There’s an interesting reason we are shaped by our closest friends and family. We will talk about the reason, its implications, and what we can do with this information right away to improve our lives.
We all realize, at least on a subconscious level, that the people we spend time with influence who we are.
But why is this?
And should we really be so careful with picking our 5 closest friends?
Let’s answer the second question first.
I don’t think there’s anything special about the number 5 even though that’s the number sometimes used in articles on this topic.
I think each of us is the weighted average of all the people we spend time with.
For example, if I only spend time with 5 people, but 96% of that time is with person A, and 1% of that time is with each of person B, C, D, and E, I’ll be most like person A, and just a bit like the others.
We see this all the time. People who hang out together grow increasingly similar over time.
So what’s the reason for this phenomenon?
An Issue of Wiring
We are like this because our brains are wired for social conformity. Research and more research has shown that we will change our decisions and behaviors to follow others. It seems we do this to avoid the danger of being too different.
I bet this behavior-adjustment mechanism has its roots in hunter-gatherer times, when it was much more important to be able to quickly make yourself belong to a group. An ability to adapt to others and be more like them would have enhanced early humans’ survival chances, as disagreements were more likely to have been fatal way back when.
Now, although we live in societies that encourage non-conformity within limits, we are still expected to follow some basic social norms. And being like others and earning the approval of others enables many of us to survive and make a good living.
And so I think when we spend a lot of time with other people, the conformity survival mechanism kicks in and we find ourselves adjusting our behaviors to be more like others, without even knowing that we’re doing it.
We pick up facial expressions and other body language, as well as copy behaviors or participate in the habits others are carrying on around us.
Even without the brain mechanism that makes us conform, we learn from others, and we learn the most from and about those who we spend the most time with.
If you spend time with highly intelligent individuals who are always reading and challenging themselves to learn as much as they can, you’re going to pick up on this behavior and begin to challenge yourself as well. At the very least you’re going to learn from them when they tell you what they’ve been studying.
If you hang out with people who eat a lot of junk food and are mostly into being couch vegetables whose main pursuit is channel surfing, you’re going to pick up on this as well, and soon, you too will be morphing into the couch.
Whatever you’re surrounded with becomes comfortable, and it becomes easy to replicate the behaviors you see in your surroundings, which will give you positive reinforcement for doing so.
Your friends who like to be lazy will congratulate you when you act as they do. But these same friends will mock you when you begin to try to apply yourself and try to get more out of life.
How Important is This?
I think it is vitally important to be aware of this phenomenon, because the influence of your surrounding is far-reaching.
If you surround yourself with limiting people and limiting beliefs, it will be very difficult for you to break out of that mindset and achieve your goals.
If you surround yourself with happy people who see the positive side of everything, who view obstacles as learning opportunities, and who are always looking for ways to help others, you will find yourself approaching the world in the same way.
It’s common to hear people say that happiness is infectious.
We can take it further and say that all behaviors are, because we are always learning from and mimicking each other.
The Expert or Billionaire Who’s One Click Away
What if you don’t have millionaire friends to turn to for advice on money and business? What if you want to excel at a sport but none of your friends play it? What if you want to learn to excel at a high level at anything, and none of your friends share that goal?
It’s easier than ever to connect with others who share your mindset, and to find experts and even billionaires and expose yourself to them by leveraging technology.
Here’s a personal example.
I have the highest net worth of all my closest friends, and that’s been the case for a while. So I thought maybe there wasn’t much to this rule about being the average of your closest friends.
But I was wrong. The more I examined myself, the more I realized that the rule was in fact proven by my own experience.
My friends might not have high net worths, but the people who I spend a lot of time with via YouTube and podcasts and websites have much, much higher net worths than I do. And I’ve been learning from them for years, so part of my social group is virtual, and those experts I have been accessing have been influencing my life.
What You Can Do Today
It is of the utmost importance that you surround yourself with the people you want to be like.
Not only will they inspire you, but they will also show you the way.
So how do you do this?
You have to expand your social circle, and leverage the power of technology.
You can branch out in real life and join groups that share your goals. This may feel uncomfortable at first, but once you find like-minded individuals, the effort will have been well worth it.
Regardless of who’s in your social circle, and if you aren’t able to meet the right people in real life, you can learn from the best experts and thinkers out there by reading their books, listening to their interviews, and emulating their behaviors.
If your social circle is holding you back or simply not propelling you onward quickly enough, make sure you adjust it so that you are enlisting the help of others who have achieved what you yourself seek.
Once in a while, substitute your typical interaction with a friend that you know won’t be very stimulating with time spent reading a book written by someone you want to be like. You’ll be glad you did, and next time you meet up with your friend, you could even share what you’ve learned, and then before you know it your friend could be on a journey similar to yours.
On the topic of finance specifically, make sure to check out my page of investing resources containing links to investing information and tools that I have found extremely helpful. The podcasts and websites that are referenced there will change the way you think!