Birds of a Feather Flock Together
“How your friends are shaping your lives for better or worse”
What we condition our self with, and what we surround our self with, has a cogent impact on how we think and how our lives are operated. There are numerous factors which lead to this conditioning. Of these conditions, the inclusion or exclusion of friends is of most importance.
We most often surround our self with “like people”, individuals who are similar to us in appearance, beliefs, and like interests. Think of your five closest friends. Chances are, the main thing that ties you two together are like interests. We naturally see the benefits of our friends, yet fail to realize what traits are actually bringing you down.
For example, when a friend of ours becomes obese, our likelihood increases by 57%. When this friend is mutual, the likelihood increases to 171%. This is according to a study done by the New England Journal of Medicine. The actions of our friends dictates what we think is socially acceptable or unacceptable. If it’s acceptable for our friend to eat poorly, we find that it is acceptable as well. In his book “Blink”, Malcomb Gladwell discusses a murder that took place in a busy urban neighborhood with an abundance of witnesses. Not a single person made an effort to stop it. The reason? He argues that it’s because no one else made an effort to. It was seen as the “normal” thing to do in the situation. Now, given reflection, it was clearly not the right thing to do. But it’s amazing how much our thoughts are conditioned.
Derrick Coleman, a #1 pick in the 1990 NBA draft, was touted as a potential hall of fame player. He was compared to Charles Barkley and Karl Malone with the added dimension of an outside shooting game. Many, including Sports Illustrated, believed he could have been the best power forward ever. Despite a still moderately successful career, his teams tended to struggle, even often times playing better without him. His career began in New Jersey, where he was constantly feuding with players and coaches. He was then traded to Philadelphia, where he continued to be a cancer in the locker room. In his first year with the Sixers, they won 18 games, their 2nd worst finish in franchise history. He then moved to the Hornets, where the team enjoyed limited success, but underachieved and was a below .500 team when Derrick was in the lineup. To me, Derrick’s personality and hostility had a big impact on his teammates and the success of the team.
But to believe influences can only be negative is simply untrue. The power of positive influence can be one of the greatest passions in life. Joe Jones, a community crusader in the Baltimore area, embodies this. Joe was once a drug addict and absentee father, and now is the founder, owner, and CEO of a program called Responsible Fatherhood which gives men the support and tools they need to become better parents. A recent study showed that 26% of American kids are living without a father. This shocked me, until I saw that 69% of African American children in the Baltimore area are living without one. How can this happen? Joe Jones has asked the same question, yet is using his determination and positive influence to answer those questions and bring about positive solutions. He has become an important figure in many young parent’s lives, and is on a daily basis proving that we can influence others to do the right things and live better lives.
I ask you, all of you who are reading this. Take the 1st step towards bettering your inner circle. If you have a friend who is bringing you down, assess the situation and whether or not this in your plan for good friendships. Determine if it is best to remove that friend from your circle. Also, work towards bettering your circle by adding a different trustworthy or inspiring person.