Navy SEALs are cool.
They’re also a perfect example of how iron sharpens iron.
Every year, a lot of people apply to become a SEAL, but only 6% are accepted into the program. From there, less than 25% go on to actually become SEALs.
Why is that?
Because the Navy understands they need the right kind of person. They set up the BUD/S program (the one you see in movies) to weed out the wrong type of person.
And I’m not saying the folks who don’t make it are bad. I’m simply saying they’re not the type of person the SEALs are looking for.
They have a defined criteria they look for. They have values and guidelines they adhere to.
Because of the work the Navy SEALs do.
They deal with life and death.
SEAL teams are groups of 14 people who spend all their time together. They rely on one another and need to know how all of their team members are going to respond in different situations.
What does this have to do with you?
The people you surround yourself with, your circle of friends, have similarities to a SEAL team. You rely on them. They help you complete the missions in your life. You have similar values and goals to one another.
You’ve heard the saying “you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I want to talk about ensuring your circle of friends are in fact iron sharpening iron.
Why? Because life’s both too short, and too long, to be spending time with the wrong people.
The Proverb “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” speaks to the potential for people you’re in contact with to better you, and for you to better them.
Let’s make sure that’s what’s happening.
Here’s what we’ll talk about:
- Finding the right people
- Recognizing the wrong people
- Your existing friends
- Your new friends
Let’s get started.
Finding the right people
Who are the “right” people? They’re people with whom you can learn and grow together.
You want to spend time with people who do different things than you do. People with different backgrounds than you. Individuals who have a different perspective and who have their own thoughts and opinions about things.
A great friend is someone who is different than you are, but shares your core values.
Think about it; will you ever learn and grow from hanging around with people who are the same as you? Probably not. Sure, it’s comfortable, but it’s not going to make you (or them) any better than you already are.
You can be friends with people from different countries. Who worship different Gods. With different political beliefs. The list goes on and on.
But, your core values must be aligned.
Now, in order to know if your values are aligned to your friends, you need to get clear on yours.
It took me a long time to finally think about and write down my core values. If you’re like me, I encourage you to go through our Values Course (there’s no-cost).
Recognizing the wrong people
Tell Me What Company You Keep, and I Will Tell You What You Are – Miguel de Cervantes
Tell me how you use your time and how you spend your money, and I will tell you where and what you will be ten years from now. – Napoleon Hill
My mom used to tell me a version of these when I was a teenager. I heard her, but rarely listened. Looking back, she was right.
Here’s another Proverb along the same lines, “If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas.”
On the Tim Ferriss show, I recently heard Rich Roll use the term “lower companions.” He was talking about his sobriety journey.
The term is from Alcoholics Anonymous and it refers to the kinds of people you end up spending time with when engaging in self-destructive behaviors. More often than not, they are low self-worth, and lower-quality people.
When you’re trying to figure out whether or not you should be spending time with someone, simply ask yourself, “Is this person getting me closer to the life I want, or taking me farther from it?”
That’ll give you your answer.
Your existing friends
We have different kinds of friends from different stages of life.
Friends we grew up with when we were kids and friends from high school.
If you went to college, you developed strong bonds with new friends.
As adults, we collect friends in lots of different ways.
You want to have your friend’s backs, and you want them to have yours.
You want to cultivate, nurture and grow with them. But what if some of them are the wrong people?
At the risk of sounding harsh, I don’t want to say you’re hanging out with losers. But you might be.
How do you know?
Think about yourself. If everything you’re working on right now went exactly as you’d like it to, where will you end up in 10 years?
If it’s not where you want it to be, I strongly urge you to go through our Goals Course which you can also access at no cost.
Next, think about your current circle of friends. Assuming everything goes perfectly, where will they be?
Should you recognize you’re hanging out with the wrong people, I urge you to stop doing it. Life is both too short, and too long to be spending time with people who are not making you better.
For those friends with which your values are aligned, go all-in on them.
Work to figure out what you can do to support them in their efforts. Be the kind of friend you wish you had.
You’ll find they’ll reciprocate and iron will begin sharpening iron.
Your new friends
Making new friends as an adult can be challenging. Limited time and attention keeps us from forging bonds like those we have with college friends.
That being said, we’re all in the same boat. We all desire new connection and new friendships.
Meeting new friends presents an exciting opportunity. You can proactively look at the relationship through the lens of your values and goals and make sure the people you’re adding to your circle are worthy.
Because you have limited time and attention, I don’t want you to waste it cultivating a relationship with someone who isn’t going to be a good fit for your circle.
I’m in the process of writing about different ways to make friends as an adult, but here are some general thoughts.
Red flags need to be paid attention to. When you notice one, don’t ignore it. People will often tell you everything you need to know about them. Make sure you’re listening.
Trust your gut when meeting new people. Your instincts are invaluable as you’re trying to make judgements on who you should invest your time and attention into.
Use your values as the criteria for bringing new people into your circle. Embrace diversity of background, thought and profession.
Friends are to be cherished, I’m confident you already know that.
Look for ways to help your friends grow and advance in their lives. Doing so will foster a relationship of reciprocity and you’ll be able to grow together.
Keep a tight circle. Be ruthless with who you let in, and hold everyone to a high standard.
When someone is having a hard time, get them the support they need.
Remember that iron sharpens iron. Make sure you’re surrounding yourself with people of the highest character and caliber.
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