Nothing will make you a better and more successful person than having the right people around you. Jim Rohn, motivational speaker and author of 7 Strategies for Wealth & Happiness once suggested, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” From my experience, this is true.
Some people are consistently drawn to the wrong folks – those that may only see barriers in life, are unkind, dishonest, disingenuous or see nothing but bad in the world. As I have witnessed time and time again, being influenced by the wrong people or modeling the wrong behavior only leads to unhappiness and failure.
Friends influence what you can accomplish in life, how you treat others and the person you become. They also shape how you are perceived by others.
To illustrate this point, I want to share with you three of my closest friends and the gifts of personal improvement they have given me. These gifts made me a better person. Having people around you with similar qualities to these people will do the same for you. I am grateful to have these people in my life everyday and owe part of my success to each of them.
Dean was my theatrical directing professor at university. Afterwards he became a lifelong mentor and dear friend. When I said I wanted to direct a main stage theatre production as an under graduate directing major, he said, “Why not?!” And I did it! Even though such privileges had been reserved for graduate students only.
When I told Dean I wanted to move to New York City to work on Broadway he said, “Why not?!” And I did it!
Dean and I have been close for about 25 years now. His gift – being a champion of possibilities – allowed me to take risks, try new things and believe in myself enough to make my endeavors successful. He made me believe in the possibility of living my life without limits. Because of him, I have and continue to fulfill my dreams in life.
Barbara: Honest Feedback
After I released my first edition of How to Find a Job, Career and Life You Love I sent a copy to Barbara, a dear friend of mine since university. I received a lot of wonderful feedback about my book prior to sending the book to her. After reading it, she wrote me that while she really liked the book, she felt I had much more to say. She suggested I had perhaps stopped short of making this book all it could be.
My first instinct was to defend the book I had put an immense amount of heart, energy and time into developing and writing. Also, as the book had already been published, I was thinking about my next book, not re-writing the last one.
Trusting my good friend, I took a deep breath, opened my heart and mind and asked her to send me her thoughts. Within an hour, I had about 10 pages of notes (She is a very fast thinker and typist!). After I read her words and suggestions, I put down her notes, thought a moment and then said to myself, “She is right. I can make this book so much more and further help my readers.”
My friend graciously agreed to be my editor on my second edition of How to Find a Job, Career and Life You Love. I dove into re-writing the whole thing the next day. As a result of her honesty and pushing me to be better, my book went from good to great, gaining endorsements from best-selling authors, the co-founder of JetBlue and many other noted experts and business leaders.
Barbara gave me the gift of honest feedback sharing what was in her heart. She cared enough about me and our friendship to risk what could have been an uncomfortable situation. I experienced great success because of it. Even though honest opinions may hurt from time to time, it is critical to your success to hear them. Make sure you have important people like Barbara in your circle of five.
Lisa inspired me to be a better person the day I met her 14 years ago and continues to do so today. Even though I was interested in helping others since I was young, the concept of charity work wasn’t part of the fabric of my childhood. Not that my parents weren’t giving and loving people – they were – but it did not manifest itself in charity donations or giving their time to charitable causes.
For me, Lisa is the model of giving to, caring for and loving others. She gives her time to charity boards, her money to causes in need and always opens her home to others to share special times and holidays. When she retired, people donated large sums of money to charities she supports.
From the moment I met Lisa, I aspired to be like her. To love and care for others like she does everyday.
When I lost my father to cancer in 2008, I took Lisa’s lead and began focusing my energies on helping others through charity. This effort led me to the formation of World Child Cancer USA in 2012 – a charity that Lisa also served as an inaugural board member and gave generously to. This year I started fundraising to build schools for children in developing countries with Pencils of Promise.
Watching Lisa live her life makes me want to be a better person. And her gift and influence has made that possible.
Seek out people in your life that are better than you, that practice serving others, are the person you want to become, that love and care for you deeply and are invested in your happiness and success. Model their behavior. Keep them close. Serve them and others as best you can. Such people – along with like partners in life – will be the wind beneath your wings. Their gifts will help make you the best person you can be. Cherish and value these people in your life and always show them the gratitude and thanks they deserve.
Remember, you can choose your friends. So, choose them wisely. Their influence on your life counts more than you know.
Published on The Self Improvement Blog, 2nd December 2014