226 – Choosing Your Friends Wisely…
Today I’m talking about the skill of choosing who your friends are. You may have never though of it as a skill before, but I think it is. I think it’s a skill that can be learned because it isn’t something we are born knowing how to do, and also because it’s something we can get better at. I classify anything that can be improved upon with practice and effort, as a skill.
As human beings we are pack animals. Our existence is made up entirely of the relationships we have with other humans. Our families, friends and acquaintances comprise the whole of our interactions and it is these relationships that become the fabric of our life. That’s one reason I always express the importance and value of relationships.
As such, the other humans we choose to spend the most time with is critical. Lets face it; there are good people and bad people and everything in between. Our lives are heavily influenced by the other humans we choose to spend the most time with. So doesn’t it make sense to choose to spend time with people that will make our life better? I think it does.
Nowadays people tend to be hyper sensitive about not being judgmental. As though there is something wrong about making a judgement about someone else’s character or value. I don’t get that at all. I think not only is it ok to make judgements about people, I think it is our obligation. We owe it to ourselves to do so.
If I know that I am the sum total of the five people I spend the most time with, then I am going to be very discriminating about who those five people are. I will judge the people who come into my life to determine if they are aligned with my world view. Is there anything I can learn from them? Do they have experience or knowledge that I seek? I will judge wether or not they will be a liability to my objectives, or if they will be an asset.
At the same time I expect those people are judging me by the same criteria. If there is a group of people I want to be a part of then I need to bring some sort of value to that group. If my presence doesn’t elevate the sum total of that group in some way—then why would I expect they would want me around?
At the same time I need to genuinely like the people I spend time with. I need to enjoy their company. Some people may be aligned with me in every conceivable way and yet—our personalities are simply not compatible. Maybe their sense of humor is off, or maybe I have some habit or mannerism that drives them crazy. It’s really difficult to form meaningful relationships with people you don’t like being around.
There are many, many components to consider when choosing who your friends are. There are lots of moving parts, many filters to pass through. The skill part I spoke of earlier is in being able to discern between all these elements, and having the willingness to act on them. That’s where most people drop the ball.
We have all known someone that we knew was not a good fit. Maybe we knew we couldn’t completely trust them. Or maybe there was something about them we just didn’t agree with, or whatever. Even though we knew this intellectually, we just kept them around anyway. We did not have the willingness or ability to act on what we knew was not in our best interest. Maybe they were also friends with someone else you really like and you didn’t know how to eliminate the one without also losing the other? There are a million reasons why we allow people to linger in our lives when we know they don’t belong there.
I used to be horrible at choosing who my friends were. I was young and idealistic. Having friends was like currency, and felt like everyone deserved a chance. I wound up getting burnt often, and taken advantage of. My sum total was diminished by some of the people I allowed to spend time with me.
I learned the hard way over time that it was possible to be friendly, and kind to people, without them actually being my friend. I learned that when it came to me and my life, that everyone did not actually deserve a chance. It became my obligation to make smart choices.
Even right now there are many people who consider me their friend. But the people I count as friends is a very small number in comparison.
The skill of choosing your friends is in the early detection, and quick decisive action of making the actual choice. Think about all the people you know right now. Think about what value you provide them and also what they do for you. Is there anyone who is an actual liability to your goals? You may want to consider eliminating those people from your sphere of influence.
It can all sound kind of cold and calculating, even superficial and impersonal. It really isn’t though, because the bottom line is that when it comes to friends; quality trumps quantity every time. If someone passes through all your filters, and you have passed through theirs. If you have judged, measured and weighed one another and been found not lacking. After all that you wind up with a true friend of value that you will likely have until you die. You will have each others back and trust each other implicitly. One friend like that is worth 50 or even 100 mediocre friends.
When our children are minors we need to help them choose their friends because they haven’t learned how yet. We all know how the wrong friends can influence children right? Well it isn’t any different for adults. Before we can really teach that skill to our children, we need to learn it and practice it for ourselves.
Now head out into the world and when it comes to choosing your friends don’t be afraid to judge the fitness and worth of others. Do yourself the great kindness of choosing well. At the same time be mindful of the value you bring to others. Above all, when you wind up with a good friend treat them like gold and never, ever take them for granted. Always be a better man, and a better friend today than you were yesterday.
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