Who we hang out with matters: People Power - Apr 15

By Sam Allman

We humans have incredible potential. We are capable of becoming, doing and having much more than we think. And psychologists agree we experience some of our happiest moments when we are busily engaged in learning and growing. We love striving to be the best we can be. We love to achieve hard things.

However, becoming, doing and having what we want are never easy. Learning takes time and is difficult. Not only do we have to deal with the obstacles life puts in our paths, but we have to deal with our own self-defeating behaviors. Most of us are clueless about how we sabotage our own hopes and dreams. That’s what lack of awareness does for us. It makes us clueless. 

I think back to how much I thought I knew entering my twenties; I thought I knew it all. I certainly knew more than my parents. Now that I am older than most of you reading this column, I am reminded of John Wooden’s quote, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Ask an old person, any old person, including me, whether we would want to be young again. Sure, I for one would love to be in a 25 year old body if I could keep what I have learned and experienced that is housed in my 70-year-old brain. Life teaches us. If we don’t learn the lessons, the lessons may be taught us over and over again. Sometimes life has to hit us over the head with a two by four until a particular lesson sinks in. 

And that’s why interdependence is better than independence. As I shared in my last column, relationships are critical in making us successful, happy and old. In addition, we learn faster and more effectively with others by our side. We were born helpless; we needed others. We were dependent. We emerged from helplessness to gain person control; we became independent. We evolve from independence to interdependence when we learn. As the Japanese proverb says,“None of us is as smart as all of us.”

The road of life is difficult and requires us to change and grow as we travel. I find that my relationships help me change and grow as I journey. Recently, we attended my wife’s favorite Broadway show, Wicked. One of my favorite songs from the show is “For Good.” Elphaba sings to Glinda: 

I’m limited
Just look at me—I’m limited
And just look at you 
You can do all I couldn’t do…
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good…
Changed for the better? (Both sing)
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better

What relationships have you had that have changed you for the better? Reid Hoffman, CEO of LinkedIn, says, “Relationships matter because the people you spend time with shape who you are and who you become. Behavior and beliefs are contagious: you easily ‘catch’ the emotional state of your friends, imitate their actions and absorb their values as your own. If your friends are the types of people who get stuff done, chances are you’ll be that way, too.” So what is Hoffman saying? He’s telling us that who you hang out with matters and will affect your becoming, your doing and your having. If you want to be rich; hang out with millionaires. If you want to have a successful business, hang with entrepreneurs who run successful enterprises. I believe that that is the single most important reason to belong to a buying group or marketing group like Carpet One or Abbey. You will meet others who have already learned lessons that you need to learn. You don’t have to learn those lessons alone. Hang with them and you will learn those lessons faster and easier. Certainly, if you pay attention to what they do, you will make fewer mistakes. 

Success leaves clues. Just do what successful people do. Watch them, study them and learn from them. “In this life what determines your success are the people you know and the books you read,” according to Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, the legendary motivational speaker. The easiest and fastest way to change ourselves, even at my age, is to hang out with people who are already the way we want to be. That’s why the people we choose to hang out with matter. 

However, there are multiple kinds of relationships. Personal relationships often have more influence on us than professional relationships. But the choice of either kind taken lightly can have dramatic impact on our futures. I like to watch “American Greed” on CNBC. The show has taught me to be cautious about choosing with whom I do business and with whom I become friendly. I do not want to get sucked into a situation or relationship that sabotages who I am, what I want to do, or what I want to have. I do not want to spend time in jail or a poor house because I made a bad choice.

1) I would choose a person I honor because of the type of person he or she is. I would clarify in my mind about the kind of person I want to be. What are my values? What’s important to me? I would do that because, according to Brian Tracy, whose firm specializes in the training and development of individuals and organizations, “the most important strategies of success revolve around the development of your own character. You develop your character by thinking clearly about the values that are most important to you and then by practicing those values on every occasion until they lock into your subconscious mind and become a part of your personality.” If you choose to develop the values and attributes possessed by the kind of person you want to be, you will soon begin to get the same results they do. So you must choose wisely. You will never be more successful than you are as a person. 

2) I would choose someone who practices Stephen Covey’s habit of win-win. This person seeks the benefit of others as well as his or her own. This person lives by the mantra of “I get better results in my relationships by cooperating interdependently than competing independently.” A relationship that is one-sided, that gives benefit to just one, won’t last. That requires that you operate by that same mindset as well. Besides, if the person you choose is selfish, and you become like him or her, would that be desirable? You both must seek mutual benefit.

3) If I’m to change because of this person’s influence, I must choose someone who will tell me the truth. You do not need “yes men” around you. You need people who will tell it like they think it is, even if they are wrong. In my last column, I talked about the magic of conflict. We all need to learn others’ perspectives. We need to see through other’s eyes, not just our own. We need to see the world through multiple perspectives because, as the saying goes, “We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Sometimes our reality is clouded because we are stuck in the middle of the forest and can’t see the trees. We need feedback on our actions and strategies. Champions are always looking for ways to improve. They seek information from whereever it comes. They analyze that information and then decide what to do to move forward. 

My final three suggestions for choosing with whom to hang are adapted from the book, The Triple Package. Yale University professors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld share their research on how three unlikely traits—a superiority complex, insecurity and impulse control—explain the rise and fall of cultural groups in America. They explain why some cultural groups in America are living the American Dream and why others are not. I believe that their conclusions clarify what we need from others to help us become all we can be.

4) I would choose to hang with people who believe in me and believe in my unlimited potential. I need friends who remind me that I can get better. I need people to build me up and who won’t tear me down. I need the truth, but when I fail or am discouraged I need someone who will pump me up, encourage me to keep going and keep trying. Failure is never fatal or final; it’s just a bump in the road. Each of us needs a cheerleader, a person who watches the games we play and cheers us on from the sidelines. Rick Pitino once said that the greatest challenge a coach faces is to get his team to believe in themselves. Belief in one’s self and hope in the future motivates. We don’t fail until we quit and give up. You will know when you have a friend who reminds you of your potential: you will feel motivated, excited and better about yourself after every encounter.

5) I would choose to hang with people who push me, who remind me I’m not finished with who I am. These people not only believe in me, but they expect more from me than I expect of myself. Students with teachers who have high expectations of them achieve more. We need friends, coaches, mentors who push us, demand more and expect more. We will not become all we can be without the internal drive to keep striving. We need people to remind us not to be satisfied with ourselves.

6) Finally, I would choose to hang with people who will help me delay gratification and experience short-term pain for the greater gain. America is an instant gratification society. We want what we want, and we want it now. We damage our future by being unwilling to sacrifice for it. Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld call this the lack of “impulse control.” Less than 44% of Americans are living the American Dream because of the lack of impulse control or self-discipline, doing what we ought to do, when we ought to do it, whether we feel like it or not. I need someone to help me control my impulses, not someone who will accompany me while I indulge. If I make a mistake and get thrown in jail, I need that person to bail me out. They can’t do that if they are in that jail cell with me.

Our relationships can build us up or tear us down; they can create for us a better future or a lesser one. This life gets better as we change and learn to make better choices. If you want to change faster and learn easier so life won’t be as difficult, choose to hang with the kind of people you would like to become. It can make all the difference.

Copyright 2015 Floor Focus

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