If you’re like me and you study the stories of successful people, you may have noticed a common thread: They all surround themselves with other successful people. To be sure, it’s no coincidence that big thinkers, risk takers and innovators often spend their time with others who have achieved similar success. They know in order to push themselves and stay in a constant state of growth, they must surround themselves with people who think and move at the same speed as them.
The business philosopher Jim Rohn said we are “the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” If you unpack that statement, you’ll find an important nugget of truth: The conscious decision to surround yourself with the right people is one of the most powerful tools for personal and professional growth.
When I think about this statement, I envision being in a “lane” with others around me who are traveling at the same speed, in the same direction, and approaching and avoiding obstacles in the same way. Whether we realize it or not, the people in our lane – i.e. the people we surround ourselves with – collectively help set the course and speed for one another by the things we talk about, the ideas we share, the feedback we give and receive, and the way we approach our day, just to name a few. We take cues from those around us, and by social osmosis, end up seeing and analyzing the world in the way others around us do, whether we realize it or not.
So if you’re in the process of making a big change or want to adopt a growth-focused mindset, consider taking a close look at the “lane” you choose to travel in. Evaluate whether it suits who you want to be and where you want to go. Spend time listening to the ideas of those around you and the specific words they use to communicate them. Take stock of the exact topics you discuss. Do they have similar aspirations for growth as you? Do you talk with them about big ideas or the little problems that get in the way? Are you encouraged to embrace the stuggle that’s an inherent part of growth, or shy away from challenges? Do they support you taking calculated risks, or are you cautioned against pursuing uncertain opportunities?
Listen carefully to the answers to these questions. If we are in fact the product of the people around us, your efforts to make and meet new goals or to grow at a different speed may require you to move to a different lane. In other words, if we are the average of our peers, staying in your current lane may cause you to become accustomed to a certain mindset that won’t adequately prepare you – or, worse, will outright prevent you– from realizing the kind of professional growth you desire.
If you do decide that you’re being held back, don’t be afraid to make the tough decision to transition to a different lane. To be clear, I’m not suggesting you completely ditch your friends or proclaim yourself too enlightened to spend any time with your normal crew. Having the input of family and friends in times of change is very critical.
But here’s what I am suggesting: If it is your sincere goal to achieve big things, consciously surround yourself with people who are in the same lane you want to be in. Structure your day such that you are spending as much time as you can watching, listening and learning from them. Seek advice from mentors and peers who understand what you want, and who have worked through similar challenges themselves. Align yourself with those who can give you constructive feedback, based on experience. It’s these relationships that will help propel you forward.
So as you approach a new challenge or find yourself in the middle of a big change, remember the people around you have a critical influence on your growth. If you surround yourself with others that are traveling in the lane you want to be in, you’re that much closer to achieving your goal.