“Instead of spending our lives running towards our dreams, we are often running away from a fear of failure or a fear of criticism.”
Eric Wright (Author; Always Give A Penny To A Blind Man)
“If you accept the expectations of others, especially negative ones, then you’ll never change the outcome.”
Michael Jordan (6X NBA Champion and 6X Finals MVP)
“Stop letting people who do so little for you control so much of your mind, feelings, and emotions.”
Will Smith (Actor; Pursuit Of Happyness)
The person next to you will influence your future.
In 7th grade the most popular clothing brands were Mossimo and No Fear. These brands were popular because they were high priced and only available at these specialty skater-type stores. Oh, and those Adidas Samba shoes – they were really popular too. Only the coolest kids wore Mossimo T-shirts and Samba shoes. I wore crap.
My family didn’t have a lot of money when I was in middle school and my wardrobe consisted of three cheap flea-market shirts, the kind that have a dragon or three wolves howling at the moon on the front, and a pair of K-Mart jeans with holes in the knees. I did my best rotating the shirts so it looked like I had a different one to wear every day — dragon on Monday, three wolves on Tuesday, free 7-UP T-shirt from the grocery store on Wednesday, then dragon again on Thursday and so on. But one day I got called on it.
This kid in my social studies class asked me really loudly before the teacher came in, “Isaiah, didn’t you wear that shirt this week already?” Gulp. I shook my head. Then he took out a piece of paper documenting what I had worn that week. Monday: dragon. Tuesday: three wolves. Wednesday: 7-Up, Thursday: …dragon. I remember everyone, especially the popular girls, being silent and just looking at my shirt. It was clean though. Really. I swear.
You know when people say they felt 2-inches tall? I didn’t feel that way but I felt like I didn’t exist. Or maybe I felt like I didn’t want to exist. And then I felt angry. I wanted revenge. I spent the rest of the year committed to getting back at that kid. I was so obsessed with him that my grades started to suffer. Then we got in a fight and were both suspended. The ironic thing is I still only have 3 T-shirts.
Dream Killers Are Contagious
One bad apple spoils the bunch. The gases emitted from a ripening apple will cause other apples to ripen more rapidly. But, if one bad apple begins to grow mold spores, the bad apple will infect and ruin all of the other healthy apples. Human beings behave in a similar same way.
Good and bad behavior is contagious. One study found that emotions circulate through social networks in patterns similar to what’s seen in epidemiological models of the flu virus. Numerically, each positive person you surround yourself with increases your chances of being positive by 11%. But, each negative person you let into your life will more than double your chances of being negative. Recent research also shows that even negative traits like obesity are transferred like a virus from person to person. If one of your friends becomes obese, you have a 171% of also becoming obese. Why?
Interacting with other people engages your mirror-neuron system. A mirror neuron is a cell in your brain that fires both when you act and when you observe another person acting. This system makes you copy other people, whether you want to or not. If you spend enough time with anyone, no matter who it is, you will start to mimic their behavior.
According to the Institute of HeartMath, your heart emits an electromagnetic field that extends up to five feet from your body. This heart field is 60 times stronger than the electromagnetic field emitted by your brain and can literally envelop people standing next you (and visa versa). Studies show that the electromagnetic field emitted from other people’s hearts can actually influence the rhythm of your heartbeat and your emotional state.
14 People To Flee From
The people you allow in your life will affect your emotions, your decisions, and your actions. Most importantly, they will affect your options. Sometimes we feel like we have to let everyone into our lives, like it’s rude or mean or elitist not to give our time to other people. But it’s not rude. And it’s not elitist. It’s enlightened. It’s a sacrifice.
If you want to achieve something great – if you want to make your biggest dreams come true – you have to be very deliberate with who you let into your life. Figuring out who to avoid and who to let in won’t always be easy. But, with a little practice, you can get really good at staying away from those who will keep you from your biggest dreams. Here are 14 people you should stay away from:
1. The Siren
Sirens are those amazing, beautiful, and brilliant people who you occasionally come across in life and become completely enchanted with. More than anyone else, these people have a way of stealing your focus and throwing you way off track.
In The Odyssey, Book XII, Homer tells the story of Odysseus’ return from Aeaea, a mythological island that the sorceress Circe lived on. Before leaving the island, Circe warned Odysseus about one of the obstacles that he would come across on his journey – the island of the Sirens. He was warned not to listen to the Sirens’ song. So, Odysseus ordered his men to stuff their ears with wax and tie him to the mast of his ship. As the ship sailed past the island, Odysseus heard the Sirens’ song. The song was so seductive that he begged to be released.
A lot of promising futures have been sacrificed to Sirens. Some people dropout of school or quit a job they love to be closer to a Siren. Others get hooked on celebrity gossip or get lured into a get-rich-quick schemes.
Everything that glitters isn’t always gold. Most shiny things are just distractions. Don’t let an amazing person make you forget that you have something amazing to offer the world too.
2. The Martyr
I once had dinner with a self-made millionaire who spent the entire night telling me that ambition was evil and that I should tone myself down. Two weeks later she opened another store and bought a new Porsche Cayenne SUV.
Historically, the word martyr has been used to describe people who suffer persecution and death for advocating, or refusing to renounce, a particular belief. The modern definition of a martyr is someone who preaches self-sacrifice and plays the victim card in order to gain influence over people.
Modern-day Martyrs will come into your life every now and then and try to control you with guilt. They will position themselves on the moral high ground and use obligation to get you to do what they want.
Be especially cautious of people who try to make you feel responsible for their happiness. No one is responsible for someone else’s happiness.
3. The Goat
Goats are those wildly charismatic, big-talking, and full-of-luck people who seem to get away with everything. These people have many strengths, and, they are extremely devious. Goats love to sabotage other people’s goals. They may seem slippery or chaotic but they are in fact very sure footed and know exactly what they’re doing.
Goats symbolize creativity, vitality, and evil all at the same time. In nature, goats are sure-footed animals who are more at home on dangerous mountain tops than on flat ground. They survive by being agile and creative. In Greek mythology, the god Pan is shaped like a goat and is known for his virility and ability to regenerate. In many religions, including Judaism and Christianity, the goat symbolizes a fallen angel — a demon. Together, this is a dangerous combination.
Goats have little ambition beyond convincing others to make bad decisions. If you find yourself constantly making bad decisions every time you’re around someone in particular, it’s time to cut them out of your life.
4. The Elephant
An elephant never forgets. Elephants are those people who will never let you live down past mistakes or past, lowly positions that you once held in life.
Elephants will try to bring you down by tapping into two psychological phenomena: imposture syndrome and negativity bias. Imposture syndrome is characterized by the inability to internalize your accomplishments. It’s that voice in your head that creeps up every now and then telling you that you’re a phony and it’s only a matter of time until people find out.
Negativity bias refers to your brains preference for negative information over positive information. Studies show that negative information is quickly routed through your amygdala and into your long-term memory banks while positive information has to be held in your awareness for more than 12 seconds in order to be stored in your long-term memory banks.
Don’t let an Elephant pull you back into the past. Keep moving forward. Meditate on positive information and practice coaching — not criticizing — yourself internally.
5. The Hater
Haters are people who want to be on top but don’t want to work to get there. Instead, they want to push everyone else around them down so it will seem like they’re on top.
This is what the kid in the story at the beginning of this post was trying to do — raise himself up. He wanted attention. And keeping track of my wardrobe was an easier way of getting attention than being an “A” student or a star athlete.
Haters are losers. But they are also great sources of motivation. The key is to get back at them in the right way — by living the best life possible.
6. The Narcissist
Narcissists are talented people who are too consumed with themselves to take any action. They are so concerned with how they look (or might look) that they simply do nothing. The problem with having these people in your life is that you will be drawn to them and will want to count on them, but, they will never come through for you.
In Metamorphoses, Book III, Ovid tells the the story of Narcissus and Echo. Narcissus, a hunter known for his good looks, walks through the woods when Echo, a mountain nymph, sees him. Echo falls deeply in love. Narcissus senses he is being followed and shouts “Who’s there?”. Echo repeats “Who’s there?”. Echo eventually reveals her identity and attempts to embrace Narcissus but he rejects her. Heartbroken, Echo retreats to the mountains and withers away until only her echo sound remains.
Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, hears what happens to Echo and decides to punish Narcissus by luring him to a pool of water. Narcissus sees his own reflection in the water and, not realizing its his own image, falls in love. He lays by the pool looking at himself year after year until, one day, after realizing that his love will never be returned, he dies.
People who always take and never give or who are too afraid of failure or looking bad should be avoided. You can’t help them and they certainly won’t help you.
7. The Nemesis
We’ve all met someone who we just can’t stand. We do our best but this person keeps rubbing us the wrong way and, for whatever reason, they stay stuck in our heads. The Nemesis (see #6) is this person. You don’t like them and they don’t like you. You’re both out to get revenge on each other and you both know it.
Over the years, I’ve realized that the people who stick in my head are those who challenge my ego. Whatever I find annoying in them sheds light on something I either don’t like in myself or something I like too much in myself – something like a skill, talent or personality trait that I see as significant. Either way, the sticky part of this person is at odds with my identity and the only way to fix it is to turn the mirror on myself, not them.
A Nemesis is nothing more than a distraction. Competing with other people won’t make you better, it will take you off course. A better strategy is to compete with yourself. This will ensure that you stay focused on what really matters — your dreams and your path.
8. The Ares
Ares-type people love conflict. They are addicted to drama and to “winning” at all costs, even if there’s nothing to be won.
In Greek mythology, Ares is the god of war. He is the son of Zeus and Hera and one of the Twelve Olympians. Ares symbolizes violence and barbarism — the sloppy side of war. This is in contrast to Athena who symbolizes strategy and military command.
A recent study found that ignoring confrontational, Ares-types increased the ignorer’s intelligence and productivity. Researchers examined 120 participants who were asked to talk with or ignore offensive people. After four minutes of interacting with these people, each participant was given a thought exercise that required good concentration. The participants who ignored the offensive people performed better on the thought exercises than the participants who engaged with the offensive people.
Any time spent trying to correct or even understand an Ares is a waste of time. You are better off ignoring these people altogether.
9. The Dionysus
I moved from Spokane, WA to Lancaster, PA for college. It took me a while to make friends. I spent most of my first year locked in my room studying. Well, the door wasn’t always locked. Sometimes I would leave it open, hoping to see one of the girls on my hall walk by in a towel. The point is I didn’t get out much. But I got straight A’s.
My sophomore year I moved in with a bunch of guys who partied. Hard. By the end of the first semester I was staying out with them until 4AM, going to Waffle House at 5AM, and finally going to sleep at 6AM. I started skipping a lot of my 9AM and 10AM classes. I also started taking a lot of 2-hour naps in the middle of the day. My grades plummeted. It took me an entire year to recover my GPA.
Dionysus is the Greek god of wine, parties, and pleasure. Dionysus-types are pleasure seekers who have very little patience for anything other than instant gratification. Be careful when letting these people into your life because base pleasure of any kind is both addictive and time-consuming.
Of course, it’s important to have friends and have fun, but you should never sacrifice your biggest dreams to a string of late nights.
10. The Black Cat
Some people can walk into a room and light it up, others walk in and kill it. Black Cats are the latter. They are those people who seem to have a dark cloud following them everywhere they go. These people are unlucky, negative, and always depressed.
Black cats are bad for your health. Research shows that being exposed to too much negativity peels away neurons in your hippocampus, the part of your brain responsible for problem solving. This means that negative people literally rot your brain.
Don’t feel bad for these people. Odds are, they like sitting in the pits. They like the attention it gives them. So, let them sit.
11. The Fat Cat
The summer after my senior year of college I was working as a waiter and getting ready to go to graduate school. I ended up waiting on the table of two multi-millionaire entrepreneurs who I sweet talked into hiring me for a research assistant position. Within three months they moved me to a different state and set me up in a penthouse with a new car and a new wardrobe. But, it came at a price. All of my free time disappeared and my personal dreams started to disappear too. It wasn’t their fault. My dreams were just different. So I jumped ship.
Fat Cats are those people who will come into your life and sweep you off your feet. They will show you a world you never seen and you’ll be too awestruck (or maybe dumbstruck) to to determine if it’s really right for you. Just don’t stay dumbstruck for too long.
Make sure you’re always flying towards your own dreams, even when you’re flying high. After all, you’re not really flying high if someone else is holding the kite string.
12. The White Whale
It’s healthy to look up to other people. Success leaves clues and if you find someone who has everything you want then by all means you should learn from them. But, you shouldn’t chase them.
In the book Moby Dick, Herman Melville tells the story of Captain Ahab and his pursuit of a ferocious, elusive, and giant white whale. The whale, Moby Dick, is Ahab’s Nemesis (see #7). The story is narrated by a character named Ishmael, who meticulously describes Captain Ahab’s voyage on the whaleship Pequod. The entire book is about Ahab’s obsession with conquering Moby Dick and everything that goes into doing this. But, by the end of the book (spoiler alert), Ahab and most of his crew die. They are killed by the white whale.
Eventually, someone will come into your life who you see as a hero or an idol. You’ll want to be them, or at least be like them. If you let this obsession go to far, you’ll spend your entire life chasing after them. This is a mistake. You should never sacrifice who you are to the impossible future of being someone else.
13. The Mooch
The Mooch is a needy, melancholy person who manipulates you into acting on their behalf. These people will put you on a pedestal just so they can beg at your feet. Mooches love acting like they need to be saved and that you’re the only person who can save them. They will constantly seek out your help and attention. And then, when you can’t help them, they’ll act like Martyrs (see #2) and Black Cats (see #10).
A cold heart is the only cure for a Mooch. You have to stop helping them. Otherwise, you will become their crutch and make it that much harder for them to stand on their own.
14. The Looter
In graduate school, my mentor would try to use threats to motivate me and other people in the lab. He’d yell things like, “Do this now or I’m writing a letter to your Department!” Or he’d shout, “I’m the boss!” which sounded more like a plea for help than a threat.
Looters are people who try to make you do things by force. At the core of a looter is a bully, or maybe someone who was bullied and now wants to get revenge on their past by being a bully. Looters are only really a problem when they have power over you, like when they’re your boss, teacher, or some other gatekeeper.
You should always stand up to the Looters in your life. Set firm boundaries right away and don’t give them an inch. If you give an inch, they’ll take a mile. Keep them at a distance and then sit back and watch them self-destruct.
Have you ever had any of the above people in your life? If so, which ones? How did they affect you?
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