On positive influences Do you see the positive influences in your life and can you distinguish them from the negative? You have plenty of great people to learn from, but there are also plenty of people that could destroy you if you decided to spend more time with them. You know innately who you should spend your time around because they will make you better, teach you, and make you grow. The problem is that it's not as easy as accepting them. Imagine that the people you spend your time around are like packing your backpack up to travel with. You may be tempted to pack your bag to the brim and bring everything you might ever possibly need. "What if I need this on my trip? What if I want to wear that while I'm traveling? I'll bring it all, just in case." That seems like a good idea until you go out on your trip and realize that all of the things you decided to bring with you are slowing you down. You didn't need all of this extra stuff, and now it's become a burden. Friends are the same, both in quality and quantity. You should remember two things:
- By having more friends/influences/mentors/teachers, you will not have more learning/experience/happiness. You can only learn and experience at a certain rate, and changing the number of contributors to that input does nothing. In light of this, you should focus on few people and spend lots of time with them in order to learn and experience what you are supposed to with them. Do not focus on knowing every possible good influence or friend that might be enjoyable to be around. This is the folly of networking—that if we simply know more people, we will be happier. You might scratch the surface with many, but don't forget to develop profound relationships with a few.
- The more time you spend with someone positive, the more profound their singular effect is on you. Given that they are a good influence, by spending more time with that one person, you will develop more context with them. As you develop more context, you can help each other in ways previously not possible. As you help each other, you learn more about them. The relationship between an apprentice who has been with their master for 7 years is far deeper than that of an employee and boss that started weeks ago. By spending time with these few people who you call your influences, you can build this context and move forward in more meaningful ways.
You should also distinguish learning from relationships (mentors, coaches, teachers, companions, bosses, parents) from all other sources of learning. Unless you are presented with a figure of the likes of Marcus Aurelius to learn from, you will only be able to get such learning by reading the words of Marcus Aurelius. This isn't a bad thing, and you shouldn't be constantly on the lookout for better people to spend time around. The boxer who stays with his trainer and grows with his trainer at the same time has an advantage. As time goes on, their relationship deepens and their ability to communicate grows. They don't have to figure out what each other really means when they speak. On the other hand, the boxer who is constantly hiring and firing trainers always has an excuse for their failures. "It's only our first fight together. We're still learning about each other and developing a relationship that will help us succeed." By constantly swapping people in and out of your life, you are blaming them for your own faults. That boxer who switches trainers like socks is blaming trainers for his lack of success. If only he found the right trainer, the argument goes, I would begin to win fights. After how many trainers will you look at yourself and wonder if there's a problem with you? After how many lost fights will you, instead of firing your trainer, ask them how to grow?