Why It’s Important to Surround Yourself with Interesting People

by STEVE BLOOM

I think Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker, put it best when he said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. While there is always room for individual choices and personality, the fact remains that one of the biggest influencers of your behavior, beliefs and attitudes come from the group of people you most interact with.

You can’t deny the powerful influence groups can have over your behavior. After all, if they didn’t exert power then things like peer pressure and groupthink wouldn’t exist. Groups help shape social norms and expectations. So taking a closer look at what those norms are and how they influence your behavior is extremely important.

The Power of Groups

When I examine the power of group influence on individuals, I think about the ancient Chinese Proverb called “Three men make a tiger”. In the story, an advisor asks an absurd, hypothetical question of his king, “Would you believe it if one or two civilians claimed a tiger was roaming the capital’s markets?” Of course, the king said no. But strangely the king said he would believe it if three people said it was true.

The advisor reminded the king that a tiger roaming the markets was absurd no matter how many people said it was true. The moral of the story is that if a group of people large enough say something is true, no matter how ridiculous, the premise will eventually be accepted. Basically you start to think something is true simply because everyone else says it is.

You can make the argument that with the internet, people will have a harder time spreading falsehoods. After all, you can always do a quick Google search to disprove many things. However the problem comes with group attitudes and beliefs which isn’t something you can easily disprove.

Take a look at the five people you spend the most time with. Are these people living interesting, positive or fascinating lives or are they drifting through life unenthusiastically? If someone is dull, negative or uninteresting, it might be because they have limiting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors.

Those who aren’t living passionately are drifting through life from one thing to another. They often have weak opinions and don’t offer much insight into the world. When they wake up in the morning, they are unenergetic and do things with little enthusiasm.

Remember, if three people say there is a tiger, you’re likely to believe it. And if enough people around you say uninteresting or limiting things, you’ll be influenced by them. It’s just like hanging around someone whose negativity turns your good mood into a bad one.

Just imagine if everyone around you talked about these things:

• Reasons why your dreams are impossible
• Why the world is against you
• Focuses entirely on limitations
• Finds reasons not to try new things
• Why nothing will get better

As you can see, these are extremely limiting and negative beliefs. If enough people around you talk about these things, you’ll eventually believe them. Their influence will make it harder for you to chase down and realize your own hopes and dreams.

The Impact of Interesting People

Now imagine the impact it would have on you to surround yourself with interesting and positive people. When someone has something interesting going on in their life, they wake up in the morning with energy and enthusiasm. Those are the kind of people who are going to fill you up with great attitudes and behavior.

Anyone who is following their dreams has taken a risk themselves and is confident that things will work out for them. They’re hopeful about their future and are willing to do what is necessary to get things done. That’s the exact kind of attitude and behavior you need to be exposed to on a regular basis.

But all this positive association is only the start of the benefits of surrounding yourself with passionate, interesting people. There are other huge benefits too.

• As you watch how they push themselves and do interesting things, you’ll become inspired to do similar things. You’ll start to wonder and imagine all the things you can do with your own life. Talking with someone who has traveled to far off places for years or started up a business from scratch just shows you how possible it all really is.

• Interesting people tend to fill their heads with new ideas and ways of seeing the world. Those who have passion for anything such as mountain climbing, travel, art or entrepreneurship have unique ways of seeing the world. And as they expose themselves to new books and ideas, they will share them with you.

As you can see, social norms formed by groups can have a powerful influence over the type of person you become. Fortunately it doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. If you make sure to surround yourself with positive, interesting people, there’s no telling how greatly that influence will shape your life.
photo credit: szeke

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Comments

  1. Very interesting and inspirational post.

  2. I believe wholeheartedly in this idea. It took me a long time… my parents used to always nag me about my choice of friends when I was younger, and I didn’t believe them. But now, I consciously try to have positive friendships and associations. It’s also great to have relationships with people who are really different from me too, so I can learn a new perspective.

    • My parents nagged me about my choice of friends too. When I was growing up, I used to hang out with people who were negative and filled me with self-doubt. It was only after I moved away from them that I realized just how bad they were for my life. Now I’m more careful of who I surround myself with. Lesson learned.

  3. Man, I really love this post. I have been thinking about this a lot lately, both for myself and for the people around me. I feel like who I am as a person can have an impact on the people around me even when I am not trying. What I put out into the world has an impact no matter if I want it to or not. Am I putting out positivity and love, or negativity and hate. It helps me be conscious of my impact on the world around me.

    As for the effect of people around me on myself, I often struggle with this. Sometimes I don’t value interpersonal relationships as much as I should. I find myself feeling like I don’t need them or that they are a burden. Maybe this is due to the type of people I spend time with. Maybe I need to reevaluate those connections and make some positive changes.

    I love people that have something to say, especially when it challenges something I feel or believe. I love people who are interesting and passionate and are looking for ways to live an extraordinary life. I need more of those folks. Thanks for the post and for the motivation. Take care.

    • Hey Tanner, it’s great to be surrounded by interesting and passionate people, isn’t it? When you get a good group of people together, you can just feel the energy flying around.

      You raise a good point about what you’re putting out into the world. Am I being someone positive and interesting for the people around me? It’s good to think about your impact since that will affect the people around you. I’m sure you’re like me and want to spread around good vibes to all those around you.

  4. I am a firm believer in the saying you mentioned that “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”.

    People can bring out the worst in us or the best in us. If we surround ourselves with interesting and intelligent people than they will no doubt bring certain positive qualities out of us.

    I have seen this phenomenon in myself and in my children. Like the expression, one bad apple can spoil the bunch. When my sons hang out with good kids, they have a different demeanor and attitude whereas when they hang out with not so good kids, it brings out the worst in them.

    We can try as we might not let it affect us but it’s best to try to surround us with positive people.

  5. Just to be controversial, here’s a different perspective:

    If you happen to be surrounded by people who you like and get on with but who have problems or are negative, then they may not inspire you, but you can help them, and they may still bring out the best in you but just in a different way.

    And all the stuff you said about interesting people you can do or find on your own. You can be inspired from lots of sources – other friends just not those in the closest 5, books, the internet, a song, a movie, your own mind.

    You can take inspiration from everywhere if you want to.

    Don’t get me wrong, I get the famous Jim Rohn quote, and even find it fascinating, but I also think that you can surround yourself with whoever you like and still be whatever you want if you’re strong enough.

    In particular, for example this quote is often used in financial terms – e.g. if you want to be rich then hang out with more wealthy people, you’re salary/worth is likely to be the average of the 5 people closest to you.

    Whilst it’s interesting and probably does make things easier, it’s not necessarily needed, certainly not in the financial sense (for a long time I’ve earned significantly more than most of my closest friends and it’s neither bothered me that they earn less nor influenced me and vice versa for them).

    So it’s obviously got some truth to it and it is interesting but it’s a bit of a ‘pop’ expression for me (sorry) – I’d put far more stock in self-belief, self confidence, changing your own world, attitude, behaviour, values, boundaries and world views than worrying at all about those who surround you, their characteristics, standing or how they affect you.

    In your example, I do have close friends that talk about all of those things (OK, maybe not #2, but certainly I can give you examples for the others):

    • Reasons why your dreams are impossible
    • Why the world is against you
    • Focuses entirely on limitations
    • Finds reasons not to try new things
    • Why nothing will get better

    because life is not always easy and people have problems. But they are still my friends and I love them. I just try and help them.

    I have a friend who is often very negative, particularly when I told him I was quitting my job and moving to the country. He was very very cynical about it but I just found that amusing and proved him wrong – he’s still a very good friend. He still has trouble coming to terms with what I’ve done, but I wouldn’t see that as a reason to part ways with him. Friends are friends in my book.

    That being said, I do also agree with Annie that it’s much more important to worry about peer groups in the case of kids – because they are still learning and getting influenced and you want that influence to be the right one as your children find their way in the world.

    So it’s a question of influence. If you’re talking about your/someone’s kids or you’re someone who’s easily influenced – you’re absolutely right as is the Rohn quote.

    But… if you are not so easily influenced I don’t think this is as important as looking at your own thoughts, beliefs and values (despite what others may say).

    oooops – mega long comment.

    just a thought 😉

  6. Sorry I drank too much tea today

  7. Hate to say this, but the five things you list under “Just imagine if everyone around you talked about these things” sound like my ex-boyfriend! I don’t want to knock him, but it’s true. He had such a negative attitude, and I tried to help him out of it but it didn’t work. Thank God I didn’t get sucked down into his beliefs and still led my own life the way I knew I could.

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