“Bad company corrupts good character” (Menander and the Apostle Paul). “Tell me with whom you associate, and I will tell you who you are” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe). “Some would argue that you’re as successful as the company you keep. Certainly, there is a connection between our friends and who we are” (Simon Sinek). “The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best” (Epictetus). “A mirror reflects a man’s face, but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses” (Colin Powell). I could keep going with quotes about the importance of watching with whom we keep our company. There is something to say about who we associate with, when writers, poets, and leaders throughout history are quoted giving warning and guidance about the company we keep.
When I was younger, I never believed that the company I kept would have an impact on who I became. Sadly, I also didn’t have people sharing wisdom about the importance of paying attention with whom I spent my time. Looking back, I can see the disastrous choices I made really were influenced by the people I hung around. Today, I keep a very close circle when it comes to the people with whom I associate. I know that influence happens whether or not I think I am strong enough to avoid negativity or poor behavior. My circle of friends must be people of character and integrity, as I want my friends to help me be a better version of myself.
Colin Powell once said, “As you grow, your associates will change. Some of your friends will not want you to go on. They will want you to stay where they are. Friends that don’t help you climb will want you to crawl. Your friends will stretch your vision or choke your dream. Those that don’t increase you will eventually decrease you.” Colin Powell was a man of great wisdom. He took seriously the people he chose to let into his inner circle. He understood the power of influence and the consequences that happen when we don’t pay attention to the people we allow into our lives. “The simple but true fact of life is that you become like those with whom you closely associate – for the good and the bad” (Colin Powell).
In today’s world, friends are considered people who “follow” you on social media. Youth who live in a make-believe virtual world believe that friends are those found in their “friends” list on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, etc. I have even seen some more mature individuals get caught up in the same fantasy of friendship. Social media is a false narrative when it comes to friendship. The reality is friends are people we spend most of our time with. The question we should be asking ourselves is, “Who am I giving up my time for, and how are they influencing me?”
Let’s go back to Colin Powell. He once stated, “With some people you spend an evening: with others you invest it. Be careful where you stop to inquire for directions along the road of life. Wise is the person who fortifies his life with the right friendships. If you run with wolves, you will learn how to howl. But, if you associate with eagles, you will learn how to soar to great heights.” The people we allow in our lives have a significant influence on the overall success we have in life. My wife makes fun of me a lot for listening to certain motivational speeches or podcasts. She does it all in good fun. However, there is a reason why I watch what I do. I want positive motivation and encouragement in my life. I want to learn from others and listen to the lessons they have learned in life. I want to be influenced to be better.
I have learned that the more I sit and waste time on social media, the worse my attitude and mindset becomes. However, when I listen to motivational speeches or watch podcasts of individuals who have gone through tough situations and share the lessons they have learned, I find myself wanting to be better. I also become more aware of people in my life that do not share the same sentiment. If I find myself associating with lazy, apathetic people, I start to see myself becoming more lazy, apathetic, and full of excuses; because that’s what most lazy and apathetic people do…they make excuses. When I see people who choose popularity and greatness over integrity and humility, I find that I become more arrogant and hot headed. If I want to live my life with high standards and expect to become a better version of me, then I need to be very cognizant of the people I allow into my life.
“Never receive counsel from unproductive people. Never discuss your problems with someone incapable of contributing to the solution, because those who never succeed themselves are always first to tell you how. Not everyone has a right to speak into your life. You are certain to get the worst of the bargain when you exchange ideas with the wrong person. Don’t follow anyone who’s not going anywhere” (Colin Powell).
As always, stay humble and serve well! Oh, and be careful who you allow into your life.