The other day I watched my friend do an incredibly difficult workout, while a few others of us were working in another part of the room. Our activity meant we were dropping barbells frequently (yes, we’re CrossFitters). But as we were doing it, I couldn’t help wondering if we were making it harder for him. In his workout, he wasn’t intended to let go of the bar often, and was penalized for doing so. So was the sound of all the dropping bars making it harder for him not to drop his?
That thought has led me to a lot of thinking about suggestibility.
If one person misses a lift, it seems the next few people are likely to miss theirs too. If everyone is killing it, succeeding all over the place, more success comes.
I think success and failure are both contagious – both consciously and subconsciously. Every time? No. But often? I think so.
Here’s where I make one of my all-caps draft notes that says LOOK THIS SHIT UP … but I did and it hasn’t really helped. I’ve looked up suggestibility, social influence, positive peer pressure – but none of those seem to mean exactly what I’m talking about. Social influence comes close, I think. (In any case, I found The History and Social Influence of the Potato, and therefore all that research was worthwhile.) But I haven’t found scientific research to validate what I’m saying. So take this as my own theory.
The influence, the suggestion, the environment, makes a huge difference. It’s why I love watching people be awesome. It makes me want to try to be awesome too. I don’t enjoy training alone because I want to work out with people who are better than me. When I see people I admire pushing themselves, I want to match that effort.
Obviously this is one of those things that isn’t just true in a gym.
If you spend time with people you become like them. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, famously, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” For better or for worse. Bitchy. Immoral. Petty. Miserable. External locus of control. (Read more about that at Fix Your Whole Life By Stopping Eight Things.) …Or the exact opposite of those things. It depends on who you’re with.
Which is why you have got to be with people that inspire you. This isn’t just a sweet sentiment. What’s more valuable than your time and what you do with it? Nothing. That’s literally life. You don’t value that, you’re wasting your life.
Now, of course, it’s important and admirable to lend a hand, to spend time helping people who can’t help themselves. That’s not what I’m talking about. If you’re not making a difference in as many lives as you can, your life has very little meaning, no matter what you accomplish.
It’s a balancing act – a question of limits. You give once you’ve given yourself enough. As the saying goes, you can’t light yourself on fire to keep someone else warm. Doing that burns yourself out and leaves nothing left – for you or for them.
(By the way?
If that sounds like I know from experience it’s because I do.
If this whole thing sounds exhortational it’s because it is.
And if it sounds like the person I’m reminding is myself it’s because it is.)
Time and energy is meant to be spent on and around impressive people. Smart, moral, empathetic, thoughtful, driven, brilliant, creative people. People who have fun doing things that matter.
There is literally no time for anything else.