personal wealth? What about what it means for my personal character? Do all of these people belong? If not, how can I change my circle?
These are questions I truly do reflect on periodically and throughout the years I have distanced myself from some circles and associated myself (often uncomfortably) with others for the better.
Two personal examples are those of friends and work colleagues at previous jobs.
Once in a while I would get lunch with a girl who loved to gossip. She always wanted attention and to talk about herself, so I would get lunch and appease her in this regard. After while I began to ask myself these simple questions about the relationship. If I am associating myself with someone who never asks about me, always talks about themselves and, even worse, only has negative things to say about others, what am I? Using this concept of “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” I would say this person was dragging my average down (regardless of income). So, let’s just say I no longer agree to lunch anymore.
Another example can be seen in work environments. One commonality many of us share is that of the work environment and its competitiveness. It is no fallacy that those who have close associations with one another, move up with one another. I have worked in environments where I pretended to be someone else because I knew that would be the way to fit in and move up in company status. After a while, I realized, yes, the status and income of the people I am surrounded by might move me up the ladder but did I ever consider their character in choosing this association? We cannot pick and choose to average their monetary income, only! No! Character must also be computed into that average, so again I ask you, “Are these people who you want to be like in five years? Are these people you admire?” That can be a tough question to answer when you reflect on your own actions and those you choose to surround yourself with. After having concluded I did NOT want to be like those I was most frequently surrounded by, again, REGARDLESS of income, I went on a search to find a new environment.
This is my final suggestion, then. Find an environment in which you are surrounded by those you genuinely admire. Ask yourself, “Is this person who I want to be like and where I want to be five years from now?” or even “Is this someone I want to have in my circle five years from now?” In this quest, consider their character, their business and their value in your life. This is a time to be very selfish because you do not have an obligation to show up for ANYONE but yourself. The people you surround yourself with is your choice and your choice alone.
Personal or professional… Improve your environment. Improve your average. Improve your life.