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Anyone who knows me knows that I read a ton of personal growth/self-help books. Everything from success (fave: The Success Principles by Jack Canfield) to productivity (fave: The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy) to mindfulness (fave: You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay) sits atop my nightstand.
But there’s one bit of advice that keeps coming up, mostly in the success/business books, that I can’t stand:
“Don’t associate with negative people.”
The thing is, life is messy. And complicated. Five years ago, I was miserable in an MD/PhD program and applying for my first business competition. I was suffering from clinical depression. I was in an on-again, off-again romantic relationship. A good meal, to me, was loaded potato skins, buffalo wings, and a large Diet Coke. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I had big dreams, a great work ethic, and a ton of grit.
Now, I have been in business for five years and I’m technically a millionaire. I am of sound mind. I’ve lost twenty pounds, I eat a lot of salads and drink a lot of green smoothies, I run half marathons, and I indulge only about 20% of the time. I’m happily married and we are in the process of buying a beautiful home. I admit I still have a lot to learn, but I am living my big dreams, growing and improving regularly, and I’m happy to say I still have a ton of grit.
Here’s the thing. I wasn’t a “negative” person five years ago. A little lost, confused, too hard on myself. But I wasn’t negative. The outside just hadn’t caught up to the inside. But don’t tell that to some of the so-called ‘friends’ I had who wanted to be friends with a glamorous doctor, not a startup founder starting from nothing, with no business experience.
Don’t get me wrong — I have some wonderful friends who stuck by me through thick and thin. But some fell off the radar entirely.
The reason I bring this up is not to shame my former friends. On the contrary, I still think highly of them. I bring this up because I know a big part of why they stopped hanging out with me was because we read the same books, listened to the same audio programs, and followed the same principles. Some of the books tell you that you’re the sum of the five people you hang out with most, so to average out your friends’ presumed earnings, net worth, behaviors, and appearances, and to drop the people you don’t want to be like. (Yes, I’m serious.) Others just say that influence is subtle but powerful, so to avoid anyone with traits and behaviors you don’t want to have.
And, sure enough, the more I struggled early on, the more they started to group me into the dreaded “negative person” category. The get-togethers got fewer and fewer, and eventually dropped off entirely.
I hate the labeling of people. It makes me really, really angry. I work with startup entrepreneurs regularly, and one thing I can tell you is that it’s an emotional roller coaster. There are very high highs, and there are quite low lows. You need to have a stable network that isn’t judging you. You need to be surrounded by people who believe in and support you because you’re you, not because of where you are or aren’t in life.
So, here’s what I’m living by: I will never drop a friend because of their outer circumstances. Never. On the contrary, I’m determined to be so strong that I am able to be there for them, whether encouraging them when they’re down or cheering them on further when they’re rockin’ it in life. It’s about being so strong you can be there for other people without being weak and adopting behaviors I don’t necessarily want to have. It’s about inner strength, not being an asshole and cutting people out because they’re down on their luck, figuring things out during a transitional period, or maybe just quite frankly don’t care as much about their wealth or fitness or whatever ego-driven thing drives so many of us.
And if it does get me down, I can take care of myself afterwards: Running, meditating, praying, doing affirmations, or just going for a walk seems to help.
So, there you have it. And if you’re interested in books that support this sort of “heart-minded” thinking, I’ve been drawn to these titles minimize the gap between personal achievement and self-care, including all of Gabrielle Bernstein’s books, newcomer Shannon Kaiser’s Adventures for Your Soul, best-seller Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass, and Carrie Mendoza-Jones’ You Are Enough.
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