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You are the Sum of Five People

Recently, I went out for a coffee with a dear friend who I’ve known for a few years now. We first met at a dinner party and hit it off right out of the gate. But we lost touch over the years. We have reconnected recently and during our conversations, she told me how envious she is of the relationship that I have with one of my other friends. The two of us are very close, and she talked about how she can see the loyalty and love that we have for each other. It’s the “get a shovel we have to bury a dead body” type of love. She was envious of it.  

We started to talk about the people that we are surrounded by, and I remembered a quote that John once said to me (for those of you who follow my articles you know that’s John Maxwell), that we are the sum of the five people that we spend the most time with. So, who are you spending your time with? The conversation got me thinking, she hadn’t heard the saying before, and it really resonated with her too.  

I remember when he first asked me that question, and it got me thinking, who am I the sum of? Who are these people that I spend the most time with and what value do they bring out in me and vice versa? Are they growth-oriented? Do they stimulate my mind or my heart?  

I started an exercise of writing down a list of people that I spend time with, and what value I see in each of them. For some of us, this may be a really long list. I am one of those individuals who values close relationships and have 8-10 people in their inner circle with one of them being my sister-in law. They’re my sisters, or my sisters from another mister as I like to call them. In a recent documentary on Michelle Obama that I watched recently, she called these individuals her kitchen table. In Grey’s Anatomy terms “your people,” but you get my point. They are my sisters. These are the people that you value and that impact your life. So here is what I did. I created a list and asked myself the following questions: 

  1. Name 
  2. What is their best characteristic? 
  3. What do I enjoy most about them? 
  4. How they impact me, if at all, and to what extent? 
  5. If I could change one thing about them, what would that be? 
  6. Have I grown because of their presence in my life? 
  7. If I were to rate their value in my life, 1-10, what would that number be? 

Now I had a lot of friends on the list and even some family members. Not all of them are close to me, but I wanted to go through the exercise to see who was currently in my circle, who did I need to move out, and who is not in it but should be. We may not realize that there are often many people in our circles that can be energy drainers for us. And there are some people outside of our circles who lift us up and make us better. Having a busy life, juggling family, work, and all our social obligations, we only have so much time on our hands. Is our free time being spent with people that lift us up, allow us to grow, or is it being spent with people that drain more energy from us than they give? You see, either they’re a positive or a negative, and you are the sum of those numbers. 

Ask yourself then. Is your circle filled with people that grow you mentally, emotionally or physically, or is it filled with people that take your energy? Zero is also a bad number. If someone isn’t a positive, or a negative, then what are they – probably, just wasted energy. 

Some may think this is harsh, but I truly feel that this exercise is very healthy and cleansing for your own mental and physical well-being. It brings clarity to each of our minds on who we should spend more time with, and where we need to start pulling back. There is a quote by Tyler Perry that I often refer to, “Some people are meant to be in your life for a season, and others a lifetime. You are a rocket ship, and some people are boosters that will fall off, because where you are going, they can’t follow.”  

I strongly recommend that all of us take an hour to really think about our five people in our lives and whether they are positives, negatives or zeros. We should always learn and grow, and so if your five people are positives – wonderful, but if they are not, it’s time to take a closer look at the sum of your life. 

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