You’re the Average of the 10 People You Spend Time With



A friend of mine gave me the following advice … you’re the average of the 10 people you spend time with.  Looking back through my life, I could see how impactful that guideline really is.  I know I’ve grown the most, when I’ve surrounded myself with the best.  Whenever I feel like a big fish in a small pond, I try to change my container.  Partly why I joined Microsoft was to change my container.  Aside from a new adventure, I wanted to be a small guppy in a big ocean and I wanted to be surround myself with people who were better at just about everything.  Trial by fire.

Your Network Enables or Limits You
You can actually think of your network as a container that enables or limits you.  You’re the sum of your network and you are who you hang with.  You end up modeling your friends.  They can grow you, or they can hold you back.  It influences what you think about, how you feel, and what you do.  While you can rise above any challenge, the key is to find as many sources of support and build a firm foundation for your success as possible.

Proven Practices
Here are some key practices I that have served me well:

  • Use lunches for building your network.  Each week, I have lunch with somebody old, and somebody new.  This helps me treat my network like a Bonsai tree, tuning and pruning over time.  Life’s not static and neither is your network.
  • Meet with mentors on a regular basis.  I meet with my mentors every two weeks.  It’s a staple in my life.  It gives me a reliable rhythm for learning and growth and I always look forward to trusted advice and feedback.
  • Make everyone your mentor.  I make everybody my mentor.  I think everybody has a super power and I learn from them. (See What’s Your One-Liner Super Power?)
  • Spend more time with catalysts.  I structure my time to spend more time with people that catalyze me and less time with people that drain me.  Obviously, it’s a generalization, but I find that if you consciously find a way to spend time with people that lift you up, it pays off over time.
  • Find your heroes.  I study heroes.  I find reference examples to learn and model from.  I never knew Bruce Lee, but I’ve learned a lot from him (see Lessons Learned from Bruce Lee.)   I studied lessons from Stephen Covey and I did get to meet him in person (see Lessons Learned from Stephen Covey.)  I studied Michael Michalko, one of the greatest thinkers and creative minds of our time, and I got to meet him online (see Choice.)  The point is, you’re surrounded by great examples if you look for them.  I’m a big believer in standing on the shoulders of giants.
  • Surround yourself with the best.  I do what I can to surround myself with people that are better than me.  It’s not so I can compete with them, it’s so I can compete with myself.  They help me check my thinking, they’re a great sounding board, and I learn at a way faster pace, than any other way I can think of.
  • Team up.  I team up or pair up.  It’s like an apprenticeship model, but I find people that are great at what they do and like to share.  In return, I share my strengths and it’s a fast track for success.
  • Build your online network.  There are great people all over the world.   I spend time on great blogs.  I try to find great places online that make me think or give me new insights and inspirations.

Really though, it goes back to thinking about this simple point … you’re the average of the 10 people you spend time with.  It’s a simple yard-stick for me to checkpoint if I’m spending enough time with the people I should, family and friends included.  It’s a great practice for work and life.

Photo by Randy Son of Robert.


  1. Very very powerful.

    And something tells me you’ve probably grown into a BIG fish there in your new Microsoft aquarium? Or maybe you’re this brilliant and productive on your blog only? 🙂

  2. JD, wonderful blog topic!
    Even plants need to be lovingly re-planted in bigger pots for their full blossoming! 😉 The last few years, I have been especially careful who I surround myself with, and where I have chosen to invest my time. It has made all the difference! For me, the most important aspect in networking after positivity, is diversity! I especially love how you mentioned: Spend more time with catalysts. Definitely, what my aim is! ;)Hopefully, we are each able to be this to someone else, especially in the small ways! We are certainly all leaders, whether we realize it or not! Have a wonderful day! ~Jen

  3. I think I worked too hard to find mentors and success in the aquarium I put myself in – and I stayed too long thinking if I just did more. It was salt water and I needed fresh and unpolluted.

    My blogging community is my breath of fresh air…as I figure out the next pond.

    I think it is their loss, as they worked so hard to ignore and belittle me for years.

    Actually, the last big round of cancer, and watching how they treat the fish they like with cancer, vs me…has given me a huge net of freedom…

    I always find something good for me here – thank you JD
    I am pondering

  4. What if you spend time with less than 10 people? Do those we spend time with increase their influence or we are disadvantaged – by missing out on people?

    I think this is equally true with your thoughts & actions as well. You/your life becomes the average of top 10 actions you spend time on.

  5. Great one!
    i think i hit something similar reading Jack Garfield’s book where he mentions Jim Rohn telling Tim Ferriss something liek that.
    Well, it struck me like thunder – simple reflection on who you hang out with gave interesting perspective. Same with customers i do my consulting. There are customers you want to work on and on since you feel they are great catalysts for your growth, others… others i just hand out the report, thank you.

  6. @ Positively Present

    The highlights in my life are always the people and the experiences.

    @ Jannie Funster

    Thank you. I’ve grown from guppy to small fish. I can still always find somebody smarter and better at just about anything, but I know how to bring my strengths to the table. That’s the key.

    @ Jen

    Thank you. Perfect point on plants and beautiful point on diversity. It’s that combo of positivity + diversity. I think your blog is a wonderful catalyst for people.

    @ Patricia

    You’re finding your stride and you’re on your path, so you can’t beat that. I think when you live your values on your blog, it’s a lightening rod for like minds.

    @ Avani

    If you spend time with more, you get more diversity, and you share yourself with more people.

    Great point on thoughts and actions.

    @ Alik

    Thank you. That’s a good example how in our day to day we can choose who we spend more time with. The little slices of discretionary time add up.

  7. How is it 10 and not some other value? That’s my initial comment as I do understand the general idea that we become similar to those around us. This does remind me of a few Dr. Phil questions:

    * What are the ten most defining moments of your life?
    * What are the seven most critical choices you have made to put you on your current path?
    * Who are the five most pivotal people in your world and how have they shaped you?

  8. Hi JD,

    Talk about timing. I was just out doing some errands with my husband and we were talking about something that is happening in my life right now. I remembered this line that you told me and recalled how true it is and here you have a post on it. I love when things like that happen.

    Yes, we are the company that we keep so we have to be careful who we spend our time with. Eventually those people will rub off on us on some level. Sad but true if you are in bad company but totally awesome when you are surrounded by genius.

  9. […] You’re the average of 10 people you spend time with […]

  10. No man is an island. Everybody needs support. You’re right that one must surround himself with people that will bring out the best in you; people that will help you grow and people who sees the bright side of life. 🙂

  11. @ JB

    It’s less about 10 and more about the impact of who you spend time with.

    I really like the Dr. Phil questions. They cut right to some good insight and reflection.

    @ Nadia

    We’re definitely the company we keep. It’s a great reminder that we need to be good company even for ourselves.

    @ Walter

    I always liked the line, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

    @ John

    Nice tight sayings that characterize the point.

  12. I am one for always surrounding myself with people who can provide unique and or new perspectives to help me rearrange my own perspective and end up with a whole new out look. Great info. 🙂

  13. Insightful truths expressed in such a concise message of language.

    It is a delight to aknowledge all those we come in contact with, and know that we meet for a purpose.

    Everyone is connected to serve the other, and guidance is the ultimate message within that emracing experience.

    Love your blog.

    You are doing a wonderful job, in reaching out to others, just as much as others reach out to you.

    Love in Light 🙂

  14. @ Ana

    Thank you. The way you put it reminds me that “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” It really is a collaborative ecosystem.

  15. […] is another great article about the importance of building your network and connecting with those around […]

  16. Catching up.
    Sometimes true even with friends that make you grow as well. There can sometime be elements of ego and competition to overcome first. I’ve experienced that and still do from time to time and have to remind myself to be a smaller fish with bigger friends rather than the other way around. It’s the comparison disease. 🙂

Comments are closed.