Audit your friendships

As the saying goes, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” That concept takes a lot of heat, but I think there’s at least some truth there. I think “five” is actually too low.

I’ve thought a lot about this post which argues that most traits are contagious. If you make an obese friend, you’re much more likely to become obese. Getting a smart roommate in college causes one’s GPA to increase. And so on.

And the effect exists even two or three levels away. A friend of a friend can have a measurable effect on your behavior, even if you don’t know that person. (Read the post for details so I don’t need to quote them here).

Your friends really are your future. And the implication is that you don’t just need to be more deliberate about who you’re spending the most time with. You need to be examining your entire network and its influence on your life.


The positive spin on this is that it’s easy to get a better life; just hang out with better people. Higher quality friends lead to a higher quality life. But you have to harden your heart because rating your friends on some subjective “quality” scale feels icky.

Lucky for me, I have a black heart and I’m comfortable stack ranking friends. In the past, I’ve picked a few “higher quality” people and made a conscious effort to be friends. I’m talking reminders in my todo list to reach out to them, scheduled recurring coffee chats, the whole nine.

I recommend it, icky or not. I’ve never regretted time spent weaseling my way into a friendship with a “high quality” person. But I’ve regretted not letting friendships with other people drop sooner.

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