“Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation;
for ’tis better to be alone than in bad company.” – George Washington
Habits are often difficult to form or difficult to break because they get reinforced daily by our environment, emotion and people around us. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said, “We are the average of the five people we spend most of our time with.” If you believe this, as I do, then it vastly simplifies the task of habit development. If you want to be a certain way, simply associate more with people who are that way. Want to be fit? Associate with fit people. Want to be rich? Associate with rich people. Want to be happy? Associate with happy people!
So, if it is so simple, why don’t more people actually do it?
There are three reasons. First, many people don’t know what they want, so they dabble and drift, ultimately ending up with people who also don’t know what they want. Second, fear of change and comfort with the status quo, which keeps us with the current clique we know, can hold us back from meeting new people and forming new relationships. Finally, many people don’t know how to make new associations and personal bonds. That’s where I can help.
Here is what you do:
Focus on creating value first. No one wants to associate with people who consume precious resources: they are numerous and easy to find. We all want to spend time with people who create resources and enrich our lives in meaningful ways. You can create value for others by offering to save them time, make them money, decrease their risk, raise their profile or contribute to a cause important to them. Be creative!
Take initiative and make the first contact. Don’t wait for someone to roll out the red carpet; otherwise, you will be waiting a long time. The internet and social media are making it easier than ever to connect with people. Don’t forget to pick up the phone and just call, too. Try to find a referral or a point of common interest prior to making contact with a new person, and script the conversation so you have notes to fall back upon if you get flustered.
Be clear in your intention. Know precisely why you want to associate with certain people, what you intend to achieve and what you intend to give in return. For instance, when I finished my corporate career, I realized I needed much more experience in the entrepreneurial and start-up world, so I joined a local technology accelerator as a CEO-in-Residence. I was exposed to hundreds of companies and entrepreneurs over a two-year period and I intensely coached about 30 companies.
Think globally. It is a big world out there. Find kindred spirits and networks of like-minded people whom you admire. This gives you much greater reach, and the added benefit of cultural, ethnic, geographic and social diversity. In addition, you can very precisely target people who have skill sets and interests that align with your own. Most people will certainly do you the courtesy of listening to your pitch to connect in some way, particularly if they see the value in it.
Don’t quit. Your quest to find like-minded people is a lifelong pursuit. It will require you to let go of some behaviors and people in your life now in order to make room for other behaviors and people in the future. This is a normal part of continuous improvement. By sticking to it and following the suggestions above, you will make a habit out of connecting with people who raise your average performance, moving you from good to great, and your results from middle-class to world-class.
Eamonn has a B. Eng. (Electrical) from Lakehead University, MBA (Finance) from University of Toronto, and has completed Executive Education at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He lives in Vancouver, Canada. Follow him on twitter @EamonnPercy.