“Choose your friends wisely. You will become what they are. ” ~ William T. Slobodian
Remember when you were a teenager? Remember when those daily challenges of school and friendships seemed to be all consuming? I remember one day a friend of mine did something that bothered me. I was telling my father about it, (most likely I was complaining endlessly to him about it). At some point during my long dissertation of complaining, my father added his two cents. “Look Larysa, it is important to choose your friends wisely.” I cut him off and sarcastically finished his sentence for him. “I know. I know. Choose your friends wisely because I will be judged by the company I keep, right?!” I thought that I knew what he was going to say and I was not interested in waiting for him to say it. To my surprise my father calmly and slowly corrected me. “No Larysa, I really don’t care what people think about you. You should choose your friends wisely because you will become what they are.” I stopped complaining. In fact, I stopped talking. I was stunned. Speechless. He continued. “If you want to be a loser, then hang out with losers. If you want to think intelligently, hang out with intelligent people, and so on” he added. And that was it. End of conversation.
I sat there in my self created large pond of complaints and thought. “Well what have I become.? AND what will people become by hanging around me?” I didn’t feel very smart any more, nor did I feel that I had anything to complain about. If this person was such a drag on my super important teenage experience, then why did I insist on hanging out with him or her? And even more terrifying, what influence was I having on them? I wondered. My initial prediction of his response seemed quite petty. How other people judged me based on my friendships was meaningless compared to the impact that a person could have on my own development as well as my potential impact on their development. My father, in his own special way, just turned my world upside down.
That lesson is still with me today. For one, I choose people as friends and colleagues based on how I see them, (not what others think about them). Also, I think about the lessons that I can learn from friends and colleagues. I cherish those lessons as gifts that have greater impact and last longer than any material present. And I can honor those gifts by modeling the lessons and sharing them with others.
My leadership challenge to you is the following. What lessons are you learning from the company that you keep? What lessons do you want to employ and what lessons do you want to discard? Is there somebody that you would like to acknowledge or thank for these lessons? And is there somebody that you should be spending more time with based on the lessons that you would like to learn? And finally, what lessons are you teaching others when they are in your company at work and at home? Are those the lessons that you want to be teaching? And to be clear, I am not suggesting that you pick and choose all your friends and work colleagues based on what you can learn from them or what you can teach them. I am simply inviting you to pause and be mindful about the lessons that are available to you and what lessons you are modeling for others.
I want to acknowledge my father for this lesson and the numerous other lessons that he taught me. His teachings are still with me and now I am sharing one of them with you.
Thank you for reading this article. I wish you courage, strength, joy, support and all the success that you can handle as you continue your leadership journey. Please share your thoughts and comments on this article in the comments section below.
Larysa Slobodian, MA
Principal Consultant & Executive Coach
L4 Leadership LLC