The Most Important Success Tip:
Stop Lying Down with Dogs, Already

image of sleeping puppy

I remember hearing a factoid a while back that said that your income is destined to become the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

At the time, that bothered me. Outside of my family, I was hanging out with some folks who weren’t exactly rolling in dough. So to me, this factoid said:

  1. Dude, you’re going to be poor;
  2. Dude, if you want out, you’re going to have to ditch your friends and phony up to some rich people, which is lame; and
  3. Dude, if you do that, your new social circle probably won’t say “dude” at all.

But it got worse.

Your weight is destined to become the average of the five people you’re around most. Your habits (smoking, drinking, etc.) will correlate with those folks. Your level of marital satisfaction, of outside friendship, of ability to play the 1990s video game Street Fighter? All are tied to some degree to those of your peers.

I knew I was in trouble

The thing is, I’m a chameleon. I have a strong internal compass, but I also pick up external, cosmetic things from people very quickly, which is probably why I’m pretty good at building rapport.

I’ll eat dinner with Canadians and pick up their vocal inflections. I’ll have an Irish roommate for a weekend retreat and develop a Guinness habit.

So given that I had a lot of broke friends, what did that say about the forecast for my income?

The bad news about the factoid is that, from what I can tell, it seems to be totally true. If you only associate with, talk with, and think about interactions with losers, guess what you’re likely to become?

The familiar way of saying it is that If you lie down with dogs, you’re gonna get fleas.

The good news

But the good news is that you don’t have to ditch your old buddies and suck up to Mr. and Mrs. Howell from Gilligan’s Island.

And the ultra good news is that you can aspire to associate with “successful” people instead of narrowing the focus to “rich” people. And a lot of successful people say “Dude,” like, ALL THE TIME.

Who’s in your pack?

The truth is that we humans are pack animals, and the need for acceptance and love is hard-wired deep in our brains. People like people that they resemble, so getting that acceptance and love almost always means practicing some degree — at least on a subconscious level — of conformity.

If you skip a night at the bar to work on a new book, you’ll lose some love. If you’re eating an apple while your buddies are eating Buffalo wings, they’re going to goof on you.

It’s not a question of whether you can shrug it off or convince yourself that it doesn’t mean anything. This is primal stuff, and it will work its way down to your core in time.

So yeah, if you want to become more successful and your current group is a bunch of do-nothings, your best chance of making something of your life comes from changing your peers.

I know how this looks

I know it looks like I’m saying you have to throw away people who have been in your life forever — to ignore Cousin Cletus, who you love even though has no current job, car, or front teeth.

I know it feels phony. I know many of you reading this are resisting the notion, thinking that you’ll be a stand-up person by staying in your current peer group and simply rising above their expectations.

I also know that many of you are bursting with counter-examples — stories of people who came out of the ghetto and made it big.

So to address some of that, let me borrow from Tony Robbins.

Love your family and friends. But choose your peer group.

Tony’s modification of the factoid is, in my opinion, right on the money. Instead of just talking about who you hang out with, Tony’s version of the rule is:

Most people’s lives are a direct reflection of the expectations of their peer group.

Tony’s definition of a peer is someone you respect, and whose approval is very important to you. And, if you’re paying close attention, you’ll note that this definition has nothing to do with who you are actually around for most of the day.

You can choose peers from anywhere — regardless of whether you spend much time with them — as long as it’s their expectations that you’re always trying to meet.

You can also have dysfunctional relatives and sloppy friends, and choose not to hold them as peers. (But be careful, because it’s hard to spend a lot of time with someone and not accidentally seek their approval.)

You can even choose peers from among people you don’t actually know

See, peers aren’t like Facebook friends. Peers don’t necessarily have to accept your peer request.

Going back to Tony Robbins, Tony has said that he used to hold mental mastermind meetings with the people he admired most. One of the people he mentions “meeting with” regularly was activist and natural healing guru Norman Cousins.

So, because Cousins was (in Tony’s active imagination) a peer, Tony was always asking himself, “What would Norman think of this?” And when Tony “met” with his group, “mental Norman” would tell him what he thought.

I’m not saying you have to get all New-Age self-helpy. I’m just saying that you don’t need to limit yourself to peers within your immediate social circle.

Who are the people you respect most? And what if you did things with the intention of gaining their approval instead of Cousin Cletus’s?

Supercharging peer relationships

In an ideal world, those of us who dig Albert Einstein would have a cup of coffee with him regularly and chat about our goals and desires. But Albert’s dead, so a real-life interaction would actually be somewhat uninspiring.

But this is the age of the internet, and there are plenty of accessible live peer candidates out there, just a few clicks away.

So as a compromise between hanging with Cousin Cletus and creating wacky mental mastermind groups, you could try some of the following:

  • Find blogs, forums, and online social communities filled with people whose expectations you’d like to meet, and hang out there.
  • Find a coach or mentor. Paying for coaching is a great way to care if you meet the coach’s expectations.
  • Work with someone who pushes you. Several people I interact with are constantly asking me to do things I don’t yet know how to do, and it forces me to stretch.
  • Read any and all material you can find that exemplifies the life you’d like to live.
  • Join a membership site that surrounds you with mentors and solid peers.
  • Compete. I have a friendly competition with a buddy to see who can earn the most money. He’s been handing my ass to me for years, but I’m finally surpassing him.

If you do this for awhile, a funny thing will happen. You’ll find that the five people you actually do interact with most often will be your five best peers, give or take.

And while you’ll still think Cousin Cletus is awesome, you’ll likely find you’re less interested in hanging out with him 24/7, regardless of whether you can resist his sloth and plentiful nachos.

Looking for a vibrant group of smart, like-minded peers and mentors who can help you reach your goals? Sign up for the free Internet Marketing for Smart People newsletter. In the next few weeks, we’ll be announcing a brand-new tribe for online entrepreneurs. And our newsletter subscribers will be the very first to learn about it.

About the Author: Johnny B. Truant honestly didn’t write this to post in order to get new consulting work, but nonetheless recognizes a good pitching opportunity when he sees one. So, you can check out Johnny’s coaching services. Or maybe just follow him on Twitter if the idea of having him as a full-on peer scares you a little.

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Comments

  1. Great post, I totally agree. Don’t spend your time around people who will only pull you down. Invest in relationships where you find mutual benefits.

    Cheers
    Clinton Skakun

  2. Sound advice told in an engaging way. Your idea of a virtual peer group is illuminating. Thank goodness to Twitter above all – and LinkedIn groups more and more – for making that possible.

    But allow me to counter the implied put-down of dogs as a bad influence. In fact, they might represent some of the best traits you seek from a peer group:
    – Loyalty
    – Simple or no agenda of their own
    – Excellent listeners
    – Non-judgmental
    – And if you have three dogs with special needs and healthy appetites like I do, they tend to motivate economically

  3. This is a great article. I’ve always heard that “you are the company you keep”, which sounds great but did that mean that you ditch your friends and find new ones?

    This helps to put things into focus and may explain why I’ve been in the financial and health situations I’ve been in over the last few years.

  4. Nice post.

    You can still luv your family and friends, but also surround yourself with peers you want to emulate.

    Yes I luv my family, but same time thetre is mothing wrong with wanting to be more.

  5. Your distinction between peers and people that we actually associate with (whether by force or free will) makes a lot of sense in terms of self-improvement. In particular I find your challenge of expanding and enhancing your peer group especially inspirational.

  6. Hi Johnny,

    I love the post.

    Growing up, I was always looking for examples of people who had done more with their lives. I lived in the rough side of town, but when to school just a few yards from the sailboats. It was easy to see what was possible.

    There’s a guy in my city who owns my favorite restaurant. He’s also one of our city’s biggest realtors. I’ve known him since I was fifteen, and whenever I’m looking for specific direction, he’s there to listen and then say a few key things to help me find my own way.

    All your suggestions are great: reading all you can, choosing your tribe, looking for appropriate mentors, competition and working with people who pull the best from you. All great.

    The most important thing is to WANT it. If you’re content sitting on the porch, then there’s no reason to look for the pool.

  7. I found the most powerful statement in this post to be

    “You can choose your peers from anywhere … as long as it’s their expectations that you’re always trying to live up to.”

    I’ve been feeling conflicting expectations from different people – and different online groups – in my life lately and I’m going to be doing some rethinking around this concept. It can only help if I deliberately choose which ones matter to me.

  8. Absolutely agree. This post resonates for a lot of us.

    It is important to surround yourself with people who inspire, motivate and teach you to be the best that you aspire to be.

    For everything else, (like watching a late night movie or grabbing a midnight snack) there’s always your closest friends and family!

  9. It doesn’t always have to be either/or with “peers who aren’t friends” and “friends who aren’t peers.” If I’m looking for a debate on communications theory, I have those peers. And if I’m looking for a night out drinking beer and playing Golden Tee, I have those friends. You should strive to have both; just be intentional about what you’re taking away from whom.

  10. I loathe Tony Robbins. Loathe him. But I have to admit, this was good advice. Very good. Read again good. Maybe even print and hang on my office wall good. And since I feel as though my life is balanced on the precipice of great, wonderful. positive change (but it could go either way), it’s probably a very good idea to click “print”.

  11. True dat.

  12. Nicely put, Johnny. I went through the same thought process when I first learned about the peer group. We were in BIG trouble. It’s all good now though. :)

  13. Hey, I really enjoyed this post.

    My father used to always tell me that I should benchmark myself against the head of the pack and not compare myself with my peers. He used to tell me that because I was falling behind in school a lot. I brushed it off like all children do, but it was probably the best advice that I’ve ever gotten in my life.

    Your post reminded me of that.

    Thanks and good luck.

  14. Johnny,

    Your post reminds me of the book Rich Dad Poor Dad. Ever read it?

    The author’s poor dad gave him the only advice he knew—poor advice; get a job, rely on your pension. His rich dad gave him the only advice he know—the opposite; get a company, rely on profits and passive income.

  15. One of the best posts I’ve read here.

    It sounds callous, but it’s the facts of life. You deserve to live a life that makes you happy, and as such you have to pick and choose your influences…nothing wrong with that.

    I was wondering if I was the only one doing the voice inflection thing (straight from how to win friends and influence people).

  16. Reminded me of the guest post I wrote at John Chow entitled “Tell Me Who Your Blogging Friends are and I’ll Tell You Who You Are”.

    And with every sentence, I agree.

    On your recommendations, you said about finding places where you get surrounded by great peers. I knew one place you can’t go wrong – the Problogger Community. It’s just solid, awesome support.

  17. Hey Shane,

    The thing that I always think about with Rich Dad, Poor Dad is how uncomfortable the Kiyosaki household must be when Robert gets together with his siblings and mother at Thanksgiving. I mean, the guy has made his fame and fortune by (wittingly or unwittingly) dumping on his dad’s advice. The social dynamics involved are fun to imagine.

    BTW, virtual high five to everyone for me slipping the phrase “handing me my ass” past the Copyblogger gauntlet.

  18. Johnny… This is an outstanding post. I’ve been following Tony Robbins for years… I listened to “Get the Edge” years ago and it still resonates with me to this day.

    My favorite Tony Robbins quote is: “You can’t inject brains into anyone…” I say this in my internal monologue at least 10 times a day…

    But where this quote really helped me out was years ago when I was moving away from the people who didn’t understand why I wanted to grow and change…

    It’s hard to grow when the people around you are stagnant…

  19. I had thought that successful people were boring. So I had to be boring.

    A huge thing for me was when I realized that there were successful people who said dude and like to go on adventures and talk about zombies and also have a really messy car and make up their own words and write in horrible, run on sentences using no grammar when composing a blog comment. Freaking awesometastic.

    And *finding* my 5 (actually, I have an inner circle of 3, then an outer circle of about 8, then another circle of … etc. I’m very complicated.) was something only possible with social media. Because I’m kind of weird. So my people are all over the freaking place & we never would have found each other without all this cool technology stuff. Awesome.

  20. This is subject I have been mulling over for some time. I enjoyed getting your perspective. One thing is for sure, as I like to say, sometimes you need to weed your garden. I think this harder for women then for men but you have to let relationships go when you see them bringing down the expectations you have for yourself.

    I like Neal’s list of traits for your peer group! I think I would add, brings unique perspective and diversity.

  21. Hey Johnny,

    Your environment shapes who you are. So why would you want to be around something that you don’t aspire to?

    By surrounding myself and becoming friends (genuinely) with entrepreneurs and lifestyle designers, that way of living became the norm for me. A rich life, in a wider sense – not just money but a life filled with happiness, passion, not settling for less, and so forth.

    Regarding separating from older friends, what’s helped me is to see it as a natural progression. You and them grow in different directions, so it’s fine to let both of you to keep going in those separate paths in life. There’s no bad blood or conscious ditching of a friend, but simply not forcing an incompatible relationship and letting yourselves grow apart naturally.

    Here’s to not sleeping with the dogs and instead cozying up to those you aspire to be instead,
    Oleg

  22. @Brian – I thought I knew Tony well, but that quote is a new one on me!

    @EPW – I know, right? I don’t understand why we equate successful with boring. I don’t know why we think people who have done well aren’t REALLY, in any true and honest and base sense of the word, just regular people. It’s kind of like how in school, if you ran into a teacher at the grocery store, you’d be like, “You eat groceries? I thought you lived at the school and had no outside human life.”

  23. This was a very insightful post, Johnny and so on the mark!

    This is a very hard thing to do – looking around at your peer group and recognizing that they may be holding you back from your true potential and then doing whatever it takes to achieve what you want in life.

    Also, you don’t have to cut people entirely out of your life, just lessen the time you gradually spend with them and limit their influence on you. Spent time with people whose influence will better you so that you rise to the occasion.

    Great advice!

    Karen

  24. Fascinating post!
    You handled this problematic issue in enjoyable and smart way.

    Gilad

  25. Johnny,

    As per your usual, very cool post. You have a way of setting up your point and then driving it home. My question is: What if I don’t have a life outside the net. We moved to a new place, and outside of church, don’t have anyone to hang with. That why this struck me as particularly good advice:

    * Find blogs, forums, and online social communities filled with people whose expectations you’d like to meet, and hang out there.
    * Find a coach or mentor. Paying for coaching is a great way to care if you meet the coach’s expectations.
    * Work with someone who pushes you. Several people I interact with are constantly asking me to do things I don’t yet know how to do, and it forces me to stretch.
    * Read any and all material you can find that exemplifies the life you’d like to live.
    * Join a membership site that surrounds you with mentors and solid peers.
    * Compete. I have a friendly competition with a buddy to see who can earn the most money. He’s been handing my ass to me for years, but I’m finally surpassing him.

    Oops, I guess when I think about it…I do hang with a lot of friends on the net. I don’t know what they look like..or care. I just find people with interesting minds and enjoy their thoughts. My pals on the net are usually smarter than I am and I guess we are just help pull each other up.

    That works for me.

  26. Finding people in forums takes time. Then, it’s hard to not get crapped on when you ask a silly (?) question. I’ve about given up on finding friends in forums. Maybe I haven’t given it a fair chance, but it seems that the sentiment toward newbies is “hope they fail and get out, so we can have the business all to ourselves”. As if they didn’t have to start somewhere themselves. I guess it’s human nature to think that because you’ve been slaving away at IM for 3 years or more, the newbies don’t deserve any help!

    Call me “disgusted” with some of attitudes I find in forums.

  27. I used to think I had to do everything on my own. If I asked for help that made me weak or a failure. But over time I learned entrepreneurship isn’t something you can do alone. You (I) need others around you to support & encourage.

    And it’s not that my immediate circle are losers – I just come from a long line of employees. If I had a dollar for every time a well-meaning relative asked me when I was going to get a “real job”…

    Over time I learned to surround myself with other entrepreneurs who understand that getting a “real job” isn’t an option. But over time I found I wasn’t really getting anywhere because the entrepreneurs I was surrounding myself with weren’t getting anywhere either.

    So I began searching for other, more successful entrepreneurs. Did I kick the others to the curb? No, I still need their friendship and support as they need mine. But I’ve learned I need others who are further along the path than I am as well. I need the inspiration, motivation from people who are doing it right. I need to see that I can achieve more if for no other reason than some of my peers are doing it.

    Andrea

  28. Great post, Johnny.

    My parents actually taught me a similar trick of the virtual meeting regarding religion and support when I was a child. I was picked on in school for being “the smart one,” so when I came home in tears because I didn’t want to not be smart, no matter how it hurt, they suggested I “talk” with good role models – like Jesus and saints and family members who had passed on. While many people online might scoff at that, it did work, and it’s not much different than holding imaginary conferences with people you want to be like – which I also do. Neil Gaiman and I meet for tea or beer once a week in my head (I’m an asipiring author.)

    On the another, @Jen above mentioned that moving away from poor (and even toxic) relationships is harder for women than men, and I agree. Women are instilled, culturally, that we don’t want to “hurt” anyone, lest we be labeled “bitch”or worse… and said friends/relations continue to return to us for help as caregivers. While I’m glad I have ended & moved on from some relationships, it was an absolutely gradual process for many and required the support from the positive friends & role models I had – so, while the imaginary meetings were helpful in inspiring me to work harder – making live ones (even if they are online, and not close enough to hug) is also important, particularly for women.

    Thanks for the great post!

  29. You are 100% right and on target. Having lived by one principle: “If you can’t change who you are around then
    Change who you are around” has led to some interesting
    places with interesting people! Yours is good advice!

  30. But change is hard. And scary. How do we bridge the gap from where we are to the quantum leap of where we want to be?

  31. Great advice and really enjoyed reading this. I began to notice the peer group effect with relationships. Every time I was in a relationship and no one else in my group was, it was a lot harder for my relationship to flourish. Now creating a peer group from people you don’t actually know was a great point. This is something I want to try to implement. Good post!

  32. Funny you mention the story about Tony Robbins and Norman Cousins. I remember listening to a CD or TR’s and him talking about his ‘conversations’. He said these conversations where ones he was having in his mind to ‘act as if’ he knew him. They were so real to him that he actually believed he’d met NC. He was giving a seminar and was going on and on about… ‘When I spoke with Norman Cousins…” He did this a bunch of times at seminars and his business manager would throw a fit. TR would tell him that he’d visualized it so much that he truly believed he’d met him.

    He did this with several people he wanted to be his peers. I can’t remember if it was NC or someone else, but he tells the story that at some point he got a phone call at his apartment. The person on the other line was one of these people he would talk about but had actually never met. The person told TR they had just moved into the building and everyone kept saying ‘Oh, your good friend Tony Robbins also lives here. I figured we should meet.’ Ha!

    Funny… But shows that sometimes visualizing can work wonders. He met and became friends with NC and many others the same way.

    -Romadant

  33. @Johnny,
    I think Robert’s poor dad lives in Robert’s basement.

  34. Good stuff Johnny, you’re so right on with this one. While I don’t like to dump on friends that resemble Cousin Cletus, consciously assessing which friends and peers that you want to emulate is very helpful. It’s easy enough to initiate more interaction with people like Johnny and others while backing off and not initiating contact with Cousin Cletus and others who are in a different place.

    I also like to keep in mind that it’s good to give back and act as a mentor/role model toward those that aren’t as far along as I am, as long as they have similar aspirations and are making progress toward them. That being said, you do have to watch out for the dreamers that never actually do anything or the leeches that want you to do it for them rather than making their own success.

  35. @Sean, in my experience, that’s what’s cool about the whole association/peer thing. If you find some people who embody the change you want to create, and start spending some time with them (and, in Johnny’s great suggestion, think about their expectations for your behavior), you’ll get pulled toward the change in a way that feels oddly natural. You’re using the force of your own monkey brain to pull you where you want to go. It sounds kind of weird, but in my experience it works really well.

  36. It’s an interesting notion – though one that doesn’t much fit with my personal experience (though I can see elements of it in some people). Is there any evidence for the factoid?

  37. Thought provoking Johnny…

    It all makes very much sense. I think this concept holds stronger with peers that you interact with in person. I’ve experienced it both online and offline though.

    Online social networking allows you to connect regularly with people who share the drive and goals that you have for yourself.

    What you said in the end is dead on: “You’ll find that the five people you actually do interact with most often will be your five best peers, give or take.”

    Friendships change. They come and go. You may always reserve a place in your heart for your best friends of the past, but they’ll still be in the past. The people who you have a close connect at any given time are the people that you can relate to on some level based on your interests and goals.

    David
    Community Manager, Scribnia.com

  38. James Nicholls :

    Even before I glanced at who had written the post I knew this was you Johnny. You’re a legend by the way – great post :D

  39. @Ben, it was all over the news a month or two ago, but I’m not sure how the research was conducted. Income, weight, and a bunch of other factors are very strongly corellated with who you spend most of your time with.

  40. Another couple of tips that you can use to get where you want to go is:

    1. Use an “invisible counsel” that Napoleon Hill suggests, where you can have meetings with people that you admire, using only the power of your mind to solve your biggest business problems.

    2. Join a network, where you work alongside non-competing individuals all working together to benefit each other through mastermind sessions, referrals, and great advice.

    This way you can keep your friend life and your aspiration life separate. Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from tying to have a high level of achievement all the time anyway.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  41. I’ve always found this staying to be very accurate in my life as well.

    In addition to considering your peers based on expectations, is it also worth considering who wants you to be their peer?

    In any community, there are always people who are looked up to. How do they/should they decide if someone is worth taking on as a peer.

    As you pointed out, many of these people end up being coaches for hire.

    How do you establish to help bring someone up to your level? How to you demonstrate that you have the same mindset to reach that higher level?

  42. Great inspirational post Johnny.
    A great journey often happens when a group of friends all decide to better themselves at the same time. Not necessarily with all the same peers but they remain firends and go through self transformation together.
    I love the pictures of early Microsoft. Who would ever have lent money to them BUT they actually changed the world AND themselves at the same time.

  43. In the context of this great article, one simple question to ask ourselves when we reflect on our thoughts and actions is: “Are these the teachings of my master?”

  44. Good advice, Johnny. This is why I like Twitter so much. I get to spy on people I admire, see what they’re up to, what their attitude is towards things, and even interact with them. How cool is that?

    It’s always a good idea to actively learn from people who’ve achieved what we would like to accomplish, and social networking has made this easier than ever.

  45. It’s amazing that you have heard these ideas before but for some reason you avoid adopting them. The association with people you admire through the web does work and when you get to understand their thinking better you really can ask yourself what Seth would do.
    First you have to get control of yourself.

  46. Think this is a brilliant article despite the tendency to “New-Age self-helpy”. The truth is that we all need a bit of that at times and also the inspiration to carry on with our plans which is what you’re giving us here.

    Your list for supercharging peer relationships is great. I would also advise people to hang out with positive, energetic people and avoid naysayers and pessimists at all times.

    In the same vein when you say read do avoid reading the general media which is always full of bad news. Inspiring, entertaining and informative writing is what you need and you’ve supplied that for us here:)

    Cheers, big ears!

  47. Great advice Johnny B. I have a vivid imagination so it shouldn’t be too hard for me to get started on this.

  48. Wow, here I thought I was the only one who was a chameleon, but it looks like I’m not. Great advice and I found it very helpful as I really don’t want to dump my friends, but nor do I want to be inadvertantly influenced by the wrong people. This gave me an idea of how to have it all, thanks.

  49. Brilliant, brilliant article really. Tony Robbins wisely borrowed the conversations idea from TaGR for sure and its solid advice.

    I signed up for newsletter and hope to become an valuable member of the “brand-new tribe” that you are putting together. I hope you will be active in it as well Johnny.

  50. Napoleon Hill mentioned the mastermind in Think and Grow Rich. Andrew Carnegie didn’t hang out with people who complained about their job. Passionate people naturally attract passionate people.

    Selecting the proper peer group is among the toughest thing to do. Friends and family may tell you that you’re ‘selling out.’ Some are unable to let go the old and make room for the new because they’re afraid of what family and friends might say. From personal experience, it can get ugly. But it’s necessary if you want to be successful, whatever that means for you.

    There are billions of people on earth, millions with similar interests. Ending old relationships to make room for people more in harmony with the true you is praiseworthy.

  51. This is honestly hard to swallow. I know that you suggest that I don’t have to stop caring about my current peers, but it feels oddly self-serving and un-Christian-like to remove them from my circle and go for others. Not saying I won’t look into it, but wow…that’s tough!

  52. Yeah, it’s hard to swallow, but I’ve found it to be true. On the other hand, you don’t want to spend all your time or find heroes in essentially the same kinds of people all the time – your fiscal heroes and your spiritual ones just aren’t going to be the same people all the time.

  53. I came across the 5 people concept a year or so back and it’s so true. Of course we can’t always 5 people who we’d aspire to be like in every area of health, success, blogging etc, which is why being at least somewhat active online is crucial IMO.

  54. So true. VERY well written… thanks for communicating so clearly on this!

  55. Johnny, thumbs up on your engaging writing, nicely done sir. Thought provoking, and artfully offered. Happy I read it.

    And Dan Smith, commenter #51, thumbs up to you too for being the first to follow Johnny’s advice when he said… “Work with someone who pushes you.”

    Johnny challenged some of our assumptions about what being a nice and smart person is, and you were willing to both chew on his challenge in an open minded way, and challenge back, in a constructive way. The two of you, pushing each other to explore, grow, learn. Johnny’s advice in action.

    My 2 cents is we shouldn’t pick a business peer group that is always patting us on the back, telling us how great our work is, how right we are, and how much they agree.

    That’s a job for family, friends, and Fido, whose talents in this regard are unmatched.

    Instead, we might suck it up, crank up our courage, and pick a peer group that has our best interests at heart, but makes us struggle for our pats on the back, tells us how our work could improve, why we might not be right, and the other side of the story.

    Do we want to rise the next level? Let’s find those folks who care about us enough to help us face all those things we’ve been trying to avoid. That’s where the action is.

  56. Nice Johnny…Funny thing is last night I was listening to a podcast called Shrink Wrap Radio and it was about positive psychology. It is estimated that around 50% of our happiness and success is based on the relationships we have.

  57. This is great. One of the things that drives me to certain projects and any work is the people behind the work. I get sold on the people leading and representing the work because I know I will learn something extraordinary by being around them.

    People get me excited.

  58. This article is so true!! When I was 16 my peers were homless trainhoppers, so thats what I did for a year. Nowadays it consists of co-workers and musicians. Thanks for the eye opener

  59. I haven’t had time today to pop in on the discussion much, so quickly, before I go to bed: Thanks to everyone who has had good things to say.

    And if anyone had bad things to say and I missed it, then… well… I practice Voodoo.

  60. @Dan, really, you don’t have to remove anyone. Just develop some new relationships with people who look more like where you want to go.

    I’ve done exactly that in the last 2 years, but I still love my old friends and family. I haven’t ditched anyone. I’ve just formed some new associations (some of which have become fantastic friendships) that have radically changed my professional direction.

  61. Thanks Johnny, that was an excellent article. It made me have a good hard think about my friends and acquaintances. I heard once that reading biographies of accomplished successful people is a way of making them part of your virtual peer group. I like that idea.

  62. Nicely written post. Good ideas with humor.

  63. Good friends are priceless.. You can’t buy friendship with money and we should cherish and keep our good buddies.
    i think the theory of “income is destined to become the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

    is not ditching your good friends yo’re hanging around with, but to learn more from those people who succeed in life.

    By communicating with these successful people, they will be able to change your perspective and to motivate and inspire your mindset to get the most out of ur life.

  64. When thinking about my friends from high school, my dad always told me that you would grow up to be just like them. I agree that your peers have a lot to do with the person that you become, but if you have the mental toughness and will power to stay the course that you want to achieve, then you are already ahead of the game.

  65. JT

    First, love the post, love your work and how much you put into it. Anyone thinking about a new site, needs to call you to get it done right.

    Second. I agree that surrounding yourself with people that inspire you and who you want to be like to develop your own way is so powerful. As we are who we are and speak the way that we speak (ex. Dude, I say dude!) we cannot change that as no matter how hard we try our true self will come out. I believe our social development evolves as we get older and who we spend time with does change but when we get that feeling of being unsure or hesitant we go back to the comfort zone.

    Surrounding yourself with people who share your passions is a driver. There is that internal responsibility that you feel to them and also yourself to bring your best to the table. While some old friends may not be happy that you are not throwing some back with them every night and have no idea what you do the people who share your other passions will be appreciative.

  66. Well, I have been following Johnny’s advice subconsciously for a while now. And it has been working great so far. It is common sense but a nice, fun reminder is always appreciated.

    P.S. I am so going to Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I was always curious but never got around to it.

  67. meant to say going to read Rich Dad Poor Dad.

    sorry for the mistake.

  68. Johnny’s article contains some interesting truths, and they’ve been explored pretty thoroughly above. So let’s flip the coin over, and see what’s on the other side.

    Our goal is business success. Let’s explore some of the mindsets that lead to success.

    1) Successful people are leaders. Looking for mentors and a peer group that can help pull us up isn’t leadership, it’s followship. Being a mentor and peer group that can help pull somebody else up is leadership.

    If our current peer group is “a bunch of do nothings” we can be the person that tries to bring these folks the hope they need to be do somethings. Let’s learn leadership by _being_ a leader, not by following leaders. Seen this way, our “do nothing” friends might be our biggest asset. The leader we are looking for is…. us.

    2) Business success comes from making other people happy. Obviously, our customers are interested in their happiness, not ours. Thus, to the degree that we are focused on us, and our needs, we are out of touch with those who have the money we want.

    Us, and our clever strategy to get what we want.

    Let’s forget it.

    Let it go.

    Nobody cares.

    Instead, let’s find somebody we can serve, and focus on serving them well.

    If we sincerely feel that Johnny has written an interesting article, we can convincingly demonstrate that by using his article as a launching pad from which we thoroughly explore the topic he’s introduced.

    Every coin has two sides.

  69. I think it’s worth reiterating here that while this looks like swapping one group of friends / peers for another, it really isn’t. There is a strong resistance to the notion from most people when it’s taken that way — I know; I’ve had that resistance.

    What we’re doing is choosing who we let into our minds.

    So you can and should hang out with old friends, and should not abandon them. But you should also seek out the aspirations and ideals of people you’d like to be like.

    Some individual responses:

    @Elizabeth Rocks – I know what you mean. Forums are hard. I can’t keep up with forums anymore, but I used to. Their shortcomings are often also their strengths, though. The resistance against newbies you feel is actually a symptom of the strong social bond that the existing members share. You have to hang back, make small comments, and ingratiate yourself slowly just as you would with a real-life group. If the forum is worth it, the effort will be worthwhile.

    Of course, some forums are more open than others. Some are more helping-minded.

    @Sean Oliver – Go slow. Few people naturally dislike change more than I do. Make a little adjustment here and there so that you like the positive pull of where you’re going more than you dislike the change.

    @James Nicholls – Legend? I like that.

    @Blake Waddill – Remember, a peer in this sense doesn’t have to “accept” your peership. You really only need to care what their expectations would say about you and what you do.

    And as to establishing mindset, remember that consistent, persistent actions speak loudly.

    @Annabel Candy – You should really read this old post from my blog about why I hate the news.

    @Victory – Um, I might be in there a bit. Don’t tell anyone that I told you.

    @Dan Smith – I know what you mean. Just remember, you’re not removing them from your circle… you’re simply not giving them the power to judge your actions. You’re saying, “This guy is cool, but I don’t want to end up in his situation. So I’m going to help him, but his opinions will not govern my actions.” I think that doing things that way might make your Christian efforts more effective, actually.

    @Phil – Right, two sides to every coin. I’ve heard this argument before, about staying in a group in order to raise its standards. And it makes sense, because if you drop a hot piece of metal into cold water, the water does cool the metal… but the metal also warms the water up as well.

    I think the key is in what I said above to Dan. You have to choose whose expectations influence your behavior and thoughts, and then act as a teacher within a group whose standards you’d like to attempt to improve. The world would indeed be a sorry place if inspirational leaders had simply decided to skip out on people in need once they figured out a better group to associate with.

  70. Building a social network is not difficult, but to share the results of our work to see other people sometimes have a lot of obstacles. The point is, can they support what we do?

  71. I really like Phil’s notion of leadership. Sure, we get affected by our friends’ negativity, pessimism or lack of goals, but in the end we can be the ones changing them for the better. We can have fun and be a good influence at the same time. If we are determined enough, maybe they will be getting a promising attitude.

  72. I want to share this link with you. It is information about Dunbar’s number .
    Dunbar postulated that the typical human being can only have 150 friends

    http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/10/the-penalty-for-violating-dunbars-law.html

  73. This greatly matches the teachings of the much hyped law of attraction. Great stuff right there and keep on with the good work guys.
    Regards peers,
    Kevin Njoroge

  74. As usual, brilliant and insightful. I’ve been trying to get to feeling comfortable in forums for a while. Sometimes I got burned, and other times I got friended. I sat down with an organizer and started keeping track of my friends, where they hang out and notes on our conversations. I think you have to put some work into any relationship, and I appreciate my cyber friends more everyday, especially when I’m feeling a little low and get a PM out of the blue.

    It works, if you work at it.

  75. I always look forward to Johnny’s guest post with anticipation. This is one of his best, though, for people who feel a disconnect when trying to learn and make friends. I tend to agree with Jon Tremain, you get out what you put in. Take a little extra time to actually make a meaningful comment on forums, instead of trying to set a record for backlinking. You’ll be surprised how well you are received.

  76. A follow up article might address one of the obstacles to finding and joining a new peer group. Many folks are hesitant about posting in forums, afraid their comments will get shot down by others etc. Lurkers always seem to out number participants.

    Speaking of back linking, could I suggest that those visitors who are adding comments welcomed by the site owners here be given link juice as a little token of thanks. After all, we’re working on your site instead of ours, eh?

    This can be accomplished by turning on DOFOLLOW, and deleting comments that don’t meet whatever standard is set.

    A live writing exercise. Carrot and stick. Editing. Tell us what you want, reward us when we deliver, and delete us when we don’t.

    What should we aspire to in this peer group?

  77. Right. And read good writers. And pay attention to good SLOGANS.

  78. @Phil – You’re right; it’s a tricky balancing act. The best luck I’ve had in forums is to slowly work your way into casual, off-topic discussions with the regulars and quasi-regulars. Strangely, it’s the off-topic stuff that solidifies a community, not the on-topic.

    I think too many people in forums are concerned with getting something out of the relationship… getting people to visit your site, or getting them interested in a product you may have. Remember: community first, sales and business a distant second. That’s what can be hard about the Third Tribe mentality — it takes patience and trust.

  79. Johnny, you wisely said, “I think too many people in forums are concerned with getting something out of the relationship…”

    Yes, good point indeed sir, I suspect you’ve put your finger on something that is very important, and applies to all our communications, including sales pages.

    To the degree the subject is us and what we want, we are not addressing what our readers are interested in, them and what they want. We are “off topic”, in the reader’s mind.

    Wait, it gets worse…

    To the degree our motivation, our strategies, revolve around us and what we want, readers will sense that the contact is really not about what interests them, them and what they want.

    Wait, it gets worse…

    As writers, people who love language and are comfortable with words, we THINK we’re clever enough to hide our “all about me” orientation. But we’re not. The human mind is incredibly adept at sniffing subtext, hearing body language, reading between the lines, getting at the facts.

    All that business about how our strategy driven sales pages are really all about serving the readers isn’t us fooling readers, it’s us fooling ourselves, snorting too much of our own pitch.

    Everybody’s looking for that clever strategy to get what they want. It’s been beaten to death, become the most ordinary and boring thing in the world. And after years of daily practice, we’ve all learned to smell it coming a mile away.

    What if we’ve reached the end of this road, and it’s just no longer possible to write anything truly engaging, truly trust building, from this point of view?

    Maybe the only clever thing left to do is to begin learning how to lose this whole “clever strategy to get what I want” mindset?

    No, it’s not religion. It’s business. It’s as simple as this, nobody cares about us and what we want.

    Personally, I find this idea fascinating, and really really challenging.

    But watch….

    Truthfully, this rant is really all about me and what interests me, not about most readers here and what interests them.

    And thus, this communication will likely die the quiet death it deserves, which seems fair and just, and an illustration of the point.

  80. Before you go rearrange your life and make imaginary friends, the quote is from a motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, not a sociologist. It also did not mention income.

    http://www.philosophersnotes.com/ideas/show/averages-amp-friends

    If it is true–assuming something so vague has truth-value at all–it might simply mean you will hang around people who have the same interests you do. Another way to put it is “you can judge a person’s character by the company he keeps.”

  81. Thanks for the link Rob. I dunno. The article says, “We are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time.”

    Suppose we were to spend the next 2 two years in Haiti, serving and surrounded by troubled uneducated people who haven’t a clue how to make money online? Would that make us troubled and uneducated, or would that teach us leadership?

    Maybe we’re the average of the last five people we’ve served? Suppose the question isn’t, do our peers inspire us, but, do we inspire them.

  82. I like the idea of making your own peers. I have heard Tony Robbins and others talk about leaving those behind that don’t aren’t where you want to be, but it’s difficult when it’s family.
    Love your family and friends, but choose your peer group is something that can be done. Thanks for pointing this out.

  83. I agree with the essence of the article, it is important to make a conscious decision regarding who we choose to spend our time with.

    @Phil – I don’t think we are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time with – rather we are the average of the five people we relate to the most. If you are a devout vegetarian, spending time with your meat-eating friends isn’t going to make you want a steak…but if one of your vegan friends recommends giving up dairy, you might consider it.

  84. Phil, I think you are on to something about service. There is something consumptive and instrumental about choosing people to get you where you want to go.

    I’d rather someone like me for me rather than what I am according to their own self-interest. We have all known at least one person to move past us for one reason or another because we are no longer useful to them. Maybe they found someone better.

    No one is an average of anyone or anything else and if I am thinking of a person in terms of averages I am simply not thinking about a person.

  85. Well, these articles are thought provoking, aren’t they? Thumbs up for that.

    We all make choices about who we associate with, and who we look up to as role models. Can’t really argue with that. Maybe the question is more, where do we want to go, and how to get there?

    We could set personal development aside for now, keep it simple, and just say we want to make money. Ok, no problem, so how do we do that?

    By solving somebody else’s problems. Focusing on somebody else. Serving them, making them happy. If we make a lot of people happy, chances are we make a lot of money.

    So ok, surround ourselves with people who can take us to the next level. And what’s the next level, in business terms?

    Getting off the subject of us and what we want, and on to the subject our clients are interested in, them and what they want.

    We can look for people who will inspire us to do this.

    Or we could skip that step, get on with it, and just do it.

    Maybe looking for people who will raise us up is just one more way to put off the job of raising ourselves up?

  86. What a nice way to start Monday morning reading this article. A great reminder of how we naturally gravitate towards people who are on the same ‘wavelength’, and vice versa. And to know I am in control of what happens in my life.
    I have only recently discovered this blog, and already so many things resonate with me. Look forward to reading more posts.

  87. Wow what a great post! I’ve heard that saying before and if we want to really be successful we do need to surround ourselves with the people that have what we long for.

    Thanks for making it so clear!

  88. What an awesome article.

    Admittedly this is something that has been at the forefront of my mind for some time. I try and keep a diverse range of contacts and peers, but I never thought about using the mental exercise mentioned in this article.

    I will to confess to reading books and blogs I wish were in my peer group. Maybe that is an under-developed method of what Tony Robbins was doing. Something I shall have to think about.

  89. Nice article and very true. What will happen, at least what I’ve witnessed in most people, is as you grow and change those around you will grow and change too. If they don’t then they will choose to not be around you.

    If you ever watch “The Biggest Loser” or shows like it where the people make enormous life changes, when they get home one of 3 things happen:
    1. They lose most of their friends by choice or accident. Friends often try to keep you unconsciously at their level because if you change it means they can change too. Change is hard.
    2. Their friends change along with them and are supportive, etc and this change was the catalyst for the group.
    3. The person goes back to old habits because of te pressure of the group.

    I personally love my childhood and teen year friends. As I’ve grown I’m glad I’m no longer part of that group. They would not have encouraged the things I do now and as I look back the joking and teasing that others do is a fear of you changing and flaunting in their face your success.

    I remember reading a quote, but I can’t remember who said it, “The will to survive is not the strongest will in man, it’s the will to do what’s familiar.”

    If you can use a mental group to start this transformation frthe familiar just be warned and prepared the reality may try to hold you back.

  90. This was a very good post. I totally agree with it. This is also my first time on the Copyblogger website so I signed up for email updates.

  91. Great post. Anthony Robbins has been my mentor for about 6 years. I listen to his cds all the time. I always am more positive after plugging into him.
    The friendship thing is important. I want to be a successful writer so I am deliberately cultivating the virtual and real writing friends.
    Life is full of abundance.

  92. ‘Change your Peer Group’ can take on another meaning. Instead of upgrading by switching to other people – take your current peer group and upgrade *them*. This is only worth it in specific cases of huge potential and interest in change – but I’ve found immense satisfaction helping some of my less-than-peer friends and helping them fucking kick ass by suggesting new jobs, careers, places to live, etc – and then making it happen with them.