“Show Me Your Friends…”

Show Me Your Friends

Show Me Your Friends and I Will Show You Your Future

“Show Me Your Friends and I Will Show You Your Future”

– Unknown

A powerful statement and maybe one you can relate to personally. I know I can. I remember growing up my parents incessantly telling me to be careful who I hang around with.

“If so and so is a troublemaker, he’ll bring you down with him.”

“Is he a positive influence on you?”

Or how about this one:

“Even if you aren’t doing anything wrong, you will be found guilty by association.”

I heard that from my parents all the time (for good reason I suppose). Of course I heard what my parents were saying, but I wasn’t always listening if you know what I mean. I would sort of brush it off because I could take care of myself and knew how to pick my own friends. Or so I thought…

My friends were by no means little angels, and I can’t say I was either. We got in our fair share of trouble and mischief growing up, but more or less, we made sure to stay on the right side of the law (or at least not get caught…). And we never got into any huge trouble that would have been life altering.

While I was a little mischievous throughout high school and college years, I did maintain good grades. I knew there would be a lot of pressure from my parents if I let my studies slip. But I found that it is true, when you start down a path in life it can be hard to adjust. My buddies and I were all cruising toward a life of mediocrity, becoming increasingly more mischievous as we aged. It was only a matter of time before we did something real stupid, something that couldn’t be fixed, something that was life altering.

“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed”

– Proverbs 13:20

Then, one day in college, I specifically remember a lesson my marketing professor gave my class. She gave a lecture on how we need to make sure we are hanging around with the right crowd. She told a story of a friend she had that failed pretty miserably on a doctoral thesis and was criticized by the committee for it. He took his failure as a call to action, he needed to make a change. He suddenly began dressing much more professionally around campus, ditching old friends and hanging around different crowds, and becoming more active in pursuing discussions with professors, etc. All in all, he was changing his behavior to help himself reach his goals.

It was actually a little funny, as she was telling us this story I was thinking to myself that my professor was on the opposite end of her friends change. I would guess that she, along with others, was essentially the influence he was looking to avoid. But that’s beside the point. He knew what he wanted in life and wasn’t afraid to make drastic changes to help him get there, even if that meant changing who he was associating with.

His doctoral thesis was a wakeup call and a moment of eye-opening clarity for him. It represented his changing point in life where the path he was on abruptly took a tangent and he got back on the right track.

“The Company we keep can shape more than just the outcome of a situation, but these individuals can actually shape who we are and inevitably, who we become.”

– Unknown

While listening to my professor at the time, I sort of brushed off the warning call yet again. I knew what I was doing, I enjoyed the company I kept, and my life will turn out just fine, thank you very much.

But looking back on things now I realize how completely wrong I was. While I did not heed the advice my professor gave me that day, I have always remembered it. I wasn’t associating with folks that were going to help me get to where I needed to be. If I would have continued down that previous path, who knows where I’d be today. But I likely would not be on the path toward financial independence and earlier retirement like I am now.

So what happened in my life that finally resulted in my path being corrected? There was one thing, and it is very easy for me to pinpoint. My eventual wife entered my life. We began dating and I began hanging out with my old crowd less frequently. I had a new crowd, a positive influence in my life, a crowd that would lead me to greater things in life. And she entered my life just in the nick of time. Metaphorically speaking, she was the lighthouse that saved me as I was nearing the rocks that could have potentially wrecked me.

Conclusion

If the quotations don’t make it painfully clear, the moral of the story, quite frankly, is to hang out with the right crowd. A crowd that has the same values and goals in life as you do, the crowd with a similar mindset to managing personal finances, a crowd that has similar career ambitions (or is motivated to advance their career), and a crowd that will help you achieve your goals.

If you want to reach financial independence and retire early, you may want to associate more with folks that view personal finance in a similar manner. And likewise, associate less with folks that are less motivated than you in terms of pursuing and advancing their career or folks who spend money like there is no tomorrow.

If you are hanging with a crowd that doesn’t have the same career and personal finance goals as you, it may ultimately lead to you being less ambitious with your career or more frivolous with your money. You may find yourself spending more on dining out with that crowd, or spending more on material things like shopping, a fancy house or car, etc. And before you know it your finances are a mess: debt up to your eyeballs, retirement savings in disarray, your career going nowhere fast, etc.

Alternatively, finding the right crowd will allow you to feed off their energy and have a positive influence on your life.

Call to Action

While you may read this article and brush it off like I did with the warnings I received from my parents and eventually my marketing professor, consider this your warning. Let it serve as your eye opening moment. Evaluate your friends. Are you making the most prudent financial decisions? Are there minor changes that can be made? Or do you need to take a sharp tangent in your life, find a new crowd, and get your personal finances in order?

Or if you feel you have the right crowd and are on the right financial path, can you reflect back and pinpoint the moment you realized you got your life back on track. Did you have an eye opening moment where you realized you needed to find a new crowd?

This post represents the second installment in a series meant to inspire and motivate you to live a cleaner, better, and purpose driven life; a life striving toward long term financial freedom and happiness. If you missed the first installment, Opportunities Multiply as They are Seized, I hope you check it out now!

Thanks for taking a look!

The Green Swan

Work Harder, Work Smarter, Retire Earlier and Find Your Beach

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Vicki@Make Smarter Decisions

Great way to get folks thinking this morning. I have done this a few times in my career (and life) and at times, I wish I had the courage to make the moves sooner. I stayed working in a school where people were resistant to change when I wanted to change the world. I changed schools and found a whole group of people who had the same goals I did. It was eye opening to me because in my area, staying in the same building for 30+ years was the norm. If I didn’t leave – I would still be going to the same room, same desk with the same “we don’t need to change” attitude. So yes, find a new crowd to support your goals and dreams!

JW

Wow what a great example of how changing your crowd can lead to great things in life. Thanks for sharing and thanks to being that positive influence to change the world!

Brian @ Debt Discipline

A great reminder. Bad influences can pop up in many areas of your life, whether its negative people in your personal life, moral sucking co-workers who always complain, but never offer solutions. So important if you want to be successful to recognize and steer clear of these people.

Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

Ironically, I was just talking about this same subject with a friend yesterday. A guy who we knew during high school was your quintessential nerd: super smart, talented in art as well, wore a dress shirt and tie to school – straight-laced kid. We all were convinced he would do something great with his life. He eventually started hanging out with the partying crowd and started drinking (so did I: this doesn’t mean you’re destined to fail but it was interesting to me what happened with him), hanging out at the bars. Today he is 49 years old, still works crap jobs (when he’s working) and still spends all free time at the bars, partying, drinking, gambling. Who you hang out with really can have an influence on your life.

JW

Wow that’s too bad! Goes to show how seemingly small and inconsequential decisions can lead you down the wrong path and completely into a life you never dreamed of wanting growing up.

And that situation doesn’t have to be the doom of anyone. Start making changes today to better your life tomorrow.

Crazy story, thanks for sharing!

Stefan - The Millennial Budget

This post sounded just like my parents. Like yourself I too was mischievous when I was younger and it often got me into trouble. My wake up call was really during college where I needed to take school seriously if I wanted to have a successful future. Having friends that only party and ditch class was not the crowd I wanted and they didn’t understand why I had to distance myself from this life but it has worked out.

Having people who share your financial mindset is also key to financial success. If all your friends do is shop and spend money chances are you will get sucked in at some point unless you change your habits.

Amanda @centsiblyrich

Great reminder! I had a brief period of time in high school when I hung out in a crowd that would have eventually led me down the wrong path. Thankfully, it was short lived and I found a new crowd. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been more choosy about who I spend my time with – I see some of my old friends doing the same things, never changing, always in the status quo. I like growth, so I hang around with folks who like to challenge themselves (and me) on a regular basis. This is one of the reasons I love the online PF community!

Apathy Ends

Isn’t there a saying or rule “you will have the average salary of your five closest friends” or something along those lines?

100% agree with everything above Mr Swan. – Rid yourselves of the negativity and bad habits!

Financial Slacker

I had a similar awakening when I failed to get accepted into medical school. Looking back at my grades, I wonder why I even bothered applying. But I’m glad I did, because after getting rejected, I got accepted into business school. I had worked in the business school for four years as an undergrad and they knew my potential not just my grades. I took advantage of the opportunity and went on to get a pretty good job after graduate school.

JW

Oh wow interesting! Do you look back at all and wish you ended up going they medical route? I would love a job in the medical field like pediatrics but I never liked the idea of going to school so long. And I have no regrets going the business school route. Thanks for sharing!

Stockbeard

I’m “sad” to say my life was pretty much on track all the time. I had good grades in school, friends who were not trouble makers…

Here’s the thing: I don’t consider my friends who won’t reach FI as a “bad influence” on me. If anything, I secretly look at what they’re doing wrong financially and make a point to not make the same mistakes (I’ve tried discussing FI with them to no avail, but it doesn’t mean I will dump them, they’re awesome friends!)

JW

That’s great Stockbeard! I have good friends who likely won’t retire early too, but still good company and not a bad influence. How do you think your friends will react when you do retire (or have you already)? Hopefully nothing changes and I hope the same for my friends, but it could lead to some awkwardness.

Finance Solver

Great post again. I’m beginning to realize more and more that the people side is an integral part of the equation to success. One question though, did you feel bad / worse by slowly phasing out your previous friends for new ones? I sometimes feel bad for phasing out people and sometimes I question whether I made the right decision, even when I think it’s the right decision when I’m slowly distancing myself away from friends who are a bad influence.

JW

Yeah I felt bad phasing some of them out and especially at the time, but not so much anymore. But I didn’t question whether it was the right decision. Many of them still haven’t changed. Thanks for the comment.

Julie@ChooseBetterLife

It’s so great to have online friends and communities now. I grew up pre-internet and it is really easy to be just like our friends, since we all crave camaraderie and approval. Now we have much more choice in who those friends can be and we can find them all over the world!

Mr. PIE

At a young age back in the UK, we were segregated by ability at school . I was 12 and had a particularly good year. I was elevated into the top class for subsequent year and made a lot of new friends who were keen to knuckle down and dive into learning. Like me. . My friends were all struggling and were placed in different classes. They continued to struggle through school and then through life. It is a sad story. We interacted briefly at school but they end up getting into all sorts of low level crime and ultimately did not come out of school with any proper education.

I often wonder what would have happened to me had I not performed that well in the year at school. It was honestly a pivotal point in my young life and turned out to be so much bigger than I thought. At the time I did not even know it.

Thank you very much for getting me to think about a point in my life long ago that I actually now look back on with wonder and am thankful for the course of events that happened. It was the start of good things for me and that I am truly grateful for.

JW

Wow what a change of fate for you. I believe things happen for a reason and you’ve certainly made the most out of it. It does bring a sense of perspective to life and reminds us to count our blessings. Thanks for sharing Mr. Pie.

Chris @ Sleepy Capital

I could not agree with you more. I had a similar learning experience you received from your professor when I read The Education of a Value Investor by Guy Spier (which I recently posted about on my blog). The people you surround yourself in life, whether work or play, is very important and can make a very big difference on how you act and how others perceive you. Guy Spier worked at DH Blair, a morally corrupt investment bank, where he was constantly challenging his moral compass and he was fighting to stay on track. He eventually left with a tarnished resume because of the DH Blair debacle, but changed his environment and mind-set. Guy is a very success person and investor today. Removing ourselves from these situations and putting ourselves in places where we don’t have to fight, but can thrive is essential.

JW

I really liked your blog post today and couldn’t help but notice the similarities from what Guy went through to what I posted in this article. Sounds like Guy navigated that debacle as best he could and done well picking the right crowd ever since. Thanks for the comment Chris.

Ray Ray

Totally agree Mr Swan.

It’s the same with fitness…. when I started to hang out with a crowd that was into fitness I shed 8KG in 3 months without even trying!

Thias @It Pays Dividends

This is a great message! Your relationships can hold you back if you surround yourself with people who don’t have the same ideals or goals. Sometimes it is better to end a relationship with someone than keep it and have it bring your life down with it (whether you realize it being you own or not).

Amanda @ Minimalist Finance

I agree with you. When I was younger, my mother would want to know who I was spending the most time with. At the time it was annoying but now I know she knew what she was doing.

It reminds me of another quote I often come across in books. I don’t’ recall who the original source is but it says “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” and that has always stuck with me. It’s true, other people’s way of thinking, their level of motivation, drive or even complacency can really rub off on you.

Great post and thanks for this reminder!

JW

Yup, good parenting by your mother.

Good quote about being the average of your five closest friends, definitely some truth to that. Thanks for the comment!

ZJ Thorne

I found this to be absolutely true. Once I stopped spending as much time with negative people who spent too much money today, I started making better choices for my body and life and finances. Once I began dating my beloved girlfriend, she opened up my window to even more joy and opportunity. I directly credit her and my two best friends with my ability to open my own business.

JW

Wow that’s so great, ZJ! I’m glad things have worked out so well for you. Having such positive influences in our lives can make the world of difference. Thanks for sharing.

Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor

Great topic and quotations. We’ve chosen friends based on shared values outside of personal finance. I think this did contribute to less career ambition initially, though we’ve recovered from that. Aside from that, I believe we’ve had a positive influence on some friends in the area of personal finance and career growth.

Rudy SMT

Great post TW!

There is a say: “You’re The Average Of The Five People You Spend The Most Time With”.

I’m currently going through this, and I’m going to change people drastically.

Ty @ Get Rich Quickish

“Birds of a feather….”

Solid post and a great reminder. I’ve seen people both drug down and elevated by the company they kept. I’m now passing the parental advice to my own kids. Hope they’re listening.

And congrats on marrying up! My wife did the same thing – best decision she ever made 🙂

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