“You are the company you keep.” “Proximity is power.” Most of us inherently understand how the company we keep affects us and how the behavior of those around us eventually seeps into our own, intentionally or unintentionally. As humans, we band together for survival, seeking like-minded individuals for a common benefits—food, reproduction, shelter. At one time, our needs were very simple, attracting us to those with strength, power, and dominance. The tribe with the most (and most-skilled) hunters naturally was the obvious choice.
But what happens when the need for survival is no longer our key motivation for choosing our “tribe”? Ask yourself, What is it I currently seek? Is it power? Financial stability? Political like-mindedness? A brief inventory of your closest friends and colleagues may reflect more about how others perceive you than you realize.
Consider Aaron Hernandez of the New England Patriots, who was recently convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Notably, at the time of the crime, Hernandez was hanging out with childhood friends who had a history of dubious behavior, to say the least. When your peers make poor choices, those poor choices weave their way into your decisions, whether you realize it or not. Thus, proximity is power, for better or worse.
It makes sense. If everyone at your office is obsessed with March Madness, you might suddenly find yourself with a bracket despite your previous disinterest in college sports. Our peer group helps us learn and create connections. More importantly, recognizing that the company we keep is a choice can be a powerful first step in achieving your goals.
When I chose high-level competitive karate as one of my life’s passions, I yearned for constant improvement and sought out masters in the craft. By immersing myself in the culture, I discovered that the positive energy flow of the sport is a potent antidote for mediocrity, making excellence a norm for a room of sensei masters. In turn, a natural synergy developed whereby I then felt responsible to contribute in a meaningful way, and the entire group benefitted.
Take an objective look at your professional and social peers. Do they challenge you to become more curious and take calculated risks, and support you in your goals to constantly improve? Do they encourage you or undermine you on your journey to excellence?
Consider this: Who is in your proximity? Are they lifting you up or pulling you down? Does your peer group reflect your goals and values? And how does that contribute to the growth of others?