The Power of the People Around You

Self-improvement has a lot to do with whom you surround yourself.

An enormous part of self-improvement is with whom you surround yourself.

I’ve recently had the opportunity to spend time at world-class athletic programs — places that produce numerous Olympic medals, which is really hard to do. What sets the best apart from the rest isn’t cutting-edge technology, or ritzy facilities, or even great individual athletes or coaches. It’s the supportive community and culture; when the athletes and coaches are all dedicated to getting better and supporting each other in doing so. This kind of culture makes doing the hard thing just a little easier, whether the “hard thing” is a specific task, keeping a positive attitude amongst a string of setbacks, or gritting out a tedious stretch of work.

What’s interesting is that while positivity and great leaders can boost the group up, it’s negativity that is unfortunately most powerful. In other words, most teams are pulled heavily toward the lowest common denominator. As the Stoic philosopher Epictetus said years ago, “Remember that if you consort with someone covered in dirt you can hardly avoid getting a little grimy yourself.”

Working to build a better self almost always means working to build a better community or tribe with which you surround it.

It turns out the determining factor as to whether the 30 cadets within a squadron improved was the motivation of the least fit person in the group. If the least fit person was motivated to improve, then his enthusiasm spread and everyone improved. If, on the other hand, the least fit person was apathetic or, worse, negative, he dragged everyone down. Just like diseases easily spread through tight-knit groups, so does motivation. And it’s quite contagious.

The people with whom you surround yourself have an enormous impact on your life. In many ways, they shape it.

So much focus on behavior change and performance focuses on the individual. Yet that’s only half the story. Working to build a better self almost always means working to build a better community or tribe with which you surround it. This concept holds true whether you are trying to get better at running, painting, writing, making music, parenting, or coaching. It also holds true if you are trying to quit smoking, adhere to a healthier way of eating, or start a new exercise program. It’s true if you are a beginner or on the verge of becoming world-class. In other words, the people with whom you surround yourself have an enormous impact on your life. In many ways, they shape it.

Who is in your squadron? Whose motivation is rubbing off on you?

It’s no wonder why the world’s best performers prioritize building and nurturing community. As Plato once said, “What is honored in a culture gets cultivated there.” Putting yourself in cultures that work in service of your goals and values is a powerful way to ensure you live them.

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This story was excerpted from the new book Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success.

Brad Stulberg is a columnist at Outside Magazine and New York Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Bstulberg.

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Bestselling author of The Practice of Groundedness (https://buff.ly/3zgpxLa). Co-Creator of The Growth Equation. Coach to executives, entrepreneurs, and MDs.

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning.

Written by

Bestselling author of The Practice of Groundedness (https://buff.ly/3zgpxLa). Co-Creator of The Growth Equation. Coach to executives, entrepreneurs, and MDs.

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning.