How can it be we are all average, but none of us are the same?
In what seems like a clever riddle, the answer is rooted more in the outcome of our choices than our circumstances.
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn is credited with saying that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. And while some debate the point, the logic is difficult to completely dismiss by looking around us. Daily life is full of examples difficult to ignore.
What Rohn means is we tend to hang around those who inspire, shape and emotionally reward us. This can be good and bad. Good choices elevate you; poor choices push you down or hold you back.
Rohn didn’t have to crack a secret code to land on this conclusion. Culture is populated with witty phrases supporting this conclusion. Misery loves company. Winners hang with winners. Birds of a feather, flock together (my mother’s favorite).
Again, Rohn’s logic is designed to reinforce how our decisions impact our outcomes. We are in control and not some mysterious force lurking behind a bush in the mist.
As I’ve more than five decades under my belt, I gave myself a bit of self-examination through the lens of Rohn’s now famous phrase. And surprisingly, I found his words held water in my life.
When I was in school, I hung out with those who were more interested in cutting class and challenging the value of school, setting an inherently low bar. And in my gut, it never felt right. Soon afterward, I was peeling away people who I questioned and whose values didn’t line up with mine, like removing layers from an onion.
But when I rebuilt my circle with people who were more interested in performing well in any task placed before them, my personal performance moved upward. My new circle fed both my emotional and psychological hunger. And my life changed dramatically for the better.
Interestingly, this is an ongoing process. Along the way, you might pick up a spouse and a few friends. And because of careers or family changes, many will come and go. But in the end, you find yourself more carefully selecting with whom you spend your time.
We’ve all repeatedly performed the peeling of the onion exercise in life. But do we do it with purpose? Do we craft our choices to feed the hunger, thirst and emotional needs we hold? Or do we simply remain holding onto the past, fearful to let go of non-nourishing relationships?
I love my friends. And my best friends are nothing short of an eclectic mix of interests, personalities and pathways in life. But they do share certain core values important to me — thus feeding my emotional needs. All are highly curious and respectful of the world. They also are deeply honest and committed to their friends and family. And they all smile easily, laugh deeply and love life like it was going out of supply.
And among them, I am proud to be average.