The secrets to life are often hidden behind the word cliché.
One in particular, get’s a lot of attention, yet, is rarely put into practice. Jim Rohn, one of the worlds all time greatest business philosophers, famously said,
“You become the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Commonly referred to as a cliché, this profound truth is common sense, yet uncommon in practice. In fact, it’s validity is so clear, the maxim has been communicated throughout history.
“Birds of a feather flock together.”
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
“If you lay down with dogs, you’ll wake up with fleas.”
If it’s sheer restatement and repetition in literature wasn’t enough to get your attention, maybe a few definite examples will.
Think about Michael Jackson. Michael had talent. Michael was born with greatness. Up until, twelve he was seen as just a cute kid. It wasn’t until he met Quincey Jones, when he upgraded his circle of influence, that things started to explode for him! He went to a whole other level. Together they released “Off The Wall”, “Thriller”, Beat It”. Michael went from a cute little kid to a musical icon. He went to a whole other stratosphere by connecting with just one person!
Think about the 07-08 Boston Celtics. Prior to that season, the Celtics hadn’t won an NBA championship since 1986. In 2007 however, the Celtics traded for both Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. With Paul Pierce already in the Celtics lineup, Boston now had three all-star players on the floor. Individually, Paul Pierce was doing it, Ray Allen was doing it, and Kevin Garnett was doing it. But when they came together, they became champions. When they came together, they were unstoppable.
I could go on and on because I’ve researched it. When I was sixteen and depressed, the first thing I needed to do was change was my circle. That’s why I’m so proud to be part of the 2017 Cohort for Venture For Canada. I’m constantly being exposed to young professionals that are like minded. Who are focused on growth, focused on making an impact, and most importantly continue to stretch me to be a better version of myself.
One fellow in particular, is an obvious by-product of a winning environment. Every conversation we have is filled with wisdom far beyond his years. He’s someone that, wether he knows it or not, I look up to as a mentor. He reminds me everyday of the importance of having a Winning Circle. And I know his story will inspire you to start to create a Winning Circle of your own!
A proud Nova Scotian, John Connell, is a fellow with Venture for Canada, SDR at Fiix, Volunteer at TechTo, Freelance Guitarist (he’s incredible), and recent graduate from York University. This eclectic background is a result of endless curiosity, paired with the exposure to a winning network of friends and family. Today John has experience the influence, and the corresponding effects, that come with both a Winning and a Toxic Circle. Here’s how you can identify both.
Growing up in Middleton, Nova Scotia, John was exposed to a tightly knit network of people that were connected through deep and encouraging relationships. Whether it was in his backyard, across the street, or at school, Middleton had a team mentality that left an impact on John to this day. He recalled that when you were feeling down, there was always someone there to pick you up. Everyone in the community was expressive, supportive and accountable.
That environment, the Winning Circle, was the perfect playing ground for developing leaders. In High School, John was challenged to be constantly moving, to always have a goal he was striving for, and to push beyond what seemed reasonable or comfortable at the time. This is an indicator of a true Winning Circle. You won’t always accomplish your goals and you won’t always win in your pursuits, but, when you fall, you will always be supported. You’ll always have your community to lean on in times of difficulty.
With the support of his friends, family, and community, John went on to become the captain of both his schools Rugby and Hockey teams. Again, John was exposed to the attitudes, attributes and aspirations that make up the Profile of a Champion. In his three years playing for his school John skated alongside teammates who went on to compete at the Jr. A and QMJHL level of hockey. John was amongst winners. And in the presence of winners John was forced to step up. Sitting on the porch of his apartment, he told me that he was never the best player. He didn’t skate the fastest, he didn’t shoot the hardest, he didn’t have skills people were awestruck by. But, because of his circle, he was forced to work harder. He was stretched. He was pushed and forced to grow. By skating with players that were better than him he had to step up and go from average to great.
That’s how you know if you’re in a winning circle! Do the family, friends, teams, or colleagues that you surround yourself with force you to grow? Do they demand a higher level of execution you’ve ever been exposed to? Do they accept average? Or, are they striving for greatness? In my experience it’s worth auditing the quality of your circles. Do they remind you of the Winning Circle we’ve described above? Or does it look more like this…
John and I have similar stories. From eight to thirteen I was competing for Canada in Gymnastics and Trampoline. I was exposed to greatness. I was exposed to the work ethic, attitudes, and execution of world class athletes. However, when I graduated elementary school and transitioned to High School I quit training twenty-five hours a week in order to have a social life. I lost the ever present example of greatness in my life. In fact, like most people I see today battling depression and mental illness, I went on to choose the wrong circle. I chose a circle that had no direction, abused drugs, and skipped class. Looking back I’m not surprised at the negative, downward spiral my life took. And after speaking to John, I’m not surprised in the direction his life took either.
John shared with me that when he went to university, he lost his mojo. He lost the zest for life he felt when he was surrounded by winners. Without clear intention, John walked into his new school, new town, and new network. Unfortunately, more often than not, when you’re not intentional about your environment and who you decide to surround yourself with, you connect with the wrong group. You miss out on the circle that is aspiring towards big goals and accomplishing their dreams. You miss out on those that are intentional about their time on this planet. The group that by being in their presence you too will become more clear with your own direction.
That feeling of lack of purpose, or when you can’t quite put your finger on why you’re not feeling 100%, I attribute to being engaged in the wrong environment. John’s challenge is that he wasn’t necessarily in a toxic circle, he was in an average circle. They weren’t all negative, they weren’t all doing drugs, and they weren’t all directionless. They were average. Average is such a monstrous contrast from greatness. You get different feelings when you’re surrounded by winners. You hear different language when you’re surrounded by winners. You see different actions when you’re surrounded by winners.
Being surrounded by average can be even more dangerous than being surrounded by toxicity. With toxicity you can see, feel, and taste it. You’re conscious about it’s effects on you! With average… It’s effects are subtle. You find yourself wondering why you’re not feeling passionate and why you’re not winning. John didn’t know why he lost his mojo until he once again was exposed to greatness.
He didn’t find a way to feel positive, enthusiastic, and at the top of his game consistently until he met his now girlfriend, who helped him rebound from a difficult time. It was through their association and teamwork that they were able to pull the best out of each other. This close connection with a supportive and encouraging partner brought the winner back out of John. Her support helped pick him back up to the point where he started to get his mojo back. John was always a winner, he always had the attitude of a champion, but as John said better than I ever could,
“The champion needs desire, with the right support. You need to drive the ship, but you can’t always pick yourself up on the grace of your own strength.” – John Connell
The more I get to know John, the more I’m proud to call him a mentor and a friend. In my opinion he epitomizes the Profile of a Champion. He has the attitude of a champion, the curiosity of a champion, the work ethic of a champion and most importantly he understands the criticality of surrounding himself with other champions.
As you reflect on your circle of influence, no matter where you are today, I know that you could be just like John, you could be one person away from becoming the best version of yourself. Or maybe you’re like me. Maybe you need two, three, or a whole community of people to support you. What really matters is that you can identify what type of community you’re being influenced by. Wether they’re winners or average, both will impact you through expectations and exposure.
In winning circles you’re expected to be a winner. The expectation is greatness. The expectation is that you’ll be a champion. The challenge with average circles is that when you’re good, you’re okay with being just good. When your environment is average, you start to believe you’re great. You can quickly become delusional because the expectations are low.
When you’re in a winning circle, all you’ve been exposed to is winning. All you see is great, so all you know is great. Exposure to greatness, winners, and champions will give you no choice but to step into your own greatness. Your environment is everything!
You don’t need a new brain or a new heat to change your life. The day your circle of influence changes, everything will change. You can only go so far by yourself and you can only get so far with the people you’re hanging with. If you surround yourself with winners, you’ll become a winner. If you surround yourself with losers you’ll become a loser. If you can change your circle of influence, you can change your money, your attitude, and your destiny. I dare you to take your life to the next level. I dare you to manifest the greatest circle you could possibly imagine!
- Audit – What are you being exposed to? Do you need to add one person or a dozen people to your Winning Circle? Or perhaps you need to take one person or a dozen people out of your circle… Regardless of where you’re at, you need to be candid with where you’re starting. If you truly become the average of the five people you spend the most time with, do a gut check on whether or not you would be proud to be an amalgamation of those five people.
- Affirm – Affirm that you will no longer accept average. Affirm that you will no longer settle for good and that you will find a great community. Know that no matter your talent, no man is an island. Affirm that you will no longer fear being around great. That you will no longer be intimidated by being in circles of influence where you will be stretched, pushed, and forced to grow. Affirm that in your one and only life you will intentionally and deliberately change your circle of influence for the better.
- Act– Start today! Message John on LinkedIn. Download Shapr. Join a new group on Meetup. Cold email someone you look up to and ask for a meeting. There are countless ways to start developing your new Winning Circle. We’re stronger together as long as you’re deliberate that your new group embodies the Profile of a Champion and forces you to grow.
Till next time, stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “you cannot change the destination of your life overnight, but you can change your direction.”