An Odd Interim
I was in 7th grade. I rode around everywhere on my GT Mach One BMX bike. I rarely ever did my homework. I didn’t pay attention in class. And I didn’t care to listen to anyone, especially if it was unsolicited advice.
I hung out with a sixteen year old homeschooled kid that was obsessed with vampires and Marilyn Manson. Eventually, I became obsessed with those things too. He slept in until 4 PM every day, and we’d hang out after I got home from school.
My other friends were kids that rebelled against their parents, were constantly in trouble, and had zero motivation to succeed. But they were “cool”…
As you can see, I was going through a bit of a phase. The ironic thing about a phase is that you have no idea you’re going through one until you’re out of it.
Luckily for me, it was a short one. Those things simply weren’t me. As much as I wanted them to accept me and have a group of my own, I couldn’t let myself drown or perpetually hate life like those kids.
A Powerful and Simple Proclamation by Jim Rohn
There’s a quote you’ve probably heard before:
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
- Jim Rohn
This could be one of the most true and profound statements of our time. I’d like to explore a 2.0 version of this same idea.
We all know it’s true we start talking like, acting like, thinking like, dressing like, spending like, and even feeling like the five people we spend the most time with.
Just walk through any of San Francisco’s eclectic neighborhoods and this truth is plainly presented. Even in a city known for its individuality, everyone looks and acts like everyone else. No one wants to be the outcast, the black sheep.
The Average of All Choices: True Growth
What about everything else? Do the books we read, people we listen to (but don’t necessarily know), TV shows we watch, and choices we make on the weekends shape who we are?
Of course they do, it’s just harder to see. After that phase in 7th grade I made a big change. I started hanging out with kids that did their homework, and started doing my own (most of the time). I began enjoying having intellectual conversations. I started reading books by inspiring people and began to care about measuring growth. I started realizing that maybe success was in my own hands, and life didn’t have to just happen to me. I was in control.
Later on in life — just a year or so ago actually — I decided to become a professional. I had another one of these “waking up” episodes, and with it, a big epiphany: the visions I had in my mind of the person I wanted to become didn’t match the actions I was taking today.
Would future Arman finish his work early and assume it was good enough? Would future Arman spend every weekend out on the town—drowning himself in noise, alcohol, and surface level conversation? Would future Arman surround himself with people who were okay with the status quo, with no real passion for life?
To think one day we’ll wake up and magically have the life we envisioned is a fatal mistake. That’s an amateur mindset.
The fastest and most effective way to move in the direction of your vision (without worrying about how it’ll happen), is to actually live it now. Be it now, even in the smallest ways possible.
Tiny steps go a long way.
You must be the person you have never had the courage to be. Gradually you will discover that you are that person, but until you can see this clearly, you must pretend and invent.
- Paulo Coelho
I thought I was doing a good job, but there’s always room for improvement. Being aware and conscious of your choices is a great start toward becoming a happier and more fulfilled person.
I made a decision to be the very best version of myself I can be, and that person doesn’t play at an amateur level. I played small because I fell into the sheep trap again. Maybe I wanted to be accepted, or just live a “normal” life.
I stopped, I changed, and I’ve never felt better. Now everyone around me tells me I’ve changed, but I love it. Why? I think because it confirms I’m moving in the right direction. Something magical keeps nudging me along, like little omens. I know this feeling, and it usually leads to great triumph. I’m not going to question it. And when you make those changes, neither should you.
You don’t have to worry about what people will think about your new lifestyle choices. If anything, you’ll gain more respect and they will admire you. Growth attracts amazing people, and naturally sheds the rest (including the naysayers).
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
- Bernard M. Baruch
How Do You Make The Shift?
So how do you start to build that awareness and make more conscious choices about what influences you? Look around. Where and how do you spend your time?
What about the news you consume, does that affect you? Absolutely. The people you follow on Instagram, the books you read, the movies you see — all of it is part of the “formula of averages” that shapes who you are.
Just because you’re watching it on TV doesn’t mean you’re detached from it. We underestimate the affect of incoming information on our subconscious and conscious minds. It’s affecting your behaviors, and even your desires. I mean, you’re spending time with this person or idea after all, aren’t you?
Realizing this can be a bit heavy at first. There’s definitely an initial waking up period. You may feel a sense of responsibility to be more conscious about your choices, or even a sudden urge to radically change everything at once.
Don’t let it overwhelm you, have fun with it. Take it one area at a time and start to make changes little by little. Maybe start by finding excuses to hang out with that one really quirky, successful friend you have. Remember, success leaves clues.
Time to Start, but Slowly…
Start slow. Exchange just one brainless show you’re addicted to with the enlightening documentary on your queue, or that book you’ve been wanting to read. For example, lately I’ve been spending my free time watching Cosmos (the best thing on television, ever). I get to relax, and still learn something at the same time.
Another new ritual I’ve formed is meditation. I used to think it was mystical balderdash, but I’ve researched and tested this thoroughly now. I’m hooked. Meditation, even for a busy entrepreneur, is one of the most important and positive rituals you can add into your life today.
Just to be clear: I’m not recommending you become some uptight, sober book worm. There’s nothing wrong with relaxing and zoning out sometimes. In fact, it’s good for you. Sometimes doing nothing but relaxing and rejuvenating is the best thing you can do.
I’m suggesting that you be more aware of how you spend your time.
When we hear about success stories, we place them in a separate category, as if it’s a hollywood movie. All my life I looked at people I wanted to become and thought, “Well, that’s them. They were born with talent. They probably knew the right people and had connections” which is the biggest BS of all.
I believe there’s one key thing that stops us from getting what we want: our story. The fictitious story you tell yourself about why things are the way they are. Change your story, and you can change your life.
Perhaps you want to be wealthy. So surround yourself with successful, wealthy people. Read books by wealthy people, and learn to appreciate their perspective. Don’t hang out with people who get jealous of others. Or worse, people who believe all wealthy people just “got lucky”. And if that’s what you believe, maybe it’s time to take a look at your own programming and explore the cognitive dissonance you’re holding. I did, and it changed my perspective.
Perhaps you want to travel more. So ask your traveler friends when their next trip is and go with them this time. Or even better, take a long weekend and head to a random country for no reason at all. I flew down to Panama and explored a beautiful country, in only 4.5 days. Don’t be the person who just asks questions about what destinations to visit, and then never does anything.
Perhaps you want to become a solopreneur. So support the ones you identify with most. When I first started to even consider this as an option, I looked to people like Chris Guillebeau to get guidance and motivation. Email your solopreneur friends and offer some value or help (this is key). Then ask them specific questions, including me. You’ll be surprised at the free help you get from people. Don’t delay and keep searching for a golden ticket, you’ll never find it.
So remember, it isn’t just the people we spend time with that influence us. It’s the reality we live in, the choices we make, and the things we do that shape us.
You are an average of the friends, mentors, activities, information, and experiences you choose to have in your life.
I trust you’ll make the best decisions. And remember, enjoy the ride…
Do you agree with Jim Rohn’s ‘average of the five people’ quote? What’s one small step you can take today to be more fulfilled?
A version of this post was originally published on WhyILeftGoogle.com
Arman Assadi is founder and Chief Solopreneur at WhyILeftGoogle.com (WILG). Arman helps solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, and wantrepreneurs create more freedom and work more effectively. He is a writer, soccer player, and obsessive world traveler. He is also Board of Directors President for Traveling Stories— a 501c3 nonprofit organization working to outsmart poverty one book at a time. For more articles like this, get access to his Freedom Lifestyle Insider Newsletter.