The short answer to this is yes, it matters. It’s why this Jim Rohn quote, “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” is so popular and recognized. Put it this way, we should be very intentional about who we choose to spend our time with.
Maarten van Doorn writes:
“The people you spend the most time with shape who you are. They determine what conversations dominate your attention. They affect to which attitudes and behaviors you are regularly exposed. Eventually you start to think like they think and behave like they behave.”
The Game of Life
My family tries to have game night every day. We think it’s just a great way to step back from life and connect each day as a family. Recently we’ve been playing “The Game of Life – Twists and Turns”. It’s a fun game and a spin-off of the classic game that you might have been used to playing as a kid. In this version of the game, all of the money, property, and vehicles are controlled by a computer, which is also how you spin the wheel to move. The game loosely introduces the concept of credit cards, and that is how each players stats and data is accessed.
The way the game plays is pretty much similar to the classic game, but the winner is who ends up with the most “life points”, and that is a combination of the amount of money you have plus the experiences that you’ve had throughout the game. So, it’s really not just about the money anymore. I won’t go into any more details about the game, this blog post really wasn’t meant to be a game review, but I highly recommend the game if you get the chance to try it. My wife and I have played with just the two of us without the kids and it’s still a lot of fun.
My older son is what you’d expect from a first-born child. He’s reliable, structured, cautious, and really wants to please his parents. He’s also very competitive and wants to win at everything. My second child (we only have two) is also a boy, and he’s quite the opposite of my older one. The second one is a risk taker, definitely more self-centered but also much looser and more rambunctious. Our first-time playing Life together definitely brought out their personality traits.
My older guy is completely averse to having debt. Real or fake, he doesn’t like the idea of owing anyone money. So, he played the game conservatively, not going into debt to buy things and just doing things as he would in normal life. My younger guy was completely opposite, he bought all the expensive stuff because it looked like it would be more fun. And understanding that it was just a game, my wife and I did the same thing.
One thing to note about my older son, if he does not want to do something, he won’t do it. He really holds on strong to his opinion and feelings about what he likes and doesn’t like. But peer pressure can be really tough. After playing the first game doing things as he would normally do in real life, he played the second game completely different. He saw how the rest of us were playing the game and he felt the need to change how he played. In the second game, he bought anything he wanted regardless of price and had a negative money balance for almost the entire game. As I watched my older son make decisions that I didn’t think he’d make, I knew I was seeing Jim Rohn’s quote in action.
Figure Out What is Important to You
It’s relatively easy to influence kids, and in the game that my family played, the powers of influence for my older son were just too much to resist. As the first born, he sees what his parents’ habits are and he models after them. As adults, I think we are just as easily influenced, but the signs might be a bit subtler.
If you are around negative people, you’re going to be negative. If you’re around people that complain a lot, you’re going to complain a lot too. If you spend a lot of time around people that always see the good in things, you’ll start seeing the same as well.
As I get older, I find that I value my free time a lot more. I also find that I would rather have a small number of quality friendships over having just a lot of friends. Recently what I started to do without really knowing it was I started to spend more time around people who had the same life goals as I do. And what I also noticed was that I didn’t enjoy spending a lot of time around people who had a negative impact on those goals.
To put it on a personal level, I think about finances a lot. I believe I share the same dream as anyone else in that we all want to be debt free. When I think about making sure we have a roof over our heads, putting food on the table, clothes on our backs, college tuition down the road and hoping to retire without financial worry, it’s daunting. So, I’ve found a small circle of friends who are focused on the same thing. Our spending habits are pretty much the same and we keep each other from falling into the temptation of spending money just to keep up with the Joneses. No, we don’t have group meetings or anything like that, we just have similar lifestyles. I know that if I were to spend a lot of time around people that spent a lot of money all the time, I’d probably do the same.
You can apply this same sort of thinking to any goal. Are you focused on climbing the corporate ladder? If so, do you surround yourself with people who are just as hungry about that as you are?
What this means is that friendships probably will change, and that’s ok because that’s life. I’m not saying that I’ve cut off friends that I’ve made earlier in life, I still talk to plenty of people. But the people that I will spend the majority of my time with are those that are going to have a positive effect on the goals that I’ve set for myself.
I also love this article by David Burkus. And he writes that it’s not just the 5 closest people that have an impact on you, it’s actually those 5 plus whoever is influencing them that has an impact on you. And then it’s their friends and their friends and so on and so on.
Who you choose to surround yourself with matters. It matters a lot. It can be the difference between accomplishing the goals you’ve set for yourself and your life, or looking back when it’s all said and done and wondering “what if”.