Who Are Your 5 People?

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This weekend I’ll be heading to Phoenix (current temperature: 1,000,000 degrees) for the annual convention of my colleagues in the National Speakers Association, followed by a week with my mastermind group in Denver. (For the record, there are a couple of speaking engagements sprinkled in there as well.) I’m greatly looking forward to both of these events (except for the aforementioned blistering heat) because it gives me a chance to spend time with some of the most successful people in my field. As I was thinking about this today, I was reminded of a quote that I’ve seen attributed to both Jim Rohn and Jack Canfield:

“You are the average of the five people you hang out with the most.”

I used to teach tennis, and it’s a well-known adage in that sport (as in many others) that you get better by playing people better than you. The principle works with money, too. If you want to make $100,000 a year, hang out with people who make $500,000 a year. If you want to be a millionaire, hang out with multi-millionaires. It really works—and yet so many less successful people fail to follow this principle. Why? Because of another well-known adage:

“Misery loves company.”

Look, it’s no secret that, for many of us, 2009 has been a less than stellar year. People are struggling, and one of the quickest ways for a struggling person to feel better about him or herself is to hang out with people who are struggling even more. Notice I said “quickest” way—not “best” way. Because although, yes, it is somewhat reassuring to be able to say, “Sure, I’m having trouble paying my mortgage, but at least I’m not Duane! He’s eating cat food! And not the good, moist kind with lots of kibbles. He’s eating the dry stuff!,” it doesn’t move us forward.

What does move us forward? Hanging out with people who are already ahead of us. I mean, honestly, do you really think George Harrison would have written songs as amazing as Here Comes the Sun and Something (both on the Abbey Road album) if he hadn’t spent the previous decade hanging out with two guys named Lennon and McCartney?

So who are the five people you hang out with the most? Are they the kind of people you aspire to be (by whatever measures are important to you)? Or are they keeping you trapped in a miasma of comfortable, but fruitless, group commiseration?

It’s actually a pretty simple process:

  1. Where do you want to be?
  2. Who’s already there?
  3. Hang out with them.

Granted, step 3 can be a bit of a challenge. Bill Gates is not going to be inviting you over for drinks any time soon. But he’s written books that you can read. Books have been written about him that you can read. He’s made speeches that you can download. In other words, you can “hang out” with him without hanging out with him. Yes, you should try to hang out with your mentors in person (that’s the beauty of a mastermind group), but in the meantime (and in addition), you can immerse yourself in the lives of successful people by reading their biographies, blogs, and articles.

For the next two weeks, I’m going to be hanging out with successful people who will help me to move forward. How about you?


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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