Jim Rohn & Some Dead Philosophers (Average of Five Rule)

Jim Rohn & Some Dead Philosophers (Average of Five Rule) December 15, 2023

It’s a thought-provoking quote by Jim Rohn:

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”

In one sense, it feels like an oversimplification. At the same time, it’s dead on. Though we are accountable for our own behavior, we can’t help but be influenced by those around us. To the old adage “misery loves company”, the famous Stoic philosopher Epictetus warns us on who we fraternize with:

“If a companion is dirty, his friends cannot help but get a little dirty too, no matter how clean they started out”

If misery loves company, then the inverse is also true. Highly motivated, positive, kind, and thoughtful individuals will influence and inspire us. Aristotle speaks much about friendship and how much we need friends. After all, we are social animals. Because we are social animals, however, we need to be selective in whom we choose as friends. Here are some truth bombs from his epoch Nicomachean Ethics (bold my emphasis):

“If the actions of virtuous men who are their friends are pleasant to good men (since these have both the attributes that are naturally pleasant),- if this be so, the supremely happy man will need friends of this sort, since his purpose is to contemplate worthy actions and actions that are his own, and the actions of a good man who is his friend have both these qualities.”

He continues (bold my emphasis):

Thus the friendship of bad men turns out an evil thing (for because of their instability they unite in bad pursuits, and besides they become evil by becoming like each other), while the friendship of good men is good, being augmented by their companionship; and they are thought to become better too by their activities and by improving each other; for from each other they take the mold of the characteristics they approve-whence the saying ‘noble deeds from noble men”

Taking stock of the top five people we spend time with, we see how important our significant other is in our lives. Same with family, business colleagues, and friends – the people we spend the most time with will have the most influence on us. For those in a bad long-term relationship, toxic work environment, and have a low bar for our closest friends (and if we’re unlucky enough to have allowed those three conditions in parallel), there will be a high consequence on our wellbeing. Conversely, being highly selective of our significant other, working environment, and friends, we cultivate an environment for our own flourishing.

In actualizing our potential to become the best version of ourselves, our top five people are key as we’ll ultimately be emulating – perhaps just averaging – the collective character and spirit of our essential cohort.

Image: Emanuel James Rohn photo by Tajul Islam Apurbo @ Wikimedia 



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