You’ve probably encountered this quote or many of its paraphrased versions:
“You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.” – Jim Rohn, Businessman, Motivational Speaker
I have long agreed with this sentiment, but I previously underestimated its importance. Only recently did I truly grasp the profound influence of my peers. In my interactions with others, I genuinely regard everyone as an expert. I believe that individuals excel in areas they dedicate most of their time to, whether it’s gaming, watching beauty videos on YouTube, or listening to TED talks about psychology. Every action or inaction we engage in feeds our brain, either consciously or subconsciously, with information. Those who recognize this actively direct their information intake toward their goals. However, many of us haphazardly devote our time to unrelated activities. Through these intriguing but unconnected actions, our brains continuously assimilate new information, much of which deviates from our knowledge and personality objectives, making us lose sight of what’s truly relevant. The gap between where we are and where we want to be lies in the relevance of our activities versus the vision of who we wish to become. While we invest our time in diverse fields, everyone becomes an expert in their own right. Sadly, society often equates academic excellence with success from an early age. This perspective pushes many teenagers to see themselves as failures due to academic struggles, even when they possess expertise in areas such as diets, cars, makeup tutorials, or bicycle components. While I learn from my peers’ expertise, my ego sometimes convinces me that my strong convictions shield me from external influence. I used to see interactions as exchanges of insights. This process either fortified or challenged my existing beliefs. But I overlooked other facets of human interaction that shape the way my peers influence me.
Emotional trauma often clouds rational judgment. During such times, it’s common to feel trapped in negativity. Friends provide a rational, clear, and unbiased perspective, which often becomes our default position. What I failed to realize is that, particularly during emotional distress, we wholeheartedly adopt and even internalize their advice as our own. Unbeknownst to us, in our vulnerable state, peers can exert a significant influence. Hence, it’s crucial to surround oneself with people who can handle such situations with grace and offer a logical, fair, and unbiased solution.
In the realm of raw intelligence, the synergy between minds is immense. I confess I previously undervalued the importance of being around genuinely intelligent individuals. These individuals think rapidly, structure problems logically, and assess situations with astounding accuracy and impartiality. They also boast remarkable memory skills. Engaging with them made me realize that my mental faculties might have been dormant for a while. I considered myself knowledgeable until I discerned the difference between being street-smart and having grounded insights. While I believed I had a broad understanding, I had merely scratched the surface of knowledge. This realization was both humbling and invigorating. Although raw intelligence is primarily genetic, one can hone their cognitive abilities through focused practice. A great starting point to understand our cognitive biases is the book: “You are Not So Smart: Why Your Memory is Mostly Fiction, Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself.”
Why You’re Smartest When Mostly Alone
Influence is powerful and inescapable. Your interactions will shape others just as they shape you. Associating with intelligent and successful individuals can propel your insights and cognitive abilities. However, solely depending on peers for growth is inadequate. To truly excel, you must spend substantial time alone. Recall your proudest moments; preparing for them likely involved solitary dedication. Learning is most profound in solitude. Loneliness is a choice with a purpose: with a clear goal, solitude becomes an investment, not a punishment. I see social engagements as luxurious, given their opportunity cost to my personal growth. While society may celebrate popularity, mastery demands extensive individual practice, minimizing distractions and irrelevant influences. Embrace solitude; it’s when you learn the most.
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