Trigger warning: This blog comes with a test at the end.
There are a few pieces of advice I can give you of habits or decisions that made me happier and more successful
- Never stop learning
- Always do one more thing
- Love your children unconditionally
- When people show you who they are, believe them (I think Maya Angelou said that)
- Courage is the virtue from which all others spring (some Greek guy said that, I think)
- You are what you habitually do. (Another Greek)
All of the above are great, but there is one lesson that I attribute, above all others, to having a fulfilling life
This is best summarized in three quotes from wise people of whom I am very fond. The first is from a person on the Olympic team with my daughter in 2004 who has since earned a Ph.D. and started multiple businesses.
Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres. (In English, “Tell me who you walk with with and I’ll tell you who you are.”)Dr. Rhadi Ferguson
One of the favorite sayings from my lovely daughter is
You are the average of your five closest friends.Ronda Rousey
The last was from a mentor in judo and business.
Hire for character first. Everything else is secondary.– Bruce Toups
It’s been said a lot of more homespun ways. “Lay down with dogs and you’ll get up with fleas.” My grandmother used to tell me that some of those old wives’ tales, old remedies and old sayings have stuck around to be old because there is a lot of truth in them.
Good people have other good people around them
I attended a lecture by Sydney Harman years ago, where he gave advice to USC business and engineering students and it was to associate with good people because other good people want to hang out with them, too. He gave an example of having this neighbor over for a barbecue just because he seemed such an honest, ethical guy and he wanted to know him better. The neighbor introduced him to a “young minister you really should meet” – who turned out to be Dr. Martin Luther King. If you don’t know, Sydney Harman co-founded an electronics company that ended up being worth a half-billion dollars, published Newseek and was under-secretary of the Department of Commerce under President Carter. I would take his advice.
I have a LOT more to say about this, but I have been out getting my knee drained yesterday so it will have to wait. Now it’s time to …
Here is your test. Don’t lie. That’s the first test.
- Now, think of the 5-10 people you spend the most time with. Include bosses, co-workers – but not automatically. If you have a boss you meet with an hour a week, he or she may not be on your list. If you’re a police officer and you are riding in a car every shift with a partner, that person is on your list. Yes, you may not have chosen them but you are probably wrong if you think they don’t impact you.
- What are some things they all have in common?
Here are my results
I picked 10. They are all (except one, who is young) married or have been married; of these 7/9 are still married to their first spouse, all but 1 for over 20 years. None of them ever cheated on their spouse in decades of marriage. Most of them brag frequently about how brilliant their spouse is. All of them are smart, 9/10 have college degrees. All have a commitment to the next generation, either as very involved parents, coaching, teaching or a combination of those. All of them are very, very good at their jobs even though their jobs range from middle school teacher to real estate broker to physician. None of them are super involved in politics but they all vote and pay some interest to politics; 2/10 have held local political positions, another votes in EVERY election. You know all those judges on the ballot that you have no idea which one to vote for? She knows. Out of my 10, six were athletes at the collegiate to international level, only three never played high school sports.
Do my friends have any other flaws? Yes, they do, but they’re my friends so I am not going to out them here.
Here is what everyone I spend a lot of time with has in common
I can count on them if I need them. They may not show up for every event in my life but there is not one person on that list that if I called them up right now and said, “I have cancer/ my child is dying / am feeling suicidal and I need you here.” – they would show up. It would not matter if they needed to buy a plane ticket, leave a TV set with filming in progress, cancel all the patients they were seeing, find a substitute teacher – they would figure that shit out and they would be at my front door tomorrow.
So, who’s on your list? Try this exercise yourself. It might be enlightening.
My advice to you
Here is my strong suggestion for you that you would be well-advised to take. If you find yourself in a situation where one or two of those people you spend a lot of time with don’t fit right with you at all, you’re not going to be happy. If you end up in a situation like that, drop the person or people. Change jobs, get a transfer. Find new friends. There are a few billion people in this world. Find yours.