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The five friend rule: should you change friends to become more successful?

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. The logical conclusion is that if you want to become richer or more successful, you need to change the composition of your friends to reflect that ambition. A lot of people when they hear this idea for the first time get spooked; did I do it all wrong? are my friends successful enough? How can I become rich surrounded by all these ordinary people? Some people even start networking actively to make friends with more successful people. I can definitely see how if you want to learn a new skill or take up a new hobby, it would help to have close friends inspiring you to do the same. Also, if you want to become an entrepreneur, for example, it really helps to know other entrepreneurs, rather than only people who are afraid of quitting their jobs and discourage you from your “risky” plans.

But I also think I have to come out in support of relaxed, less ambitious and laid back friends. I have in fact often been the most ambitious of my friends (at least until I went to business school and was surrounded by greedy MBAs!!) and I always enjoyed friends who were more chilled and laughed about my restlessness. Maybe it held me back, but I also think if you are driven and work hard all the time, you need to surround yourself with people who remind you to relax and enjoy life. It might delay your race to riches, but it is certainly good for your health and sanity.

Recently, I needed help from friends and it was very interesting just to think about whom among my friends to ask for help first. If you need help, whom are you going to ask, the stressed out investment banker friends who you know work all weekend, a successful networker racing from meeting to meeting, or your laid-back friend who doesn’t really plan more than a day in advance, finishes work at 5 and can easily skip a yoga class to visit you? I am absolutely not trying to say one friend is a better person than the other (especially because those who know me and read this will recognise themselves!), just that very busy people can be fun to be with when they have time and they can be inspiring, but they are busy, and they are not always there for you. Other people are less focused on getting somewhere and might just be more flexible about how they spend your time, visiting you when you can’t go out, adapting to your schedule. I believe that if you focus on building friendships only with people who are richer or more successful than you to get ahead, you may not get much support in times of need.

Have you tried experimenting with the five friend rule? Did it work for you?

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