The Silent Success Killer That We Ignore

After high school, I was certainly the average of my five best friends. I was just dragging along and doing what others thought were good ideas. Nothing changed until bad company was replaced by good company. And that took radical action which sent me packing—literally.

Good Company or Bad Company

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. – Jim Rohn

I believe Jim Rohn’s quote summarizes the point most succinctly. I often see this in groups of team members who spend a lot of time together. It is most obvious when you are the outsider looking in and not obvious at all when it is you who are “averaging out.”

As a leader of several diverse groups, I had a more unique perspective. I watched as people entered the team and saw their evolution as they began to adapt and “fit in.” Sometimes the change is so dramatic—group members even begin to look like one another—it’s impossible not to see this principle in action.

We All Do It or Did It

Of course I experienced the effect of this principle as well. When I graduated high school, I still spent a considerable amount of time with high school friends. I was in college but my core group of friends remained the same – and so did I.

As reflect back on the past, I see that we continued on the same meandering trajectory we had in high school. Half plans followed by half attempts left me (and them) with student loans, a procession of apartments, a full-time job, and no real way ahead.

It was completely of my own doing but the point is I didn’t even realize I was being influenced by those around me so much. Even if I had wanted to make a monumental shift, I probably would not have because fear – of ridicule, embarrassment, failure and of the unknown – kept me in my comfort zone of average.

Big Change

So what changed for me? It doesn’t get much more radical than this: I joined the US Army and shipped off to basic training. That was a sure fire way to find a different group of people. And it worked (over time). I found myself stagnating in my life’s progression. Something was wrong but I couldn’t quite verbalize it. I just knew I needed a change.

So I dropped everything. This was the major life shift that changed my trajectory and finally broke my hypnosis of comfort and stagnation. It was not all immediate but I can track my upward progress in all aspects of my life to this decision.

Who do you spend time with? Are the people you spend the most time with the kind of people you envision helping you achieve your dreams? Do they build you up and encourage even your most outlandish ideas? Or do they tell you to be realistic or to find security and be safe? To accept what comes. That life happens to you and that you just have to hang on for the ride? Do they talk about other people in negative ways or do they talk about ideas and plans for future success?

I won’t be easy to eliminate people from your life. It may be close friends or even family members but you must get this part right if you want to permanently alter the course of your life. To become who others look to for guidance and direction and to be able to see the future brighter than others, the negative and toxic people in your life must be marginalized and eliminated. This may seem harsh and maybe it is, but it is necessary to grow and change into the person you know you can be. Success is a journey, not a destination.

Take Action

Make a list of all the people in your life. Put them into one of two categories: positive influence or negative influence. Someone may be a positive person but they spend most of their time at a bar or some other non-productive behavior. These people, though positive, are negative influences. Take a serious look and honestly assess your friends and family members. If you cannot completely remove them from your life, then reduce the amount of time you spend with them.

Find a group of like-minded people – people who are on the same journey as you. Find other leaders in the same or different industries. Go to leadership seminars or training. Join a speaking group like Toast Masters. Go to the places where people are increasing their skills and improving their potential for success. You will find people who will build you up and help raise your standards.


Share this with someone you know who could use better company.