The Daily Stoic for March 9th. “Find The Right Scene”:
“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
“From good people you’ll learn good, but if you mingle with the bad you’ll destroy such soul as you had.”
—MUSONIUS RUFUS, QUOTING THEOGNIS OF MEGARA, LECTURES, 11.53.21–22
I am from a little city at the south of Spain, called Cartagena. It’s located between Andalucía and Valencia. Probably, you’ve never heard of it.
To say that people there -and generally speaking, in Spain- is reluctant to leave their homeland is an understatement. When I was about to enter college, the closest city that offered studies in Computer Science Engineering was 50 km away.
Several of my friends from Cartagena opted to become electricians instead of programmers because they didn’t want to leave the town. I remember asking one of my friends how could he settle for repairing wires when his dream was being a developer, he told me:
“Well… it’s more or less the same, and I don’t want to leave the family, look for a flat there…”
I went to college and later joined the University of Murcia as a researcher, buying a house there. Later I moved to Madrid, leaving Murcia behind, to work on a cubicle for years until I decided to become a digital nomad.
Well… It’s More Or Less The Same
That was the first time that I realized the people you hang out with, those you interact with on a regular basis, have a great influence on who you become.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my friends from Cartagena, and will forever consider them my friends. When I visit my family in Spain, I always try to hang out with them and remember the old times…
However, as my steps have taken me further away, and I have become an entrepreneur, I’ve progressively felt disconnected from them. I’ve felt like I was experiencing things I could no longer share with them. That’s the honest truth.
I know how this sounds. The first time I read the famous quote from Jim Rohn: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”, I thought it was elitist and heartless.
Nevertheless, years have proved me wrong.
That doesn’t mean I am better, smarter or braver than them. I am not stating that you should assign a score to your friends either. A friendship has value on its own.
Find The Right Scene
That said, you should surround yourself with people that add value to your life. People that challenge you, that make you learn new things. The kind of people who’ll make you question things.
When talking about how to grow your business as a digital nomad, I mentioned that you need to be really selective with the groups of people you spend time with. That doesn’t mean meeting only high-level executives or millionaires. Here, the value and interest of a person cannot be measured in success or money.
Last time I went back to Cartagena, one of my friends was still studying for a public office job. He is 38 and still lives with his parents. As cruel as this sounds, this person can no longer add anything valuable to my life.
I am pretty sure he’s happy, and I’m glad he is. He is -and will forever be- my friend. But I want something completely different in my life. Find the right scene.
Does that still sound cruel?
Today’s Daily Stoic asks us to consider the people we meet and spend most of our time with. They will shape who we become. I completely agree with this.
It may sound unkind, but you need to surround yourself with people that add value to your life, that make you evolve and do new things. Friends will keep on being friends… or maybe not but, at the end of the day, all that matters is the person you are.