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Pick your friends: why it matters

why you should pick your friends



By Tom Peterson

“The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.” — Hoffman and Casnocha

Who do you hang out with? Do you nourish and stretch each other? Do you help each other get through challenges and move toward dreams? Pick your friends right and it can change your life.

Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler in Connected describe how social networks shape our lives. From a sample of more than 3,000 people they found that “the average American has just four close social contacts, with most having between two and six…. with whom they could discuss important matters or spend free time.” About half of these were “friends” while “the other half included a wide variety of different kinds of relationships, including spouses, partners, parents, siblings, children, coworkers, fellow members of clubs, neighbors, and professional advisers and consultants.”

Our lives are profoundly influenced by the company we keep as our habits and attitudes rub off on each other. Christakis and Fowler concluded that “each happy friend a person has increases that person’s probability of being happy by about 9 percent. Each unhappy friend decreases it by 7 percent…. we find that having more friends is not enough — having more happy friends is the key to our own emotional well-being.”

pick your friends

Who do you want to be?

We can increase our chances of success by being around people who we want to be like. If you want to be more positive or creative, surround yourself with positive or creative people. And being around people who smoke or meditate increase your chances on taking up those habits.

“Relationships matter because the people you spend time with shape who you are and who you become,” say Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha in The Start-up of You. “Behavior and beliefs are contagious: you easily ‘catch’ the emotional state of your friends, imitate their actions, and absorb their values as your own. If your friends are the types of people who get stuff done, chances are you’ll be that way, too. The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.”

The Interesting Person in Room

Artist Austin Kleon tells us that to “stand next to the talent” we just need curiosity, kindness, stamina and a willingness to look stupid. He passes on a rule from actor Harold Ramis: “Find the most talented person in the room, and if it’s not you, go stand next to him. Hang out with him. Try to be helpful.” “Ramis was pick your friendslucky,” says Kleon, “because the most talented person in the room was his friend Bill Murray. If you ever find that you’re the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room.”

What do you want to become more engaged in? Are you wanting to start a new habit or learn about a new field? Perhaps the starting point is to pick your friends, find the right people and stand next to them.

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