The easiest way to change your life

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn

Back during spring break of 2008, my friends and I were playing craps at a casino in Vegas.  We were all gambling with less than $200 in hand, and each of us would get visibly/audibly excited whenever we won more than $50 (high rollers, I know).

My roommate started chatting up the guy next to him, who had a large stack of $100 chips.  He told my roommate that the most he’d ever won in one night was $40,000.  The most he’d ever lost?  A quarter million…

He didn’t seem too proud of the $40K, and he wasn’t upset about the $250K.  It was all very matter-of-fact.

Both of those numbers made me uncomfortable.  They were so far outside of my reality.  I imagined how drastically my life would change if I won $40K, or if I just had access to a quarter mil… And here I was, scrubbing around with $5 chips and justifying my losses with free drinks.

The interesting thing about money, skills, success, and happiness is that they are never absolute.  They are all entirely relative.  Your limits for each of them were largely determined by the people you spent the most time with, and the culture you grew up in.  This is a fairly obvious observation, but why don’t more people take advantage of its implications?

That guy in Vegas was comfortable with his numbers because it seemed normal to him.  Each of his closest gambling buddies would, undoubtedly, have wins and losses that were in the same ballpark.  In fact, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had followed up his tale of losing a quarter million with “but my friend lost a half million in one weekend!” A $250K loss was reasonable, because it was relative.

Your outlooks are surprisingly plastic.  To change them, it’s simply a matter of removing yourself from the environment and the norms you’ve grown accustomed to, and surrounding yourself with people who are at the level you want to reach.

If you truly dive into a new environment, your old mentality will always adapt to it, and your resulting worldview will manifest itself in your behaviors, decisions, and actions. In other words, the people you spent so much time with will have drastically changed the way you think and act, whether you like it or not.

If you want to change your life, change your social circle.  Spend as much time as you can with people who have achieved your desired state, and let them sculpt your views.  Accept the fact that you’re inevitably going to change as a result, and embrace it!  As you talk with and observe them over the course of several months, they will slowly fade from “remarkable” and eventually become “normal.”  Their thoughts and actions will no longer seem wildly above your abilities — just more intelligent and calculated than you’ve been used to.  You’ll wake up one day, and realize your benchmark has been raised.  And you will hold yourself to a new standard, until you decide to lift yourself up to the next level, and surround yourself with new folks who fit your revised definition of “rich” (or “successful,” “skilled,” etc.)

Sure, there will be a few social climbers who are never content with what they have.  But you can consciously use this dynamic to change your life.

By Charlie Hoehn

22 comments on “The easiest way to change your life

  1. super cool post Charlie!;-)
    very very true, that one need to really re-think what kind of people is he/she hanging around with.
    does it inspire me? enrich me? did i learn something new? could i share my knowledge with them?

    if not move on.

    as my friend Nghahihi from new zealand have said in his presentation: “find your eagles, who fly high”

    interactions with “eagles” have life changing impact. i can tell from many of my own experiences.

  2. I’m a big believer of this and have been able to pull it off in some areas. Though it’s sometimes difficult to gain access to certain circles without having the resources / skills that you actually seek to gain. In that case you have to try and bring something else to the table that they don’t have.

  3. The older I get the more my mom says to me: “That wasn’t the way you were raised!” It seems very limiting and fruitless to stay in the confines of “how I was raised.”

  4. Hey Charlie,

    I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and first wanted to say thanks for the content. I agree with what you are saying here and I think a lot of people would as well. To me the problem is finding tactics to socialize with people at the level you aspire to be at. This is definitely easier said than done (researching through delicious definitely helps if they have an account). Do you have any other recommendations?

    Thanks again,
    Mike Gioia

    • Thanks for the good question, Mike. The best tactical steps I’ve come up with for reaching people at a high level are:

      1) Do tons of research. Read their entire blog, their Linkedin to determine career trajectory, glance through tweets, view mutual friends on Facebook, etc. I think people get too caught up on the fact that I used delicious, but the method applies to any site where you can delve into the person’s thought process. All this info is readily available, you just have to go out and find it.

      2) Differentiate yourself by offering your target something of value. This is where people go wrong 90% of the time. They think “something of value” is a business proposal, or an offer to review their book. High level people get bombarded with those selfish offers all day, and they say no to almost all of them. Your initial offer has to be both valuable and fairly altruistic. That is, it has to benefit them more than you. And you should be able to deduce what they value after doing so much research on them.

      BONUS: Get introduced through a mutual trusted friend/acquaintance. This is, by far, the easiest way to get in touch with someone. Not always an option, though.

  5. As a corollary, I think you need to cut out friends who are dragging you down.

    When you are starting a business, many people who have never built a single thing in their life will give you bad advice. Avoid them like the plague.

    It’s been scientifically proven that we cannot help but to believe what we hear/read.

  6. I am so digging this. I know this to be true, but the reminder is good.

    Also totally agree with commenter Ruang, “As a corollary, I think you need to cut out friends who are dragging you down.” Negative people suck.

  7. This truly very timely for me…and is a great summarization of what I’ve realized over a “series of epiphanies” this year. Thank you for the thoughtful post.

    And I echo my friend Kathy’s comment: “negative people suck.”. (they suck energy, enthusiasm, optimism…conviction, confidence…)

  8. I appreciate this article a lot. As some here have suggested, lately i’ve been trying to avoid people who I think bring nothing but negativity to me (as opposed to realism, which is important in measured doses).

    But I think I need to spend a lot of time really, really working on who I want to know. Because while i’ve thought about it before, I genuinely feel torn in too many directions and am uncertain which to go along.

    • Hey Pat, can you clarify what you mean by your last sentence? I’d like to know what you’re having trouble with specifically, and which directions you’re considering.

      I think the best thing to do is just get started. Even if you make a few missteps, it’s far better than being paralyzed by overanalyzing things.

  9. I feel you need to use a word that is different from “friend” as loyalty is a quality of friendship lacking here. FWIW and IMHO, of course.
    Seek out “mentors” perhaps? Seems very shallow to dump people for “better” folks who can help your career and call everyone a “friend” but maybe that is just me…

  10. As a business owner joining Entrepreneur’s Organization (Membership criteria of $1M+ annual revenue + controlling partner + < 50 years old) has proven to be an invaluable ticket to associate with a fairly exclusive group of terrific high fliers. My business is around $3M so there are plenty of members with bigger businesses to help stretch me but, just as rewarding, I have a chance to help raise level of attainment of others as well.

  11. Most people will never be aware of the dramatically seriousness of the sentence by Jim Rohn (“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”).

    Personally, I never started to grow as a lawyer until I realized about that. Now, I spread the word of the important and direct relationship between your most frequented group and your own personal development level.

    Excellent post. Thanks.

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  16. hey charlie – found your site from a ramit interview. great stuff.

    i read somewhere that great leaders must change their social circle every four to seven years because they’re constantly out growing the people around them.

    sometimes i find myself resisting the pain of breaking away from specific groups (i’m kind of going through this now.) and i constantly must remind myself is a sign of positive growth.

    any tips on embracing the resistance that comes from moving on to new social circles?

    • You don’t necessarily have to move away from certain social circles; you can always keep people in your life. It’s just important to continue seeking out those who will push you in the directions you want to go. There shouldn’t be a resistance to that, because you’re only adding to your world — you’re not taking anything away from it.

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