Photo credit: paul davis

The people close to you

One of the most important things I’ve personally come to believe over the last few years is that the people I choose to hang out with will have a profound impact on the person I am becoming.

Over time, I’ve come across quite a few references to this concept of taking a lot of care over who you invite into your circle. I thought it could be useful to share them:


Here’s what Seneca said in Letters from a Stoic:

Even Socrates, Cato, and Laelius might have been shaken in their moral strength by a crowd that was unlike them; so true it is that none of us, no matter how much he cultivates his abilities, can withstand the shock of faults that approach, as it were, with so great a retinue.

Jim Rohn had a famous line:

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Something a little more direct, from Steve Winterburn:

Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.

From my favorite Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh:

A Vietnamese proverb says that if a tiger comes down from its mountain, it will be killed by humans. This also applies to practitioners. If they abandon the sangha they will be lost, for the conditions of life in the world will sooner or later drag them back into forgetfulness and sleep. If they are to resist this current, they must rely on the bastion of protection which is the sangha.

For reference, here is Thich Nhat Hanh’s definition of sangha:

A Sangha is a community of friends practicing the Dharma together in order to bring about and maintain awareness. The essence of a Sangha is awareness, understanding, acceptance, harmony and love.

I’ve come to believe that willpower is overrated. I think the people you’re around are a key example of this. You can either quit smoking or aim to become more empathetic by using willpower alone, or you can try and surround yourself with people who don’t smoke and are empathetic.

Have you thought about the importance and impact of who you spend most of your time with?