Lesson 22

Lesson 22: BHFM and The Stoic Advisor

Weekly Habits for Success - Daily Task to The Habits for Success


"Above all, keep a close watch on this — that you are never so tied to your former acquaintances and friends that you are pulled down to their level. If you don't, you'll be ruined... You must choose whether to be loved by these friends and remain the same person or to become a better person at the cost of those friends... If you try to have it both ways you will neither make progress nor keep what you once had." — Epictetus, Discourses, 4.2.1; 4-5

Epictetus said we are a product of our surroundings. Our habits are fed by the people we are around most. “If a companion is dirty,” he said, “his friends cannot help but get a little dirty too, no matter how clean they started out.” That’s why we want you to examine the people you hang around the most and figure out, as Epictetus said, what habits of yours they are feeding.

Let me tell you a personal story.

Back in the mid-1980s, I read a book, I believe it was “How to Master the Art of Selling” by Tom Hopkins. In that book, it said to “remove all things and all people from your life that do not add value.” That sentence hit me particularly hard. You see, I knew, if only subconsciously, that I was at a crossroads in my life. I had a group of friends that I hung out with who were all pretty good people and we’d been friends for a long time. But none of them were on the path to success. They were on a fixed trajectory to mediocrity (ironically, looking at them today, that’s where they all ended up). But it was worse than that. You see, they all knew that I wasn’t like them. They knew that I not only wanted more but that I was capable of far more than any of them. And that was a threat to them.

Why? Because each of them was capable of more than mediocrity. But they had chosen the safe and secure route. They had chosen to ‘settle’. I wasn’t going to do that. So every time they saw me, they’d be forced to look at my successes and realize that they weren’t progressing to their abilities.

What happened? Well, they would carefully try and sabotage my success. Not outwardly, but almost subconsciously, almost reflexively. They became my “naysayers” and tried to get me to ‘settle’ as they had.

I had to make a hard choice. I either wanted to be their friend and spend the rest of my life realizing that I had ‘settled’, or I had to move on and leave them behind.

I chose the latter. No, I didn’t tell them off or anything like that. I simply made myself “less available” and slowly but surely, over a period of months, we drifted apart and went our separate ways.

Interestingly, I run into them from time to time. It’s always good to see them, to find out how everybody’s doing, and even reminisce about the old times and all the fun we had (and yes, we did have a lot of fun). But the connection, the deep friendship is not there. We make promises to ‘get together’, but no one ever does. It’s OK. I think we all understand that we’ve gone our separate ways, and none of them want to be reminded that they chose the path of ‘settling’.

These people were negative triggers in my life, so they had to go. And I am better for it!

When we’ve identified something holding us back, Epictetus said, “to the effect that it is harmful, that it should be avoided, and that we should use every means to get rid of it.”

Now let’s flip the script. Think about the people in your life that are good influences. The mentors, teachers, coaches, and trainers. Think about your accountability buddy. Think about your professional and business coaches; people who are truly invested in your success. Think about the buddy that also threw away his cigarettes when you said you were quitting. Think about the business friends that you look forward to seeing at the professional training sessions you attend on a regular basis.

Those are the people that you want to have in your life. Make a point to be in contact with them regularly, to be there for them to help them solve a problem, and maybe they’ll return the favor someday when you need that ‘voice of reason’ to tell you the words you need to hear!

NEW TASK: Figure out who those ‘Positive Influences’ are in your life and reach out to them over the course of the next month and continue to do so on a regular basis.

NEW TASK: Determine which people or things should be removed from your life. Talk to your ‘Positive Influences’ friends and come up with a plan to make yourself less available to those people. Gradually remove them from your life.

NEW HABIT: Speak with your ‘voice of reason’ friends at least once a month, even if it's only to “shoot the bull”.