Filter your network or become a worse person
Are you happy with the five people you spend the most time with?
We’ve all heard the saying that you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Simply being aware of this statement doesn’t mean that most people take it to heart. I wish more people actively curated the human relationships they accept into their lives.
There are people in my life that I am very proud to know that I call my friends and family. These are the people who I hold closest to my network and the ones that I turn to for just about anything, good or bad. But these are not the people that I spend the most time with. I try to spend time with them but just like me, they travel a lot, they’re active, they have lives to live and ambitions to achieve.
Most of the hours in your day are spent at work. Not with your family at Sunday lunch, not with your spouse at home and not with your friends out partying. If you don’t agree then quickly do the math.
That means that the five people you spend the most time with are likely your coworkers. Tell me something; did you interview them when you joined your company? Did you work out what kind of people you would be spending all of your time with? I bet you didn’t. You were interviewed, you were hired and now you’re stuck with the people that someone else hired.
Now give further thought to the other groups of people that you didn’t choose or haven’t recently chosen: Family, friends, sports teams and any other collection of people that you spend more than an hour a week with. Answer some questions about these people:
- Do you really like them?
- Do they add anything to your life at all — negative or positive?
- Do they insult you often, even “just as a joke”?
- Do they bring you down or pull you up?
- Do these people support your ambitions and help you achieve them?
How do you feel about the answers you’ve just given?
Do your friends and family actually support you and your ambitions? Do you even talk to them about the life you live and the life you want to live? Or is it just status quo every day, rinse and repeat day in and day out?
If any of your answers to the above questions surprise or upset you then what are you going to do about it?
Are you going to find a new group of friends who support you? Are you going to find people who will make you a better version of yourself? Are you going to cut out that uncle who is a little bit racist and refuses to sort his shit out in 2019? Or are you just going to let the world exist the way it always has, with you in it as a passive participant?
Why do we put up with people who bring us down and treat us badly? We don’t have to but we are conditioned to have friends forever, to believe that family will always have our best interests at heart and to think that we deserve below average people in our lives. Why are we not more vicious in filtering our network of people?
I’ll tell you why: we are afraid.
We are scared that if we make the hard choice we’ll be left alone. We’re afraid that if we find friends who want to help us become better, we’ll have to actually go out and become better versions of ourselves. We’re afraid of what people will say when we walk away from difficult relationships and move on to better ones.
Here’s the only way I know how to respond to all those people: Fuck ’em.
Perhaps no one has ever said these specific words to you before so here goes: You do not have to like your family. You can stop talking to them and cut them out. That is a perfectly acceptable answer to a real problem. You are allowed to find new friends and move on. If you don’t like your boss, you are allowed to say something and then find a new job if need be. If your coworkers are assholes, you can say something and transfer to a different department or find a new job with people you like.
Every year you spend with a person who brings you down is a year you have to recover from in the coming decade. One bad year with shitty people stacks up to many years of damage done and many more years trying to undo the mess they have created. This messes with your mind and destroys your self-confidence. Rather than have to overcome this damage, just remove it altogether. You’re allowed to protect yourself from these people.
The next time you’re out with your people, think hard about the reason that you continue to give your time to them. You’ll never get that time back and you’ll very quickly become the worst parts of the five people you spend the most time with every day, not the best.