I am not “the average of the five people I spend the most time with."

 

According to motivational guru, Jim Rohn, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with."

 

I think that is dangerous and disrespectful nonsense.

 

Dangerous because so many people read and share that statement as if it were fact, or an absolute truth handed down from on high.

 

Disrespectful because it diminishes the power of free will.

 

I get the idea behind that comment. I understand completely how being in the company of energetic, motivated and ambitious people can potentially fire you up and help you move ahead faster.

 

I also get that being in the company of people who mope around and say that “life sucks” ten times a day can, potentially, hold you back and drag you down.

 

But I still have two problems with his statement.

 

1. I am not the product of the people around me. I am me.

 

Actually, I find the whole idea that my future is somehow irrevocably tied to the people around me to be insulting. I’m a lot more than that. And so are you.

 

Regardless of my circumstances and company, I can determine my own future, on my own terms. I can choose my own goals and get there whether I am surrounded by people who are uplifting, or depressing.

 

If your personal sense of drive and ambition is without any real foundation, then you probably will be significantly influenced by those around you. But if you hold true to a deeply held belief in your own strength, then your surroundings become irrelevant.

 

While in prison for all those years, do you think Nelson Mandela became the average of the five people he spent the most time with? How about Mother Teresa?

 

To believe that you become the average of the people you spend the most time with is to submit to a place of personal mediocrity.

 

If you want to be remarkable, your future is determined by you alone.

 

2. The statement is insulting to millions of people of great courage and compassion.

 

Let’s say one of the five people I spend time with is an old school buddy, my best friend. And let’s say he just lost his job, his wife left him and he’s drinking too much. What shall I say to him, “Sorry old friend, I can’t hang with you anymore, because you’re a negative influence in my life.”

 

Or I have two teenagers at home who are going through some serious struggles which are casting a cloud over the whole family. “Sorry kids, you have to go.

Your negative vibes are preventing me from achieving my true potential.”

 

Or I work evenings at a community hall, serving food to the homeless. “Sorry guys, can’t do this anymore. Homeless people are depressing.”

 

Concluding thoughts...

 

Yes, having positive people around you can be great. Having a mentor can be wonderful.

 

But in the real world we don’t get to choose to spend all our time in the company of five perfect, uplifting and positive people.

 

And thank goodness for that. How dull and false our lives would be if we turned our backs on our friends, family and communities just to be in that “special place”.

 

Finally, and this is just speaking for myself, the day I allow myself to become the “average” of any group of people will be the day hell freezes over.

 


Note: I don’t know Jim Rohn, nor am I familiar with his complete works. Maybe people have taken his statement out of a broader context I am unaware of. My beef is with the way that people repeat, email and tweet this statement, as if it were an unchallengeable truth. It’s not.

 

 

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