Take a look at this Abraham Lincoln quote and think about it:
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Whenever you set out to achieve something, it might come in handy to invest a lot in the tools that you’re going to be using. When one has a goal, one should devote resources to the means one uses for achieving this goal.
Let’s say that our goal is to have a good life.
Were we to apply Lincoln’s lesson to this goal, what would that amount to?
What do you think?
It’s your lucky day — I thought really hard about these issues.
The answers might surprise you.
Keep tabs on the life philosophies to which you expose yourself
What instruments are available for living better (whatever that means exactly) and how can we enhance them?
The most important tool at our disposal for living a better life is other people.
The people we surround ourselves with are the biggest influence on our behavior, attitudes and results. Who you are around — what they’ve got you thinking, saying, doing and becoming — sets the course of your life.
In the words of motivational speaker Jim Rohn:
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
The people you spend the most time with shape who you are. They determine what conversations dominate your attention. They affect the attitudes and behaviors to which you are regularly exposed. Eventually you start to think like they think and behave like they behave.
As Darren Hardy writes in The Compound Effect:
“According to research by social psychologist Dr. David McClelland of Harvard, [the people you habitually associate with] determine as much as 95 percent of your success or failure in life.”
And it has important consequences.
The dream in your heart may be bigger than the environment in which you find yourself. Sometimes you have to get out of that environment to see that dream fulfilled.
Take control: forge your own bubble
It’s a fact of life that some people hold us back, while others propel us forward. That’s just the way it is, so you might as well accept it and learn how to deal with it instead of wishing that reality was different.
For instance, you can’t hang out with negative people and expect to have a positive life.
More importantly, if you do all the right things, but don’t get around people who hold you to a higher standard, then you are more likely to fail.
The lesson here is to actively construct your social environment. Don’t let it depend on proximity or chance or on how it has always been, but consciously plan which opinions, attitudes and life-philosophies you do and do not allow to be in your life.
These days, people are keen to emphasize that everyone lives in his or her own bubble. In that case, we might as well try to make sure that our bubble is the one that rises highest — the one that makes us reach our goals.
Building your squad
Let’s take the final step.
We started by comparing living well with chopping down Lincoln’s tree, but now we can reformulate that: instead of trying to chop down a tree, we are trying to live well. And instead of sharpening our axe, we are assembling our team.
At this point, you probably want to know how to select team members — which criteria to use for engineering your social context.
Be that as it may, the goal of this essay is to make you think about that, and I don’t write lifehacky-stuff, so I can’t give you a concrete action plan here.
By extension, what the best people to surround yourself with will be like depends on you as well. Therefore, that’s for you to figure out.
That said, I would like to propose one guiding principle that you can use in deciding on your criteria for picking teammates:
Surround yourself with people you admire.
We become like the people that we (choose to) expose ourselves to. It follows that you can accelerate your personal growth in whatever direction you desire by spending time with people who already are who you want to become.
That will infect you with the behaviors and attitudes that helped them achieve their success, making it more likely that you will realize similar results in your life.
So, ask yourself: Who do you spend the most time with? Who are the people you most admire? Are those two groups of people the same?