I remember a few years back, I joined a fitness bootcamp. It was a brilliant program that one of my clients co-owns where a group of determined individuals join together at 5:30 a.m. at a park in town four days a week to get brutally whipped into amazing shape as a group by the trainers. It literally made me feel like Sylvester Stallone in the fourth Rocky movie where he trains in Russia on the little farm in the barn and running in the snow pulling carriages and such.
During the day’s workout (or beating, however you look at it), I had a profound “ah ha!” moment.
Normally I place myself next to those people I found early on in the group’s life who would push me to work at higher levels. But I remember that morning I found myself next to someone that I hadn’t intended on putting myself next to.
I was on the end of a line of people all facing the same direction doing some exercise. After a while I thought to myself “Jeez, this is pretty easy. I’m not getting much of a workout and I don’t think I’m benefiting much from this.” Then I realized: I wasn’t pushing myself very hard. It was MY responsibility to do that. But what I was doing was unconsciously comparing my performance to the person next to me. They were slow. I am in better shape than them. But I lowered my standards down to their level without even knowing it.
We All Do This Daily
Then it hit me: WE ALL DO THIS, EVERY DAY! We operate according to the standards of those we are surrounded by. I’ve learned time and again that “If you want to be successful, surround yourself with successful people”, but I never really understood why this was the case. Why can’t I hang around with my friend who failed out of college three times even though he’s the smartest guy I know? I’ve already graduated college and I’m not going back! Why can’t I hang out with my old friends who think making $100,000/yr is incredible? Why can’t I spend a lot of time with family who think that if you don’t work 70 or 80 hours a week that you’re not really working? Well, I can. And so can you.
The problem is, sometimes, without even thinking about it, we’ll lower our standards to match up more closely with theirs. Jim Rohn says we can’t help but be influenced by those around us. We’ll find ourselves noticing them and their performance out of the corner of our eyes and we’ll slow down because we don’t need to go so fast. We’ll hear that they are cash poor and we’ll feel better about the fact that we are cash poor. We’ll hear them talk about the fact that they don’t invest, and we’ll feel better about the fact that we don’t invest. We’ll listen with glee when they talk about the daily grind and how many hours they have to work every week, and we’ll feel better about the fact that our spouse is not the only one who nags to not work so much. We’ll hear them complain about taxes and we’ll join them in those complaints. And, as a result, WE WON’T PUSH OURSELVES AS HARD as we could. Without even thinking about it, we will become more content with our mediocrity. Even though we’ve decided that we want to do these things: we want to be cash rich, to invest money, to work fewer hours so we can finally travel, help our kids with college, etc, etc. We won’t do them because we lower our standards and our expectations of ourselves to match up with those around us. Just like you and I both will in bootcamp with the lazy person next to us when we stop thinking about what we’re doing for a minute. It’s human nature, and we’ve all got it.
How much better is it to place ourselves next to the person who pushes it all the time. The one who won’t slow down when the trainer is not looking. The one who goes all the way to the end of the sidewalk instead of stopping a few feet short. The one who quits the $80,000/yr job to start their own business because they know they can make double or triple that in the same amount of time weekly. The one who knows that ladders are a device used to fix things, and not meant to be climbed in jobs. The one who is excited about first investing, then spending money on having fun. The one who will not rest until 20% growth in the business is happening. (Also, the one who knows that there are greater values than money, and who will never compromise those values for the sake of financial gain).
Who we place ourselves next to is a choice. And that choice has serious consequences. Remember: we only get one shot at this life on earth- make the BEST of it! And remember to be the one in the line who is pushing those around you to up their game too!