Guilty by Association

Mike Whalen

My job requires me to attend countless meetings with various stakeholders. In the morning I’ll be chatting technical details with technologists. Next, I might be presenting to executive staff about vision/mission statements. Later that afternoon, I am scheduled with a cross functional team about facilities maintenance. So I can attest, different teams adopt different attitudes. It’s why the finance crew is curmudgeonly pessimistic, and the janitorial staff is the most upbeat team in the organization. 

AM radio personality Dave Ramsey has this philosophy: We are the average of those we surround ourselves with. We drive similar cars, have similar tastes in music and clothing, and have similar money habits. Dave’s philosophy is not confined to our personal life. The people we associate with, whether it’s in the office, virtually or socially, impact our perception of the world. 

Is your group a bunch of Debby downers? Don’t be surprised when Eeyore becomes your spirit animal. Are your people nothing more than gelatinous self-serving automatons? You can hardly be upset when you begin parroting their meager mannerisms. More importantly, how many rock stars are on your team? How many people are in your circle that shock you with unorthodox ideas, cosmic dreams and moonshot visions? 

The world is larger than it seems. When the lockdown orders came, I craved new ideas; I desired new approaches to my profession. The internet and social media served as a conduit to people from different states and different countries; people who could satisfy those cravings. I was no longer confined to the social butterflies that frequented the water cooler. I no longer viewed my boss as the final authority of how we should do our business. 

You also are impacted by what you listen to, and what you read. The world is filled with podcasts and books designed to elicit a varied range of emotions. If you choose to fill your brain with nothing but cynicism and bleakness, how long until your perception of the world aligns with that depressing narrative? If you want to tighten up your finances, are you seeking out financial advice from the experts? If you want to grow your business, are you reading business books from the best-sellers list? 

You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with and the information you consume. Look in the mirror. Are you happy with the person in front of you? Take an honest inventory of your life. Are you who you want to be?  I implore you, dear reader, to start a fire that fuels a better you. Become someone who you want to be around. Choose a future that fosters growth and improvement. Surround yourself with people and content that encourage your best work. 

Going Solo is an advice column by Michael Whalen, MBA, for entrepreneurs or corporate employees working remotely out of their homes.

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