Welcome back to the End Average Fundamentals series! If you are new to this, please begin reading the series from the beginning by clicking HERE. Although the messages work on their own, there will be more context for you if you follow them in sequence. Make sure you’re signed up for the newsletter and I’ll send these directly to you so that you never miss a new post. You can sign up right on the EndAverage.com homepage. Now let’s get right to it!
I wish I could say that it’s common sense to choose your crowd wisely. Unfortunately, it seems that common sense is a superpower in these modern times. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m fairly easily swayed by the crowd I’m hanging out with. I’ve always liked being liked (who doesn’t?). I think anyone who knew me growing up would vouch for the fact that I had a peculiar knack for finding the wrong people to surround myself with. That trait bit me many times. It is easy to fall out of sync with the things we believe in much faster if we’ve got the wrong influences around us, so choosing your crowd wisely and intentionally is something we need to learn to do if we intend to become a better version of ourselves as life goes on.
Shedding the old ways
If you’ve been following along with the fundamentals series you’ve probably noticed that I believe there is no life-hack that will turn you into a good father or husband. There’s no college course, no Bible study, and no seminar that can give you a complete 180 that sets a correct course for you. The course of your life is consistently adjusted one small decision at a time. Growth habits, or the application of wise decisions consistently over time, will change the end result far more than the major you choose in college. The growth habit I want to talk about is your decision about how to spend your time and who to spend it with. I won’t get into the process of weeding out the negative or “draining” relationships from your life, that’s a whole topic of its own. It should go unsaid that it’s a bad decision to spend a lot of time with the “peaked in high school” guy that wants to get wasted every weekend. I’m not advocating cutting old friends out, but I am saying that intentionality in this area looks like deliberate time spent with people that are growing. Do you want to be good with money? Spend time with people who are good with money. Do you want to eat healthier foods? Spend time with someone who eats healthy.
I want to point out three kinds of relationships I believe every person should seek if they truly want to grow in faith, relationships, health, and finance. The three relationships I’m talking about are the reach-up, the shoulder-to-shoulder, and the pull up. Let me explain.
The reach-up relationships
When I was newly married, I realized very quickly that I wasn’t spiritually fit enough to be a spiritual leader in my home. I also knew that I wasn’t good at handling money. I knew nothing about budgeting, retirement planning, or investing. I was also in over my head when it came to knowing how to encourage a marriage to flourish and grow. The key to growth in all of these situations was to find a mentor. Now don’t freak out when I say mentor, it doesn’t have to be a formal relationship with schedules and agendas, I’m simply talking about someone who you know understands the steps you need to take to get to the next level in whatever ladder you’re trying to climb. A good mentor can simply be a friend who knows more than you in a specific area and is willing to talk you through a process. They shouldn’t be trying to turn you into a cookie-cutter version of themselves either. The reach-up relationship is one where you accept that you don’t know it all and you seek the wisdom of someone who has it – and you act on it. In faith we call it discipleship. Same idea. It’s not scary, it just takes the initial humility of asking the person. And you will have to seek them out, because I don’t know too many successful people with a bunch of time on their hands.
The shoulder-to-shoulder relationship
Do life in community. The expression “you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with” comes to mind. Once again I’ll point out that if you’re hanging out with the guy who can’t seem to get his act together in his 40’s then you’re probably not doing too much better yourself. I had a bit of a cheat code when I got out of the Army and moved back to California, I didn’t know anyone! I had a fresh start and had the unique chance to really seek friendships with people who I knew I wanted to be like. So I just payed attention when I met people. I remember thinking things like “wow, his kids are amazingly behaved and respectful. I want my kids to turn out like that!” and then seeking to be around that person. I’d try to add value to them, and hopefully get to spend time getting to know them. Asking someone out to coffee or their family over for dinner became pretty regular things for me that first year. And while that might sound slightly stalkerish, I can tell you that once a few good friendships started up it was very easy to invite more people to hang out with us. The shoulder-to-shoulder friends are those who you get to do life with. Our families hang out together sometimes but mostly these men just get my phase in life because we’re all at similar places on our journey. We can talk openly and safely about things we’re succeeding at or struggling with. Point is, you can’t have a wolf pack if you’re playing lone wolf. Having friendships and support around you is a good and healthy thing that we all intrinsically crave so pay attention to who you choose to have around you.
The pull-up relationship.
So we’ve come full circle. You’ve been getting mentored, you have a good group of friends, and now it’s time to give back! I’ll tell you another story about wolves. In Yellowstone National Park they released a small pack of wolves after they had been extinct in the area for many years. The immediate result was that some of the deer population was picked off. This is natural, of course, but another unexpected thing happened: the wolves gave life to many other species. The wolves reinstated a natural food chain that caused the grazing species to stop over-treading certain areas so that those areas were able to regenerate. These newly regenerated areas allowed beavers to return and create their dams in the streams, which in turn gave a place for fish to repopulate, creating food for more animals. Dozens of ecosystems returned to normal because of the reintroduction of a single animal. I believe that this story directly reflects the impact a leader can make in his home, workplace, neighborhood, or church. Imagine what our society would look like if every man got over the generational or cultural differences that the next round of men have and gave time and energy to them in the form of pulling them up to the next level in any area of their lives.
I could write about this topic of days, but I’ll leave you with this. When it all comes down to it, you don’t have to cut out people you love or are related to, but you do need to be mindful of the volume of time you spend with them. On the positive side, you get the chance to seek the time of those who you look up to and should be spending time with. This is a simple decision and every time you make it you get a little closer to, or further away from, the person you’re intended to be.
Let’s end average together.