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Gooding playing guitar on the porch

Last week I talked about turning off the constant chatter, the bells and whistles of social media, advertising, robocalls, etc. That was the kiddie pool. We are jumping back into the deep end this week, sports fans. 🙂

This week I want to talk about the people with whom we surround ourselves.

Jim Rohn (Tony Robbins’ mentor) once said, “You are the average of the five people you most spend time with.”

Robbins took that a step further and said, “Take the average income of the 10 people you talk to all the time; your income is most likely that number.”

A hero of mine, John Hope Bryant from Operation Hope, said, “If you grow up with nine gang members, you are mostly likely the 10th. Grow up with nine doctors…” You get the picture.

Now, am I saying go find a bunch of rich people and you’ll be rich? Of course not. I think having friends who all think the same thing or obsess about money/material things is a path to misery. Talking and working with people from all walks of life is one of the great joys and benefits I get from being a gypsy musician. But sometimes we have to take a hard look at who we are with every day—who we are trusting our futures with, who we have let into the foxhole with us. And one of the few things I have found to be a sure thing is if you are surrounded by negative people, you are probably not heading toward a very rewarding life.

Taking stock of who we surround ourselves with is the hardest and yet one of the most important things we can do. It means digging in the dirt, doing the heavy lifting of self-reflection. It means soul-searching and, hardest of all, MAKING CHANGES IN OUR LIVES.

If you are surrounded by negative, lazy people, not only are you going be less inspired to become your best self but also there are most likely very few opportunities they will bring to learn and grow—because they are not creating any opportunities to better themselves. There is no momentum to lift up together and do something amazing, and if they are really in trouble, they can drag you down into whatever hell they are living in.

Now, am I saying if you have a friend in trouble, don’t try to help? Of course not. But you know in your heart whether this is just a friend in need (in which case we should always do everything you can) or whether you are just not compatible with someone—they are on a road that is heading to somewhere you have no interest in going.

This is of course the most difficult with family.

Until you are 18, you are legally supposed to be around them, and if it’s a mother or father (or lack of) that is causing you the stress, there have been one billion books and therapists dedicated to trying to unscramble the darkness that comes from either not having an adult to model in formative years or almost worse yet, having an adult that IS there but who can’t show love or is physically abusive.

Now I’ve seen this fall two ways almost every time. After meeting and talking to thousands of students around the country and reading every biography I can get my hands on, people who grow up around damaged people will either become that very thing (hurt people hurt people) or they will use their experience as a template to AVOID the insanity, to create a better family next time. They break the chain; they are stronger because of that insanity, and they become groundbreakers. They light a new path for others. The list of artists and leaders who came from broken homes is staggering. Without launching into it (a fun blog down the line, as so many of them have inspired me) next time you are watching a documentary or reading someone’s personal story whom you admire, pay close attention to those formative years. I bet that almost every time you will find they had some sand in the shell that made the pearl that they are now giving to the world.

Get rid of the people who are holding you back. If you take some time, get really quiet, and ask yourself inside, you know who they are, and you know that there is probably a difficult phone call or cup of coffee to be had sooner than later.

They don’t have to—NOR SHOULD THEY—blindly support you. We don’t need sycophants. Hell, we all need someone to tell us when we are trying to fly the plane without a pilot’s license (I try this all the time and, honey, it don’t work). Those of us who like to reach beyond our grasp especially need grounded, logical friends and family who tell us when we are acting a fool (thank God my wife is smarter and calmer than I am). But if you have people who default to negativity and doubt NO MATTER WHAT is happening, it is unlikely you are helping one another get to where you want to go.

Now, these folks may get better—and these folks may just need some help—and if you know they are good souls at heart and you call yourself a friend? You need to get over there and LISTEN.

(If you are married to someone who is in a bad place, I can’t begin to advise from my little blog here. There may be legal difficulties—children, etc. And if, God forbid, you are a victim of domestic abuse, this blog isn’t even scratching the surface of what it takes to extricate yourself from this. We are huge proponents of shelters for women dealing with men who should be taken out behind a barn. If you know someone dealing with these kind of issues, please help them find local resources to build the strength to get away from these nut jobs.)

As in all things, this is much easier to say than do. And as with most of these blogs, I’m trying to teach myself more than preach to you, believe me. We are sharing ideas here. If I had figured this stuff out when I was much younger, I would be in a whole different place right now. 🙂 And at some level we are all trying to get our lives into better order.

I leave you with this, my friends: Weed your garden. It’s not easy, and there will be short-term pain to getting your life in a good place long term, but WEED those negative people right out of your life. If you are avoiding a conversation right now with someone you know is toxic, someone you know is in a place where you can’t help them and they are just gonna drag everyone else down until they hit bottom, you have to walk away. GO. You don’t have to do it in bluster or anger; you don’t have to hurt them or give them a big speech that may only further confuse the both of you. Don’t muddy the water; just walk away and focus on what you can control: YOU. All of this makes me think of that cheesy and wonderful ’80s film War Games, which ends with the wisdom: “The only way to win is not to play.”

Walk away and work on getting yourself to a better place so you can lift others up and be a light, an inspiration to someone else.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to any stories or comments you may have.


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