In a casual conversation with a friend and mentor, he expressed a certain anxiety over something he was doing that evening. He said he and his wife were getting together for a monthly dinner with high school friends they had known for 30 years. When asked why he was not looking forward to the evening, he replied that they had nothing in common, other than the fact that they had attended the same high school and still lived in the same community. The dinners tended to be both boring and vaguely embarrassing.
I was reminded of this episode when, fourteen years ago, visionary Tom Hill told me that you are the average of the 10 adults with whom you spend the most time. Like most people who hear this, my initial reaction was mild humorous surprise. I thought it was glib and funny. Upon reflection, I found that this single thought has had an amazing and profound impact on my life.
Since I first heard it, I have begun to evaluate people on this basis. One of the first questions I ask myself upon meeting someone new, is, is this person raising or lowering my average? Based on the answer to that question, I then make a conscious decision whether or not to pursue the relationship. It has been transformational. I have intentionally surrounded myself with a group of extremely intelligent and dynamic individuals, all of whom are dedicated to constant improvement.
As I have shared this piece of wisdom over the years, I have heard back from many people that it has also become a practice with them. It seems to have been especially important to many of my younger protégées. They have, because of Tom’s insight, questioned their circle of acquaintances, and hopefully made some better decisions about where they spend their time.
Using the 10 people with whom you spend the most time measurement, we are better able to evaluate what we are doing with our time, and how effective we are being in our relationships. Many of us have recognized that we spent far too much time with relationship vampires who sucked the energy out of every get together. Some of us have recognized that even people we have known for a very long time are relationships of habit, not of vibrancy.
In an increasingly complex world, where actual face-to-face meetings are a privilege, I always look forward to meeting new people…and spending the most time with those who raise my average.