The people with whom you surround yourself should want the best for you. Who makes sure this is the case? “You do.” Are you the type of person other people would select?
Remember in high school gym class when two people had to choose teams? Boy that was stressful. Great for some and brutal for others. The selection criteria basically came down to a) are you in the friend group of the person choosing and b) how good are you at the game? Some things never change we still choose the people who surround us. Hopefully not by default.
For the last two months my book club has been reading “12 RULES FOR LIFE, AN ANTIDOTE TO CHAOS” by Jordan B. Peterson. I am riveted by this read. If you need rules to live by start with this book. If you don’t need rules to live by but want to enhance the quality of your relationships, read this book. Moreover, if you want to be a person people surround themselves with read this book. It’s an education in critical thinking indeed.
This rule really got my attention. “Rule 3. Make friends with people who want the best for you.”
-12 Rules for Life
I’ll share a story about a business trip. I recently returned from an important meeting in Dallas. We did a Factory Assessment Test to demonstrate that our product performed the way we stated. The deal was pending a successful outcome. Many were in attendance. It was exciting and the test went well! I was with two of my most trusted colleagues. We worked hard strategizing the opportunity while proactively moving it forward. Afterwards, I thought about how we got to this point of being a team. What makes a successful partnership in business, friendship, marriage and family? What do these relationships look like?
We like to think the people we know want the best for us. But that is not always true. I tend to think people want what’s best for themselves. It is difficult for some to take others into consideration. Much of what I write below is taken from Peterson’s book.
He says “people create their worlds with the tools they have directly at hand. Faulty tools produce faulty results. Repeated use of the same faulty tools produces the same faulty results. It is in this manner that those who fail to learn from the past, doom themselves to repeat it. It’s partly fate. It’s partly inability. It’s partly unwillingness to learn.
People choose friends that aren’t good for them for other reasons too. They want to rescue someone, they want to save them. Maybe out of generosity or maybe because it’s easier to look virtuous when standing next to someone utterly irresponsible. Or maybe there is no plan at all in picking your friends. Maybe you pick people who are bad for you not because it’s better for anyone, but because it’s easier. You know it. We don’t say out loud, hey let’s take the easier path. Let’s indulge in whatever the moment brings. That way we can easily forget what we are doing. You don’t mention any of this, but you know what you are doing.”
Like the person who exhibits bad behavior or is embarrassing. It could be your co-worker, your neighbor or a family member, it’s just easier to ignore it than address it. Easier is not necessarily the best path.
We know people are flawed. We all are to some degree. The difference is there are those who generally take the easy path as their norm and there are those who strive for upward aim. It’s a choice.
The two points below from Peterson’s book resonate with me regarding what makes a successful partnership in a relationship.
1) “Reciprocal arrangements- Relationships are reciprocal. You are not morally obligated to support someone who is making the world a worse place. Quite the opposite. You should choose people who want things to be better, not worse. It’s a good thing, not a selfish thing to choose people who are good for you.”
2) “Surround yourself with people who support your upward aim, they will not tolerate your cynicism and destructiveness. They will encourage you when you do good for yourself and others and punish you carefully when you do not. This will help bolster your resolve to do what you should do, in an appropriate and careful manner. People who are not aiming up will do the opposite. They will offer a former smoker a cigarette, or an alcoholic, a drink. They will be jealous when something good happens to you and withdraw their presence or support. Mostly they just drag you down because your new improvements cast their faults in an even dimmer light.”
Back to my two colleagues Paul and Don; they do the above two points well. They want me to do well and I them. We support each other’s upward aim. We take steps to ensure each other’s success. It is reciprocal. We have each other’s best interest in mind. We leave our egos at the door. Whichever one of us is best for the next task, that is who does it. Most of all we tell the truth to each other. We are transparent in our business dealings. We sometimes disagree but we work it out. Transparency is the gold standard.
Our conversations are authentic and extend to our personal lives. We care about each other’s well-being as people not just as colleagues. They are positive people, uplifting and life giving. Selling is not an easy profession. It is vital to keep your attitude in check. Paul will tell me about a Podcast he listened to that might be helpful to me or about a mediation he is doing. When I see Don he greets me with a big smile, big hug and sometimes he is playing upbeat music on his phone to get the day started. It's a mindset. It is a way of being and moving in the world. It's a genuine, active, deliberate caring about another person’s well-being.
The first line in M. Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Traveled is “Life is difficult”. Life is hard enough without adding people to your sphere who don’t want the best for you. Or picking up people along the way by default. It’s the quality of the relationships that matter. When the good ones come, they will resonate. Keep your aim upward.
Peterson says, “it is far more likely a given individual has just decided to reject the path upward because of its difficulty. He says maybe that should be our default assumption.” But consider this, failure is easy to understand. No explanation for its existence is required. In the same manner fear, hatred, addiction, promiscuity, betrayal and deception require no explanation. Vice is easy. Failure is easy, too. It’s easier not to shoulder a burden. It’s easier not to think, and not to do, and not to care. It’s easier to put off until tomorrow what needs to be done today, to drown upcoming months and years in cheap pleasure.” It sounds kind of harsh and negative but it's true.
He goes on to say “Success. That’s the mystery. Virtue that’s what’s inexplicable. The desire to improve is instead a precondition for progress." What I have learned is life is much less complicated when one operates from a place of transparency, authenticity and caring about others.
He ends Rule 3 by saying, “Don’t think that it is easier to surround yourself with good healthy people than with bad unhealthy people. It’s not. A good healthy person is an ideal. It requires strength and daring to stand up near such a person. Have some humility. Have some courage. Use your judgement and protect yourself." You know these people when you see them, the healthy ones. They have an ease about them, a genuineness that you feel in their presence.
It is wise to Make Friends with people who want the best for you. Surround yourself with the Pauls and Dons of the world. There is a more than good chance you'll be okay. Keep your aim upward.
“The greatest gift anyone could give anyone is for the other to feel worthy, adored and more than enough for all that they are. This is a gentle reminder that the people you surround yourself with in every direction should feel both uplifting and safe to your mind and heart. Not confusing, not draining, not controlling, not vague, not calculating, not unreliable, not cold, not dismissive, and not manipulative. Don't mess around with the energy you take into your body and being, work wise, friendship wise, and relationship wise.
Life is too short and delicate for these damaging things. It's really that simple."
Until next time.