We make many choices that mold our personalities, but none are quite as important as the people we choose to be around.
As motivational speaker Jim Rohn put it, we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. This doesn’t mean you’re not the architect of your personality — you just need to make smart choices about those surrounding you.
Choosing good company can be a tricky balancing act. We need many things from our friends and associates, including competition, honest feedback, moral support, and good judgment. I am a competitive person, for instance, and like to surround myself with people who make me want to push a little harder or reach a little higher. Alone, I might not feel the need to make that extra effort, but with the right people around me, I have the energy to go further.
Rarely do I find one person who has all the qualities I’m looking for, but that’s normal. You need an inner circle of people who complement your strengths and help you improve your weaknesses. You don’t want people who tear you down or diminish your accomplishments out of jealousy — you want a group that helps you discover the best version of yourself.
Ask the Right Questions to Find Your Tribe
So how do you cultivate the right group? Fortunately, it’s not as hard as it sounds. You just need to ask the right questions to identify the right people to help you grow. Start with these six.
1. Who inspires me?
Who makes you want to be a better leader, a better coach, and a better person? Is this person excellent at what he does? It doesn’t matter whether he’s in the same field — what matters is that you can draw inspiration from his tenacity, creative spirit, and heart.
Whether you want to be a better business leader, a better friend, or a more active member of the community, ask yourself what kind of person you want to be to seek out individuals who inspire you to be that person.
What you don’t want is someone who will drag you down with his negativity. Negative feelings can be motivating to a point, but they ultimately do more harm than good.
2. Who teaches me?
Who makes you approach problems in different ways? Who stretches you emotionally? Who asks insightful questions?
We learn the most from people who ask questions that make us stop and re-evaluate our situation. When I’m with a client and I hear, “No one’s ever asked me that question before,” I know we’re about to have a productive conversation. Find people who challenge your views in a friendly way, and start spending more time with them.
3. Whom can I teach?
Who is open to learning? Who wants to know more? Who is willing to explore things in new ways and accept your guidance?
Teachers help us grow, but being a teacher can also deliver valuable insights. When we’re forced to explain something or coach someone, we learn more about ourselves and the subject matter we’re communicating. I coach agency owners every day, and the exchange of wisdom goes both ways. Usually, I’m learning just as much from the interaction as my clients, and it helps me improve.
4. Who celebrates me?
Who’s your cheerleader? Who reminds you how awesome you are?
There are few things as valuable as a friend who believes in you. When the daily grind becomes too much, you need a lifesaver, someone who can remind you of your best qualities.
We all too easily take the good parts of ourselves for granted, so surround yourself with friends who see you more clearly than you see yourself and can verbalize their support in a way that makes you believe in yourself, too.
5. Who will call me out?
Who’s brave enough to be honest? Who cares enough to alert you when you’ve gone off course?
Even the best of us make mistakes. We need people around us who care enough to speak up when we step out of line or make a judgment error. This person needs to be able to take it when we react poorly to feedback and forgive us for losing sight of the bigger picture. While honesty is invaluable, just make sure not to mistake an overly critical person for an honest one.
6. Who brings me joy?
Who sees the best of you in everything you do and points it out to you? Who makes you laugh so hard you cry? Who fills you with happiness?
The people who bring you true joy are rare — don’t let their presence in your life be accidental. Bring them in close, and keep them around.
To be the best version of yourself, be intentional about who you spend your time with and who you open up to. No matter how successful you are, you can always get a little better, a little bolder, a little stronger, and a little kinder. Ponder these questions to discover the friends and colleagues who will help you become the person you want to be.