“Surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves, those who work hard and play hard.”
Colin Powell (Retired Four Star General; United States Army)
“Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.”
John Wooden (Former UCLA Basketball Coach; 10X National Championships)
“Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.”
Russell Simmons (Co-founder; Def Jam Records)
The best way to predict the future is to pick your friends.
A few months into my first year of graduate school I dropped a test tube full of millions of mouse spermatozoa that I had just spent the last 8 hours prepping for a big experiment. The tube broke and the cells splattered all over the place. This was a pretty big deal because the experiment I was doing was part of a larger experiment that involved a dozen other scientists.
As I walked down the hall to tell the professor in charge, a bunch of excuses raced through my head. I had just started doing a three-month rotation in this professor’s lab, which was something that all first year graduate students did, and this wasn’t the best start. When I told him what happened, he paused, looked me dead in the eyes, and said dryly, “Perhaps, in the future, you might want to be more careful when handling your spermatozoa.” I started laughing. He smirked, told me it was okay, and helped me map out a plan for repeating the experiment the following week. I spent as much time as I could around this professor throughout my graduate school career. His wit energized and entertained me and his detailed knowledge-base helped me stay focused and organized.
A few years ago, one of my friends invited me over to his house to hear about some “exciting oceanfront timeshare opportunities.” I’m not the smartest guy in the world but something about this smelled fishy. So, I asked him a few professional questions like “dude, are you trying to sell me timeshares?” He acted confused and said “no” but when I pushed a little harder I found out that he had bought a bunch of (supposedly) discounted timeshares from some woman who also gave him a video and a script that he could use to get other people to sign up. Of course, signing up meant agreeing to share the cost of the timeshares. I declined the invitation and advised other people I knew against going because friends don’t let friends get sucked in by pyramid schemes.
Matter Over Mind
Be careful with what you surround yourself with. Studies show that people feel more ethical after washing their hands. Other studies show that people are more rigid and decisive when they sit on a hard chair versus a soft chair. If you hold a hot drink in your hand, you will rate someone as having a warmer personality than if you’re holding a cold drink in your hand. If you carry a heavy clipboard or thick notebook, you will feel more important than if you carry nothing at all. If you wear a white coat that you believe belongs to a doctor, your ability to pay attention increases sharply. But if you wear the same white coat and believe that it belongs to a painter, your attention stays the same.
Be careful with who you surround yourself with. Research shows that people who are lied to are more likely to lie and cheat. Similar research shows that having an obese friend increases your chances of becoming obese by 171% and having a smoker in your family increases your chances of smoking by 61%. But, people can make you better too. For example, studies show that having just one happy friend increases your chances of becoming happy by 15%. In fact, having just one friend of a friend who is happy increases your chances of being happy by 10% and having one friend of a friend of a friend who is happy increases your chances of being happy by 6%. How is this possible?
8 Types Of People To Surround Yourself With
Everything around you affects your future, especially other people. If sitting on a hard chair or putting on a white coat influences your behavior, imagine how much the people in your life influence your behavior. You can use this influence to your advantage by surrounding yourself with people who will improve your life and staying away from people who will destroy it.
Sometimes it’s hard figuring out who is good for you and who is bad for you. You might think that surrounding yourself with people who are just like you is a recipe for success, but it’s not. Likewise, you might think that staying away from people who challenge you or make you angry sometimes is healthy, but it’s not. The smartest strategy is to surround yourself with people who have strengths that you lack while staying away from people who encourage you to take shortcuts. Here are 8 people you should surround yourself with and 8 people you should avoid at all costs:
1. The firecracker.
Firecrackers are witty, charismatic, and always full of ideas. They have tons of energy and are always popping off at the mouth.
At first glance, you might mistakenly label a firecracker as arrogant or rude. But, in reality, these people are incredibly good-hearted and always want to bring out the best in others. Sure, they are feisty, bold, and quick to challenge you, but they do so in a fun and encouraging way.
Keep firecrackers close to you. These people will help you stay energized and present. They will make you think and will help you slowly chip away at all of your limiting beliefs.
In business, firecrackers add incredible value to any sales and marketing team. Don’t worry about these people ruining your professional reputation. They are exactly what you need to keep your products and services fresh and exciting.
2. The oracle.
Oracles are those rare, intelligent people who can see the end from the beginning. They are visionaries who live rich internal lives and who can look at everything from a bird’s eye view.
In ancient Greece, Dodona was the oldest and wisest oracle. She was commonly consulted by private citizens who had personal problems and was thought to speak through the rustling of oak leaves at a secluded site in Northwestern Greece. Ancient citizens would scratch their questions on lead tablets and receive a simple “yes” or “no” answer from three priestesses who represented the Dodona.
Modern day oracles, like Steve Jobs or Larry Page and Sergey Brin, are very similar to their ancient counterparts. Very often, they are loners with introverted personalities who predict (or change) the course of humanity with their longterm mindsets.
If you have big goals for your life, make sure you surround yourself with as many oracles as possible and consult with them frequently.
3. The wizard.
Wizards are innovators. They are the scientists, engineers, and architects behind the world’s most amazing inventions. These people do the most difficult thing in the world: create something from nothing.
No matter what you’re trying to build, wizards will help you build it better and faster. Wizards make up the brilliant R&D, programming, and design teams at the world’s top companies. Without wizards, all ideas would waste away.
4. The linguist.
Linguists are people who excel at wordplay. They are able to organize their thoughts into oral and written forms of communication to motivate, entertain, and teach other people.
Linguistics is the study of language form, meaning, and context. Pāṇini was the world’s first known linguist. He was a Sanskrit grammarian from ancient India whose earliest work dates back to 500 BCE. In particular, Pāṇini was responsible for formulating the 3,959 rules of Sanskrit, creating a type of grammar known as Ashtadhyayi.
Modern day linguists are authors, bloggers, public speakers, columnists, scientific writers, and communicators of all types. You might be tempted to take these people for granted, especially in today’s world where content has become a commodity. This is a mistake.
Whoever creates the stickiest content, controls the conversation. From memes to mission statements to memos, communication is what keeps ideas, product, services and actions on the top of people’s minds and at the tip of their tongues.
In business, the best communicators are always hired first. Interpersonal skills are more important than any other skill and can literally double your value to any company. If you lack this skillset, surround yourself with people who have it and learn from them.
5. The connector.
Connectors are those people who have dipped into a vast array of diverse groups. Connectors know people from businesses or from parts of the world that you’ve never even heard of.
In college, one of my friends used to always tell me, “It’s better to have 100 friends than 100 dollars.” I thought he was an idiot. “Give me the 100 bucks!” I used to tell him. After all, I was a scientist and a wrestler — both of which relied heavily on self-reliance and individualism.
Eventually, I realized that connecting with others and working with them towards a shared goal is the only way to make really big things happen. I also learned that connecting with others can be a lot of fun.
When you get stuck in life, it’s the connector who will know the perfect person to help you get unstuck. Stay close to the connectors in your life. They make incredible managers. They also throw the best parties.
6. The battering ram.
Battering rams are entrepreneurs in the purest sense. They are gladiators who can get beat down again and again and again and keep coming back for more.
During the Iron Age, a battering ram was a siege engine designed to break open city walls and other fortifications during siege warfare. In ancient Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions, battering rams consisted of large logs that were slung across giant wheeled frames and tied down by massive ropes or chains. The head of these rams were usually reinforced with metal heads or caps while vulnerable parts of each shaft were bound with metal bands.
In today’s world, a battering ram is a misfit who refuses to hesitate when faced with failure, insult, or isolation. Two often misunderstood characteristics of these people are their intense energy levels and their confident, borderline arrogant, demeanor. Don’t misunderstand the battering rams in your life. Their intensity and overconfidence are simply the reinforcements they need to stay strong while they are bashing against the walls of new frontiers.
If you find yourself lacking initiative in any way, start surrounding yourself with as many battering rams as possible. These people know how to execute and will get a job done no matter how many walls are in their way.
7. The encyclopedia.
Encyclopedias are exceptionally structured and exquisitely detail oriented. These people excel in implementing and sustaining professional systems and processes. They are the oil that keeps all organizations running smoothly.
Growing up, I used to go with my Dad to the school he taught at after hours to play in the gym while he graded papers. After arriving, my Dad would circle the halls and have a 5-10 minute conversation with each and every custodian or secretary still left in the building. One time I asked him why he went out of this way to talk to all of these people. He said for two reasons; one, the custodians have all the keys, and two, the secretaries control all of the paperwork. I didn’t understand him then but I understand him now.
Encyclopedias are the easiest people to take for granted. They operate under the radar and take care of very tactical operations. But, they are still incredibly important. To understand just how important these people are, compare your worst customer service experience to your best customer service experience. The difference between the two is nothing more than the operating procedures maintained by the encyclopedias at each respective company. Sure, management creates a vision for what the customer’s experience should be. But it’s the encyclopedias who will ensure that the vision is carried out correctly.
If details put you to sleep, then you need to get an encyclopedia in your life as soon as possible. Encyclopedias will keep you organized and help you hit the tactical benchmarks that you might be overlooking.
8. The hacker.
Hackers are half oracle (see #2) and half encyclopedia (see #8). They are able to see both the overall vision for a business, as well as the processes that keep the vision in place.
Hackers are those people who can deconstruct these processes, test each piece individually, and then put the best components back together to create better vision for the future.
How did Twitter become so popular during the meteoric rise of Facebook? When it began, Twitter was simply a way to tell the people following you, in 140 characters, what you were doing. But Facebook already had a status bar, right? Twitter’s success stems from the fact that it was able to hack out the best part of Facebook, improve it, and repackage it. As a result, they now dominate the status update market.
Hackers are scientists. They create paradigm shifts by testing different parts of a process over and over again until every piece is optimized. If you don’t have the time to test the various parts of your business or life, then start making friends with some hackers. The amount of time and energy these people can save you is incredible. If you’re not hacking, you’re slipping.
8 Types Of Toxic People To Avoid
1. The clown.
The clown is the evil counterpart of the firecracker (see #1). Like firecrackers, clowns are bold, witty, and full of energy. They have a lot of ideas and are constantly popping off at the mouth. The difference is that these people use their wit and charisma to push others down.
Clowns are manipulative and mocking. If someone you spend a lot of time with is always making fun of other people, guess what, they’re probably making fun of you behind your back too. Kick these people out of your life. You’ll be better off for it.
2. The mystic.
Mystics are fake oracles (see #2). The difference between the two is that mystics promote visions that makes people feel good but are not at all based on reality. These people will tell you that you don’t need a purpose in life and that the “Universe” will take care of you as long as you relax, have fun, and always be nice.
Of course, having fun and being nice are important, but they are not a complete recipe for success or fulfillment. If you want the best things in life — if you want to be able to take care of yourself and your family for a long time to come — you’ll need to fight for it.
The ironic thing is that most mystics are people who have worked exceptionally hard in the past to build a large platform and to achieve financial independence. But now, instead of telling others the truth about how they achieved success, they lie and say that the Universe will just give everyone whatever they want. Don’t buy into this. It’s simply a high-level ruse used to hold others back.
3. The magician.
Like the wizard (see #3), the magician is a creator. The difference is magicians create fake or inferior products, using smoke and mirrors to sell these products to the unsuspecting public.
Magicians include those people who take someone else’s product or content and pawn it off as their own. Instead of repurposing and improving the work of others, they simply rebrand and ship it.
Magicians worry about design and style over content and function. Steer clear of these people in business. They will ruin both you personal and professional reputation.
4. The guru.
Gurus have a way with words. They can stand in front of an audience and make everyone stare in awe at their amazing stage presence. Like linguists (see #4), these people are great communicators and influencers. The problem is that they’re communicating pure fluff. Nothing they say is concrete or actionable.
Today’s world is full of all kinds of gurus and life coaches. Be careful to keep the fluffy ones out of your life. They’ll distract you, take your money, and leave you right where you were.
5. The pyramid.
Pyramids are people without qualifications who try to sell you something that shows you how to sell something to someone else.
People like this are easy to spot. They usually have a gigantic online presence and a massive number of followers but are otherwise unknown. These people sell products and services and tout all kinds of business and marketing advice. The only problem is they don’t have any kind of actual business experience whatsoever. Instead, they rely completely on affiliate marketing and self-created informational products for credibility.
Whether someone is trying to sell you a box of jewelry, a makeup kit, or a timeshare package — or an online course or access to an exclusive group — make sure that what you’re signing up for is credible.
Do your homework and ensure that all of the people involved in the program have real world experience in whatever they’re teaching.
6. The siphon.
The siphon is the inverse of the battering ram (see #6). Instead of breaking through barriers from the outside in, siphons drain resources from the inside out.
Siphons will make every part of your life worse. These people will suck up your time and energy until you have nothing left. They will ride your coattails and eat away at you simultaneously.
Siphons are exhausting. Don’t let guilt and obligation coerce you into keeping these people in your life. Cut them off. Right now.
7. The busybody.
Similar to encyclopedias (see #7), busybodies are extremely organized and detail-oriented. The problem is that they’re obsessed with the wrong kinds of details.
Instead of being focused on improving professional systems and processes, these people are focused on putting out fires and perpetuating personal gossip.
Busybodies simply cannot shut up about little, irrelevant details that no one else cares about. They’re always busy, but never productive. And they constantly cry about not getting the credit they deserve. Avoid these people at all costs.
8. The quack.
The quack is a fake hacker (see #8). The biggest difference between the quack and the hacker is that the quack lacks the patience and the intelligence to dig deeply into a particular system.
Instead of gathering data and performing actual science, the quack skims the work of others and uses pseudoscience to make money off of others. Be wary of people who regurgitate case studies and scientific experiments, especially if they’ve never worked for a business or performed an actual scientific experiment themselves.
Doing some A/B testing with Google Adwords does not make you a scientist. Neither does reading a peer-reviewed journal article abstract online. Hackers and real scientists have in depth knowledge of their particular fields, which allows them to make intricate connections both quickly and correctly.
Quacks cannot do this. Quacks are all show. Stay away from them.
Remember, you are who your surround yourself with in your life. It’s that simple – the right people make you a better person. By focusing more on seeking out and surrounding yourself with the right types of people, you improve your overall quality of life and ultimately your chances of success.
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