I’ve been in college or stoned my entire adult life… that isn’t true. Most of the time I was both…. The stuff I remember is only useful on Jeopardy. Remember that Mormon guy a few years ago that kept winning week after week? I’m him but in a caffeinated Jewish way…
I remember hearing a factoid a while back that said that your income is destined to become the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
At the time, that bothered me. Outside of my family, I was hanging out with some folks who weren’t exactly rolling in dough. So to me, this factoid said:
Dude, you’re going to be poor
Dude, if you want out, you’re going to have to ditch your friends and phony up to some rich people, which is lame
Dude, if you do that, your new social circle probably won’t say “dude” at all
But it got worse.
Your weight is destined to become the average of the five people you’re around most. Your habits (smoking, drinking, etc.) will correlate with those folks. Your level of marital satisfaction, of outside friendship, of ability to sing every song ever written by Joni Mitchell? All are tied to some degree to those of your peers.
I knew I was in trouble
The thing is, I’m a chameleon. I have a strong internal compass, but I also pick up external, cosmetic things from people very quickly, which is probably why I’m pretty good at building rapport.
I’ll eat dinner with Canadians and pick up their vocal inflections. I’ll have an Italian roommate for a weekend retreat and develop a pasta habit.
So given that I had a lot of broke friends, what did that say about the forecast for my income?
The bad news about the factoid is that, from what I can tell, it seems to be totally true. If you only associate with, talk with, and think about interactions with losers, guess what you’re likely to become?
The familiar way of saying it is that If you lie down with dogs, you’re gonna get fleas.
3 Signs You’re Hanging With the Wrong Crowd
You start doing things you wouldn’t normally do: All of sudden you find yourself partaking in activities and associating with people, that just a few months earlier, would not be acceptable. Maybe you’re drinking too much, lying more, or stretching your integrity. Perhaps your job or grades are in jeopardy or you start to doubt your marriage in a way that you didn’t before. There are many ways that a friend can be a bad influence, long past the days of smoking cigarettes after homeroom.
You put your goals on hold: The goals that were once front and center, have now fallen to the backdrop of your life. You now find yourself spending a majority of your time on trivial, unproductive things… going to the bar, putting off important projects to go to a club, or constantly pushing back your priorities to grab dinner.
Your more stressed after hanging out: Friendship should be joyful and life-giving. People who use others to unload the crappy details of their lives, do not bring happiness and peace, they steal it. While sharing is an important part of friendship, you should never be made into a full-time counselor.
The good news
But the good news is that you don’t have to ditch your old buddies and suck up to Mr. and Mrs. Howell from Gilligan’s Island.
And the ultra good news is that you can aspire to associate with “successful” people instead of narrowing the focus to “rich” people. And a lot of successful people say “Dude,” like, ALL THE TIME.
I know how this looks
I know it looks like I’m saying you have to throw away people who have been in your life forever to ignore Cousin Duh, who you love even though has no current job, car, or front teeth.
I know it feels phony. I know many of you reading this are resisting the notion, thinking that you’ll be a stand-up person by staying in your current peer group and simply rising above their expectations.
In an ideal world, those of us who dig Albert Einstein would have a cup of coffee with him regularly and chat about our goals and desires. But Albert’s dead, so a real-life interaction would actually be somewhat uninspiring.
But this is the age of the internet, and there are plenty of accessible live peer candidates out there, just a few clicks away…. there really is more than Facebook and porn!
If you do this for awhile, a funny thing will happen. You’ll find that the five people you actually do interact with most often will be your five best peers, give or take.
And while you’ll still think Cousin Duh is awesome, you’ll likely find you’re less interested in hanging out with him 24/7, regardless of whether you can resist his hot chick stories and 500 TV channels.