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The Rule of 5

“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” is a quote attributed most often to motivational speaker Jim Rohn. There’s also the “show me your friends and I’ll show you your future” derivative.

We all know that our relationships play an important role in developing our personalities, our worldview and our overall well being. The consensus is we should surround ourselves with people who will help us obtain what we desire for our own life. However, how much of a role do the five closest people play in the final analysis.

Christakis and Fowler are two researchers who studied the breadth of social influence. Using data that spanned over 30 years, they discovered that you’re not the average of the FIVE people you surround with. It’s way bigger than that. You’re the average of all the people who surround you.

For example, if your five closest friends smoked, gained weight or were above average happy you were 35-40% to be in line with these traits. However, if one of their friends possessed any of these traits you were 20-30% likely to possess these traits. Furthermore, if you looked out one more degree of separation you were 5-9% likely to adopt these traits.

Now 5 to 9 percent might not seem like much, but consider that other studies suggest that if I gave you a $10,000 raise, that would only trigger about a 2 percent increase in your happiness!

Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” John 6:70

When we look at the disciples, we are seeing the twelve men that Jesus chose to spend his time with while fulfilling his ministry. Of the twelve, Judas Iscariot was the one who would betray him. He spent nearly three years with Jesus and yet made the choice to betray Christ. Despite his betrayal, Jesus exhibited love and called out Judas (as well as the other disciples) when they acted out of self-interest and not love.

Christ is a great example of surrounding himself with broken but good people. He carried with him the sins of the world; yet, even he needed an extended network of humble and loving people to bring him to the cross.

Recently, I left the program where God had allowed me to learn, grow and sow into hundreds of young men and women for over a decade. It was filled with many great moments and I was surrounded by amazing athletes, families from not only our organization but many others. God used this network of friends to push me to a new direction and a new adventure in coaching.

Looking at Christ's example, I know that my new journey will be filled with many who share my love for Him and a desire to spread the Gospel. I also realize there will be obstacles to overcome which are best circumvented through faith, hope and love with the greatest of these being love.

We should all take the time to assess who surrounds us and even more importantly who surrounds them. Finally, as Christians, we should put our trust in the Lord and thereby have no worries when we walk through the valley of death or soar on wings like eagles.


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