Who to hang with

Dear kids,

I wrote down this lesson for myself a couple of years ago:

“The times in your life that you were most motivated to learn and improve were times when you worked or played closely with people whom you respected and who challenged you to be better. They give you knowledge and motivation to put in quality hours to try and measure up to their level.”

I’ve always heard a saying that goes something like:

“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future”

And there is a bible excerpt that says:

“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”

This is good advice, but what does it mean?

There are only 4 groups of people that you will hang out with in your life. It’s hard to tell the cause/effect, but either these people will determine who you are, or who you are will determine who becomes these people:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Wife
  • Co-workers

You can’t choose your family. Sorry :) But it is true that your family will determine who you become. It’s my job to make sure you can make good choices someday, and that you’re a hard working, valuable member of society. I try to instill responsibility, respect, friendliness, positive outlook, improvement, and love into your life every day. I try to invest in your education. I try to put you in situations to learn new things and take on new responsibility.

You’ll have lots of friends. At times they will be the most important influence in your life. One of the reasons I moved us to Palo Alto was to try and put you in the best schools where you have a diverse group of good kids around, because I know what peer pressure is like as a teenager. It’s hard to make good decisions when people whose opinion you value are making bad ones... (I’m most guilty of this, made many poor choices as a young man... but a few good ones along the way, too)

Your life partner is probably the most important of this group. This is a person you’ll spend more time with than anybody. If you choose right, when it’s all said-and-done, you’ll spend more time with your wife than Me or your Mom. This person will influence everything you do, and be a big part of the big decisions in your life. Choose well - choose somebody who loves you, sure. But also choose somebody who shares your other most important personality traits, like work ethic, responsibility, adventure tolerance, loyalty, ambition, risk tolerance, etc. Very important, because your wife will make your life total bliss... or hell.

Of course, you have the option to not get married at all. But for me, having somebody to share life with is one of the true pleasures of life!

Your co-workers will become a big part of your life someday, too. If you start your own businesses, you get to choose who you work with. You can hire them. You can fire them. If you work at a big company you don’t get as much choice, but you should only accept to work with people who impress you, challenge you, and who you want to impress. If you find yourself working with people who don’t impress you, either do something about it or move to another place. Life is too short to work with anybody but the best – and their performance will in large part determine how far you get in business. You can increase your odds by working with truly great people.

I have a desire to only work with the best people in the world at what they do. I try to seek out the smartest people I can find and befriend them and emulate them. I desire diversity, because different backgrounds and opinions make ideas and choices better! I mostly read biographies. I chose a wife who challenges me and makes me want to be better. I am always getting better, and I realize that the people I hang with either make me better or make me worse.

I hope you hang with people who make you happy. I want that for you most. But, I also hope you hang with people who are smart, motivated, fun, interesting, challenge you, and make you want to be better. If that happens, I know you’ll be alright :)