When I was starting my first business, I came across a quote that had a massive impact on me: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I remember at the time doing an immediate inventory, and I didn’t like what I found.
I had left a highly-intellectual and analytic career with brilliant colleagues, finished two years of business school where I was surrounded by driven and focused friends, and was now working for myself, by myself. I was isolated and on my own for most of each day. And when I was around other people, the five I saw the most were my then-fiancee, my soon-to-be-mother-in-law, and some lovely but uninspiring friends who didn’t work. I was the average of that??
One of the biggest downfalls of becoming an entrepreneur that not enough people talk about is this: when you are bootstrapping a business, working from home, and building your vision from scratch, you have to make an effort to find the communities that you took for granted when you were working for someone else. You have to look for people who will support, push, and challenge you. You have to seek out relationships that will help you and your business grow.
But where are you supposed to find them? And how?
For a long time, I had no idea. I was mildly depressed for large parts of those first few years and I felt deeply isolated. (It didn’t help that I was living in the ‘burbs at the time, where the only things within walking distance were a large supermarket and a movie theater… not exactly buzzy co-working spaces where I’d meet other entrepreneurs!)
After almost two years (TWO YEARS!) of doing things on my own and being professionally lonely, I teamed up with two of my favorite and most successful friend-preneurs to do something as life-changing and morale-boosting as starting a WhatsApp group, and our little threesome was, and still is, exactly what I needed.
But, dear Entreprenoras, as we all know, not all WhatsApp groups or business groups or entrepreneur groups are created equal. We have to choose wisely. We have to look for, or create, environments that will help us do and be more than we could do or be on our own. We have to go where the standards are high.
It’s that thing about averages: if we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with – and science and research has proven this to be true again and again – then wouldn’t it be great to be a part of a group where we are surrounded by high-performers who are committed to excellence, learning, improving, and sharing (like this one!)? Wouldn’t it be great if we sought out communities where we were the “dumbest” person in the room so we could push ourselves harder than we knew we could push? Wouldn’t it be exhilarating to be surrounded by people who get what we are trying to do and will help us do it better, faster, and more successfully than we could have on our own?
The communities, the people, the ideas that contribute to our average don’t have to be physical. They can be made up of the authors we read, the podcasts we listen to, the thought leaders we follow, the online forums we join. But we have to choose carefully. We have to go where the standards are high. Where the expectations are massive. Where we will metaphorically rub elbows with people who don’t make us feel desperate for a shower after we have metaphorically rubbed elbows with them!
It’s the law of averages, after all, and you don’t want your “five” bringing your average down.