The Habit: Week-15 (Actively Seek Associations that Will Inspire You)

“It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours, and you’ll drift in that direction.” Warren Buffett

This week’s challenge is to seek out people that will inspire and influence you in a positive manner. Whatever your goal is, seek out individuals that have achieved it, or are at least further along than you. Seek out associations with groups and individuals you respect and admire.

Warren Buffett says, “The best thing I did was to choose the right heroes.” Bill Graham, was Warren’s hero when he began his career in investment. Bill told Warren when he was a young man he looked around at the people he admired. After studying their character and habits, he concluded that they weren’t doing anything he could not do. He decided that he would mirror the behavior of those successful people he admired until he became someone he could admire. Success leaves clues. Success is a science; if you do what other successful people do, you will be successful.

Many people underestimate the important role of environmental norms and expectations play in our behavior. We all have friends that either bring out the best in us or the worst in us. None of us are immune to the effect. It is often said we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.

You get to choose the people you spend your time with, so I suggest you choose wisely. I understand that these people might not be available in your physical environment, but that doesn’t mean you cannot spend time with people you admire. Darren Hardy, the publisher of Success Magazine, says the majority of the time he spent with his mentor, Jim Rohn, was reading his books or listening to his audio programs in his car.

The people we admire often tell their life’s story in books. These books can be great sources of information and inspiration. With the popularity of YouTube, you can often find your hero telling their story in interviews or during speeches. Success isn’t determined by your resources, it is determined by your resourcefulness.

In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie, tells the story of a poor Dutch immigrant boy who was able to correspond and visit Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Longfellow, Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, Louisa May Alcott, General Sherman and Jefferson Davis. These associations imbued Edward Bok with the confidence, vision, and ambition to become one of the most successful magazine editors of his time, despite only having 6-years of formal education. What was his secret?

As an office boy for Western Union, he continued his education through self-study. He went without lunch until he had enough money to purchase an encyclopedia of American biographies. After reading about the lives of famous people, he did a most unexpected thing. He sent letters to the people he read about, asking for additional information about their childhoods or specific events that took place.

Ulysses S Grant 1870-1880

After writing General Grant requesting additional details about a specific battle, he received a letter back from Grant that contained a map he drew and invited the fourteen-year-old boy to dinner so they could spend the evening talking. Famous people are still people. Everyone is flattered when people take a genuine interest in them. His example demonstrates that it isn’t a lack of opportunity or resources that stops people from doing amazing things, it is a lack of imagination.

Many successful entrepreneurs suggest offering your services for free working part time or full time for someone you admire so you can learn first hand what makes them successful. Success leaves clues. Success is a science. If you can duplicate the strategies of successful people, you should be able to duplicate their results. We can save years of frustration by learning from people that have already accomplished our goals.

Most of us don’t have successful role models to emulate in our everyday environment, but instead of focusing on that, we would be better served by thinking of creative ways to get closer to successful people. The trap that most of us fall into is thinking primarily regarding our own self-interest. If we focus instead on what we have to offer or showing sincere interest in the other person, we will be much more successful at making a favorable impression.

If we are striving to improve in any area of our life, it would be a great idea to take Warren’s advise and spend time with people that are better than us in that particular discipline or skill. We are all influenced by group norms and expectations. It is often said we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. I believe it is true. If you were to take a look at the people you spend the most time with, perhaps you would agree as well.

Group norms and expectations influence our behavior for the better or worse. Why not choose for the better, by seeking out people that will inspire and educate you through their example? You can’t hope to change the people around you, but you can change the people you choose to be around. The more time you spend with positive dynamic people, the better. We unconsciously imitate the attitude and behaviors of those around us. Neuroscientists have identified a new type of neuron, called a mirror neuron; which are a subset of motor neurons.

A lot of exciting research has centered around these neurons and their role in shaping human civilization. These neurons help to explain how we learn through mimicry and why we empathize with others. They allow us to model the behavior of the most successful in our social group so we could achieve better results. These subset motor neurons fire when we watch someone performing an action as if we were performing the action ourselves. They allow us to adopt another person’s point of view. They allow us to emulate and imitate others. Neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran, a leading expert on mirror neurons, says these neurons, that first appeared approximately 100,000 years ago are what catapulted human civilization.

Mirror neurons allowed the discovery of one person to improve the knowledge of the entire group. They allowed us to geometrically spread knowledge. We could now learn and quickly apply what others had learned. It is the bases of human civilization and culture. Mirror neurons allow us to learn through observation and give us the ability to empathize with others. We all have this ability, but we often neglect to learn from the success of others. “Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.” Douglas Adams

It is unfortunate that more people don’t take advantage of the biographies and autobiographies of successful people to learn what they did to succeed. Knowledge isn’t power until it is applied, but when you combine an effective strategy with sustained effort, you can accomplish amazing results.

If we are willing to apply what we learn, reading a book can save us a decade of frustration. We can learn in hours what someone else took years to learn through trial and error. There is a tremendous amount of free content on the internet and library cards are FREE. It doesn’t get easier than free, yet how many people take advantage of our libraries. “If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do, and you’ll achieve the same results.” – Tony Robbins

A lot of our learning is done subconsciously. We didn’t receive any classes on speaking our native language. We all learned language and behavior through observation and imitation. The basal ganglia, sometimes called our primitive brain or reptilian brain, was once thought only to help control movement; but is now believed to play a major role in how we learn, process emotions, make decisions, and adopt behaviors.

As children, we learn how to act and react by watching the adults around us. In functional families, this is a blessing, but in dysfunctional families, it is a curse. In large part, it is why the children of abusive parents often grow up to be abusive parents themselves, despite the loathing they felt for their parent growing-up. Being a parent is an awesome responsibility. If you take a moment, you will realize that the example you set for your children, will extend well beyond your lifetime. The example you set, will likely be set for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.” ― W.E.B. Du Bois

As children, we couldn’t choose our parents, but as adults, we have control over who we spend our time with. If you want to be more successful, I suggest you spend as much time as possible with successful people. If you want to be healthier, I suggest you spend more time with people that take care of themselves. Whatever behaviors you want to adopt, the best advice I can give you is to spend time with people that are already living the way you want to live.

If the only place you can spend time with successful people is through books, audiobooks, and videos do that. Insulate yourself from the negative people around you. Create a protective bubble that doesn’t allow their infectious attitudes to penetrate your subconscious mind. The more time you spend with negative people, the more motivation, and discipline you’ll need to cultivate a positive, productive attitude. It isn’t our situation that determines our success, it is our decisions. Our decisions are affected by our attitude. The better our attitude is, the better our decisions will be. Better decisions, better results.

We want to shape our environment to make our journey easier, not harder. Our lives don’t get better through chance, they get better through change. If the people around us aren’t going to change, then we must change the people we choose to be around. For things to get better, we have to do better. We cannot neglect the influence that others are going to have on our lives. Identify people you admire and look for opportunities to spend more time with them, and less time with the people that you don’t want to emulate. The strategy is simple, but how many of us consciously choose to spend time with people we admire?

Social media makes connecting with people that are successful in a particular area of interest easier than ever before. You can find a group for almost any interest you have. These are amazing times. The opportunity to associate with great people that will inspire you to live your dreams has never been better. So many successful people are creating positive content aimed at helping you achieve your goals and offering it for free. Unfortunately, it is human nature to devalue things that are given and not earned.

If Warren Buffett gives us free advice on how to invest wisely, we shouldn’t discount that advice just because we didn’t pay for it. We should take notes and seek to apply his recommendations. Successful people often give advice freely. They want you to succeed. They don’t have a zero-sum mindset. They don’t see your success as a threat to their own success. Good leaders don’t see a talented follower as a threat they see them as an asset. There are no bad organizations, only bad leaders.

Effective organizations develop a culture that supports its objectives. Every group has a culture. Group norms and expectations influence our behavior for the better or worse. Many cultures happen by accident, but successful cultures are engineered to promote the core values essential to the organization’s success.

Spartan-Identity blog post

A powerful culture can change how you act. If for example, you identify yourself as a Marine, you are saying you are tough and adaptable. Marines like to say once a Marine, always a Marine. After they leave the service, they are expected to carry themselves like Marines for the rest of their lives. If you want to push yourself to work out more consistently, and with greater effort, joining a group or team will make it easier. It not only adds a layer of accountability, but it is psychologically easier to push yourself when you see others doing the same.

As a West Point Graduate, I am a member of the Long Gray Line. Being a West Pointer means that I must always conduct myself in a manner that reflects the motto, Duty, Honor, Country. I would never do anything that I thought would bring dishonor to the institution. Being a West Pointer means I must hold myself to a higher standard. Our identity is often the result of our associations. We can use the power of identity to help us mold our behavior.

I suggest we harness the power of identity to adopt a more disciplined lifestyle and overcome life’s challenges. While I choose to create my own personalized workouts, which focus on strength training and short cardio sessions, I found Joseph De Sena’s Spartan Fit! Very inspirational. I have incorporated some of the workout ideas into my training. Spartan Fit teaches you what it means to become a modern day Spartan. You learn how to eat, train, and live a more Spartan lifestyle.

I hope you will accept this week’s challenge to use the power of group norms to your benefit. Positive group norms can provide that little push we need to make better decisions. Never forget that it is not our situation that determines our success, it is our decisions. Surrounding yourself with ‘A’ players will help influence your decisions and behaviors to mirror that of your reference group. Simply put, if you surround yourself with successful people, you will subconsciously adopt their attitudes and behaviors. We will learn the language of success as effortlessly as we learned our primary language as a child. Surround yourself with people that speak the language of success, and you will become fluent in the language of success.

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Learn more, Group Norms & Expectation- Don’t Put Rocks in Your Backpack and Pebbles in You Shoes

Until next week, good luck!

Group norms can positively or negatively affect our attitudes and decisions. Better decisions, better results. Change your habits, change your life!

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Best wishes and Best Health!

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