I talked about my father in my last article, and a piece of bad advice he gave me many years ago. Out of respect to him that I recognize none of us are right 100% of the time, and he also gave me some pieces of advice I wish I had listened to from the moment that he tried to help me understand.
One of those pieces of advice he gave me repeatedly was "if you lay down with dogs, you're bound to get fleas." Maybe I was trying to be politically correct long before there was such a thing, but I never really liked that statement. I would never lay down with a dog, and only very rarely do people get fleas. That statement is mostly true, but it is incomplete. It fails to advise us on what or who we should lay down with.
You see, we live in a world of polar opposites. And in our world, if you get the proverbial fleas by laying down with a proverbial dog, then perhaps if you refuse to share your life with this flea ridden mutt, and instead surround yourself with more positive influences, would you get the polar opposite of a flea? The truth is, I have laid down with a proverbial dog or two in my life, and I had the fleas to prove it. I've also seen the opposite effect of making more positive choices about what or who we lay down with.
Now this is all well and good in the animal kingdom, but how do we apply these ideas in our daily lives? A few years ago, I read the book The Blue Ocean Strategy. While the book is business related, a couple of it's concepts apply here. One of those concepts is "a rising tide lifts all boats." And while our earlier discussion about the dog with fleas could certainly define the negative relationships in lives, this reference to a "rising tide" can help us define the the effect positive relationships can have on our lives.
The problem with theories and supposition are that they live in a vacuum and prove nothing. But they give us the ability to recognize that there are those people that impact our lives in both positive and negative ways. I touched on this briefly in an article several weeks ago (What We Take From Our Friends), and it was in this article that I talked about becoming a mirror image of the traits we respect in the people closest to us. But like the dog statement, it is incomplete because it fails to deal with the polar opposite. Because these opposites are constantly at odds with one another, there is a never ending tug of war from strong positive poles, and incredibly stronger negative poles.
For all the good things I took from my friends, there are others in my life that could loosely be called friends that have infected me with some negative traits. With this realization, I've come to the conclusion that we all have two kinds of people in our life. Some people in our life elevate us and make us better people, while the others bring us down and give us the proverbial fleas. I've seen this dynamic work in my life over and over again, not realizing that these people who bring us down are a much stronger influence on our lives than the good people around us. To paraphrase again, imagine you are in a rowboat with five of your friends. Four of them help to row and get you to your destination, but the fifth keeps standing up and rocking boat. Sooner or later he will capsize the boat, pulling you and the other four friends underwater to certain death.
I have found that in life, you are rewarded by putting yourself in good company, with good people who will raise you up and make you a better person. But good company alone isn't enough. Just like the one passenger on the boat could ruin that journey, having someone negative in your life can pull you down, and jeopardize every blessing you have.
I learned this simple rule that I now practice every day, way too late in life. Too much of my life has been spent being dragged down by the people who like to rock the boat. On a few occasions I may have even been the guy that rocked the boat.
But in the past couple of years, I have found it important to surround myself with people who raise me up, and make me become a better man. At the same time I had to learn to insulate myself from those people in all of our lives that are negative, and bring us down. And the latter is the hardest task of all. Many of these negative people may be family, or perhaps even some of our best friends. I've learned that regardless of who these people are, you must learn to insulate yourself from their negative energy to live a positive life. Just as a rising tide lifts all boats, surrounding yourself with good friends who are honest and of good character will always make you a better person, and multiply your blessings.
I've used a lot of examples here to explain a very simple way of picking your friends that can make you a better person. Even today, following this process continues to make me a better man.
I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you did, please leave a comment below. And don't forget to share!