Before You Cut Off Your Friends

Early into my personal development journey, I heard this saying that you are the average of the five people that you spend your time with. I didn’t really question it; I thought it made a lot of sense. And I also heard/read a lot of self help content that pointed to being very cautious about the people you surround yourself with. Make sure they’re a team of A players. Make sure they’re people whose lifestyle you’d like to emulate, etc. Years later, I’m here to tell you this: it’s all BS. And here’s why.

It is true that surrounding yourself with people doing the things you’d like to do can help you to achieve those same goals/dreams. But, that doesn’t mean you need to cut off a friend just because they’re not as ambitious or driven. Some people are satisfied with their lives, and just because it isn’t the lifestyle you’d desire, doesn’t mean they still can’t be a great friend. For myself for example, I have lots of friends or acquaintances who work traditional jobs or are in grad school, but are supportive of me or are otherwise great to hang out with. Some of them listen to my music. Some of them watch my videos when I put new ones out. Some of them invite me to fun events around town and are great at conversation. We don’t need to be having the same goals in life to be supportive of one another. Part of the fun of getting to know people is learning about different experiences, different interests, different lives. Why get stuck in a bubble of your own? You’re essentially creating an echo chamber, and that’s the opposite of growth, which goes all against what personal development is even about to begin with.

Sometimes, you do need to cut off friends, such as when they are being abusive. That’s understandable. But dropping a friend just because they’re satisfied with having a job when you’re trying to start a business? Or dropping a friend when they become ill/depressed when they’ve been there for you? It means that you don’t understand the true value of friendship.

Besides the people we surround ourselves with though, most people spend a lot of time consuming content. It could be in the form of books, music, videos, podcasts, etc. What most people don’t realize about the saying of being the average of the 5 people you spend your time with is that simply engaging in high quality content can change your way of thinking. It can transform your way of being, doing, and your overall attitude/perspective of life.

I personally don’t know many people who sell digital products or make money online with music the way I do, but I consume content that teaches me how to do that. I follow digital product creators online and subscribe to their YouTube channels. I read blogs and books by people who were successful at it. And just by that alone, it influences me and creates the person that I am. My input becomes my output, and it’s not just about the people I spend time with. In fact, I’d say as an introvert, I spend a lot more time consuming content than interacting with others.

I’d say if I was struggling to achieve my goals despite this, I still wouldn’t just cut off my current friends. I’d probably find new friends with similar interests, goals, and desired lifestyle. And then I’d maybe spend less time with my other friends, and more time getting to know new friends. I don’t have to give them the ultimatum and stop spending time with them entirely. I could just rebalance my life and adjust the different inputs.

Remember, cutting off friends just because they’re not as ambitious as you or into “growth” like you is just another excuse. It’s an easy out. You’re blaming the external for why you haven’t changed internally. The fix can be as simple as just spending your time differently, whether it’s consuming different content, creating more, or finding other more fulfilling work.

Sometimes, there are also ebbs and flows in friendships. I have a few friends from primary school or high school that I more recently started hanging out with. For years, we didn’t have each others’ contacts and were living in different countries even (myself in South Korea). But nowadays, we have the desire to go and check out different places/events together. You never know when you’ll cross paths again. So it’s best, especially if they’ve been a good friend to you by being respectful and kind and whatnot, to maintain friendships, big or small. Don’t make the mistake of cutting off people too callously.

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