We become the average of the five people we hang around with most.

These words always cause me to pause and reflect, often only after I’ve spent too much time feeling stuck or not increasing my effectiveness over a period.

The following exercise is not meant to limit your network which has numerous benefits outside of your personal development, including new business, friendships, and frequently laughing out loud.

It is intended to help evaluate where and how you are spending your growth time. I’ve walked away from several financial investments because I valued the non-renewable resource of time more highly than the dollars. Think carefully about where you are spending your time—it is our best measure of wealth.

Some questions to evaluate and select your top five:

The primary question: What do I not know, that is important for me to know, that other people can help me learn and practice?

  1. Whom do I know who cares about me and can help me grow?
  2. Who do I trust who may not have the knowledge but could introduce me to somebody who does?
  3. Whom do I know that thinks entirely differently than me?
  4. Who impressed me with their insight or honest assessment in a meeting where others only nodded their agreement?
  5. Who is the smartest person I know who has the spirit of a teacher?
  6. Who has accomplished something that is important to me? How can I learn and model the behavior that got them to that goal?
  7. What can I offer to someone that I admire to make it worthwhile for them to add me to their top 5?
  8. Whom do I have to be to surround myself with people who challenge me?
  9. How do I determine if people have my best interests at heart and will also give me the unvarnished truth?
  10. Who shows up without me asking, to see if I’m doing all right?
  11. Who are the truth tellers in my business, my network, my personal life who will speak up when I’m acting out rather than talking it out?
  12. What can I give these people in return that helps them grow?
  13. Do I enjoy their company?
Some questions to evaluate and deselect someone in your top five:
  1. Do I consistently leave my time with them feeling empowered, energized, or challenged?
  2. Do they have my best interests at heart when providing advice?
  3. Do they show up to listen and engage in a discussion, or mainly talk about themselves?
  4. To what extent do they gaslight or manipulate the conversation to make me feel smaller?
  5. Have they challenged their comfort zone to learn something new in the last year?
  6. Am I holding them back from achieving their potential?
  7. Do they show up to my meetings, lunches, dinners, happy hours on time or repeatedly beg off at the last minute?
  8. Do I have more or less energy after we meet?
  9. Do I enjoy their company?

This incomplete list of questions is a good starting point for evaluating the people that can help expand your knowledge, skills, and abilities. It’s also a helpful mirror to determine if you are bringing your best to those around you.

Personal development is by far the soundest investment in time we can make, so it is important to make sure most of it is spent with people who are willing and able to help us grow.