Jim Rohn once said “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”.
Certainly, we each are our own person. Certainly, we are not so influenced by the people around us as to be so blatantly a composite of them. But just as certain is the fact that those with whom we spend the most of our time shape who we become.
Women who spend a lot of time together often begin to menstruate on the same cycle. We pick up smoking, petty theft, language, dress, prejudice, ideology much in the same way. Creatures born to inhabit tribes, it is our natural instinct to adopt the patterns of the herd. It's one of the reasons that the Internet can so easily allow us to form mobs that fail to thoroughly read or reason before rendering a perceived enemy to reputable shreds.
I look at the five people with whom I spend the bulk of my time considering that there is a difference between spending physical proximity and spending emotional and spiritual space. The truth of the matter is that I don't have five people whom I spend a LOT of quality time with—I tend to keep my work relationships work related and, as I've gotten older, tend to spend far less time socializing and hanging out than I used to. That said, I've narrowed (or expanded it) to five for the purpose of the exercise.
The common elements in my five are:
- Leftist Ideology
- Split gender and sexual preferences
- Dark sense of humor
And as I look around at the company I keep, I'm concluding that my pruning of those who do not add to my life has been successful. I used to be focused a LOT on pleasing people. I found myself around folks whom only seemed to want me around for what I could do for them and, given this was the company I kept, the average of the five people I spent time with was an insecure, on call to impress, unhappy cat. Not because of the average of the qualities I found in those five but in how those five treated me. That treatment (a constant sense of conditional support and love, a slight but obvious embarrassment of being my friend, and a routine "what have you done for me lately?") was that which I allowed and it was up to me to cull that bullshit away.
On top of that, I tend to surround myself with artists who have more talent and craft than I have, people who are generally smarter than I am, individuals who are just better people than me because, if left to my own devices and company, I'd eat the young alive. Knowing my wife makes me want to be a better husband, a better artist, a better partner. Knowing my mother makes me want to do more for the world and continue to embrace the joys of life rather than wallow in the pigshit of reality.
I'm thinking that, rather than "You are the average..." the more accurate statement is "You are the person whom the five people you spend the most time with train you to be." The idea that people train us to be a certain way sounds odd until you think about the tendency to let domestic abusers reign unchallenged or disapproving parents cause such misery. Our friends and loved ones teach us who we are by how they reward or punish us in small and large ways.
If the experiment is "You are the person whom the five people you spend the most time with train you to be," look around yourself and ask if the person you are, based on the five people you spend the most time with, is someone you are proud or ashamed to be? And if you find yourself ashamed, time to get some new fucking friends.