Surround Yourself with People Who Hold You to a Higher Standard than You Hold Yourself

There’s some interesting research in social psychology explaining how most people form their peer groups. Especially as children and adolescence, but often as adults, people select their friends based on proximity more than anything else.

Even in a college classroom, who are you going to make friends with? It’s not those who have similar personalities and interests. It’s the people you literally sit next to.

Socioeconomically, there is loads of research showing a person’s economic mobility is highly determined by the county they live in. In certain counties, your chances of improving your financial situation are very good. In others, like the county our three foster children came from, your chances of improving your financial situation are slim-to-none.

Put most simply, what stands in nearest proximity to you has enormous implications. As Jim Rohn has wisely said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Similarly, Tim Sanders, former Yahoo! director, said, “Your network is your net worth.”

If you’re feeling stuck and struggling to make the progress you want, take a look around you. Most people adapt to whatever environment they find themselves. They have what psychologists call an “external locus of control,” where they believe factors outside of them dictate the direction of their lives. Consequently, they don’t take responsibility for shaping the environment that will ultimately shape them.

Who are the people in nearest proximity to you?

How did they become your peer group?

Was it on purpose or based on convenience?

Do these people hold you to a high standard?

Or, do they hold you to an even lower standard than you hold yourself?

The Fastest Way to Change Your Life

If you want to improve and succeed in your life, you need to surround yourself with people who have higher standards than you do. As Tony Robbins has said, your life is a reflection of your standards, or what you’re willing to tolerate. Most people are willing to tolerate unhealthy relationships, poor finances, and jobs they hate. If not so, those things wouldn’t be in their lives.

The common approach to personal growth and change is to exert more willpower, or to improve your mindset, or to be more gritty. And all of these things certainly have their place.

But if your environment radically contradicts the goals you’re trying to pursue, your life will always be an uphill battle.

A much better and faster approach is to purposefully change your environment. For example, I have a friend, Nate, who is a successful real estate investor. He also sells real estate education products.

Despite making high six-figures, he’s an extremely frugal guy. For years, he drove a beat up Toyota Camery from the 1990’s. The car ran great and the gas mileage was fantastic. But the car didn’t create an environment of confidence in Nate’s perspective clients.

He decided to upgrade his car to better match his business goals and vision in life. He spent over $110,000 on a decked-out Tesla.

Four very interesting things happened after he made this investment:

  1. Most of Nate’s “platform” is on Facebook. He often talks about the deals he’s doing, or teaching financial/real estate principles. After getting his Tesla, and posting awesome videos of the car and posts teaching the philosophy of why he bought it, he got over 2,000 friend requests from people involved in real estate within a month.
  2. During that month, the sales of his real estate education products tripled. This increase in sales allowed the car to be paid-off in just two months of when he purchased it. Nate’s environment now matched the education products he was selling to people about building financial freedom. Also, his environment now triggered immediate authority — which according to psychological research is one of the primary persuasive triggers.
  3. With his new car, some of the biggest real estate investors and real estate education sales people in his area began reaching out to him. He was now seen as “credible.” Nate began being invited to private events with his role models. You could argue how surface level all of this is, and you’d be half right.
  4. Nate’s own psychology changed. Driving around in the coolest car on the road made him feel awesome. His confidence shot through the roof.

Research in psychology describes a concept known as “pre-cognition,” which shows that you can predict your own psychological/emotional state by targeting biological or environmental stimuli. If you want a release and rush of endorphins, go running and or take a ice-bath. If you want to feel peaceful, go into nature. Nate’s confidence shot through the roof for a few reasons.

  • Firstly, as noted, his environment created amazing feelings.
  • Secondly, and perhaps far more importantly, he was seeing the fruits of his labors. He was investing himself in big things and demonstrating to himself how serious he was about the work he was doing and the vision he was aspiring towards.
  • Thirdly, he was consciously generating a self-fulfilling prophecy in real-time. He created an environment that was now creating him. And the fruits were already apparent.
  • These fruits added even more confidence, creating a continuous confidence building feedback loop.

It’s important to note that Nate’s confidence doesn’t come from owning a Tesla. True security is never external, but can only exist internally.

Yet, too many people separate the internal and external with fine lines. The lines are more blurred. The external and internal, in reality, play-off each other. When you change your external environment, it alters your psychology, which then can loop back to continuing to enhance the environment in a virtuous upward cycle.

Surround Yourself With People Who Transform You

Over the past 10 or so months, I’ve hired Ryan Holiday, author of several bestselling books, to help me with the book I’m writing. Working with Ryan has shown me just how low my own standards for my work are. For instance, every time I send him a draft, he shows me why and how it could be 10X better, and he holds me to that standard.

It’s not that my standards are inherently low. It’s more that I don’t know what I don’t know. Working with Ryan has streamlined my understanding of what is possible and what it takes to create something powerful.

Just like my friend’s Tesla, I had to pay to improve my environment. At least when it comes to business, the best advice is rarely free. Moreover, it is only by investing in what you’re doing that you’ll experience the psychological shift needed to achieve your goals. Once invested, your identity towards what you are doing changes. You demonstrate to yourself that you have skin in the game. You’ve put yourself physically, not just emotionally, in a position where you must move forward. The role of leadership becomes natural and instinctive. Survival and thriving become one in the same.

Just as Ryan holds me to higher standard than I hold myself, my business partner, Richard Paul Evans, does as well. Like Ryan, Evans has a much higher vantage point and far different experience than I have. Together, we are doing author training seminars. Evans has written 36 New York Times Bestsellers. He’s been speaking and doing events for 20 years.

Evans holds himself to an insanely high standard. Simultaneously, he expects me to perform at very high levels as well, because my performance is a reflection on him. It’s not a bad problem for me to have because it creates intense pressure to succeed. To quote former NBA star, Robert Horry, “Pressure can bust pipes or it can make diamonds.”

Surrounding yourself with people who have higher standards than you is the fastest way to change. In fact, I believe it’s the only way to truly and permanently change. If you don’t change your environment, and instead attempt to overcome your environment through willpower, you’ll lose every time. Your progress will be very slow.

Are you surrounded by people who hold you to a high standard?

This Is True Of All Relationships (Especially Romantic)

This isn’t true just in working relationships. What about your romantic partner? Do they hold you to a high standard? Do they help you become more than you currently are? Do you help them?

The 80/20 rule applies to people and peer groups. 20 percent of the population is moving forward, 60 percent of population reactively mimics whoever they are around at the time, and 20 percent of the population is moving backwards.

Most people are a direct reflection of those around them. If the people around them have lower standards, they drop theirs’ as well. If the people around them have higher standards, they raise their game.

You’ve been around people who, simply by being around them, elevated your thinking and energy. Those are the kinds of people you need to surround yourself with. Those are the kinds of people you need to be like yourself, so that others are better simply by being around you.

The quality of your life and the quality of your work is determined by the standards you have for yourself, and the standards of those around you. If you’re fine doing mediocre work, than those around you are as well.

If you genuinely want to become better, you must surround yourself with people who will hold you to a higher standard than you currently hold yourself. You want to be around people with a higher and better vantage-point than you have, so that you can quickly learn from them.

Your level of talent and “potential” are irrelevant if you’re surrounded by people who don’t help you realize it. We all know many people who have unfulfilled potential. Don’t let that be you.

Who you surround yourself with has huge consequences. You can’t ignore this. What are you going to do about it?

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