The Problem Of The “Top Five”
Okay, so I have been hearing a lot these days that you are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with (your best friends essentially), which I will refer to from this point on as the “Top Five”. This can be problematic and even anxiety-inducing to many, especially those starting out with big dreams for their lives and humble beginnings.
Let’s take me for an example. I am an artist and want to, one day, be a very influential and well-regarded one at that. Does this mean that I should be spending most of my free time with Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Ai Weiwei, Takashi Murakami, and Mark Ryden? I would LOVE to, but this sadly is just not very realistic.
Or, let’s say you are working in a coffee shop and have dreams of one day becoming a multi-millionaire. You are currently going back to school to get your Masters Degree and are brainstorming the next big idea that will eventually get you there. That is wonderful and takes a lot of courage and initiative, but let’s face it you are most likely not currently hanging with Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Chris Sacca, and Peter Thiel on the weekends.
Okay, so you get my point I think.
Is This Theory Shallow?
I tend to think that this theory of being the average of the five people you hang out with the most is somewhat shallow, or incomplete at the very least. Let me explain what I mean.
I don’t think people are this one-dimensional (or if they are, I probably wouldn’t want to be their friend). How many well-rounded, down-to-earth people set their sights on being a millionaire and then immediately set out to find the five most money hungry people in their city, succeed in solidifying a relationship somehow and then commence spending all of their free time together? What kind of interesting and influential artist, spends all of his free time living, breathing, eating, drinking, and shitting art with five other like-minded art obsessed clones?
Nobody I know.
My five closest people are an ex-musician turned businessman, a sports-loving family man currently going back to school, a spiritual military veteran, a music-teacher and composer, and a multi-media designer/artist. Their income levels vary, but not one of them is a self-made millionaire. Not one of them is a famous artist. Does this mean that I will achieve neither of these positions in my life? Not necessarily.
I realize and am grateful to say that I get very different things from each of these wonderful people in my life. They provide me with inspiration from different areas of the arts, spiritual and philosophical debates, business and practical advice, the enjoyment of sports, and a feeling of love and deep sharing just to name a few. Would I throw all of this away simply to hang out with only other like-minded and career obsessed painters?
Definitely not. These people in their unique ways, help to keep me grounded and multi-faceted in my life.
Could I however stand to add and cultivate a strong relationship with at least one famous artist, or mentor?
Absolutely. And I am working on it…
Or at least a starting point.
I think the thing that bothers me enough to write this blog is that first of all, I hear the “Top Five” theory at least three times per week. Secondly, it just does not seem realistic and more like a buzz phrase that does not offer any deeper insights and certainly not any solutions for the “common” person.
So I will say, yes, you should be attempting to develop relationships with top performers in your field, but this should not be your only goal, nor is it realistic one to fill your roster with.
Instead, cultivate or aspire to developing a relationship with one or two of these top performers and continue to hang out with three of four of the other top people already in your life that currently add value in another arena. This will add or maintain depth and diversity in your world. Plus, who wants to discard all of the people in their lives that they currently love being around? On the other hand, maybe one or two could go on the old chopping block. You know who they are, ha ha..
Perhaps the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do RIGHT NOW however is to expose yourself to top performers and masters in your field of expertise in other forms of media or informational avenues, such as influential podcasts and blogs, books and audio books, documentaries, interviews in newspapers, trade papers, magazines, etc. Attend seminars and workshops. If you are an artist, go to museums, gallery openings, and visit artists’ studios. Find a way to foster the acquisition of skills and knowledge that might be currently unobtainable by a lack of possessing an All-Star “Top Five” at the present moment.
For me, I watch at least three documentaries per week (at least one being art-related, the others designated towards the expansion of my general knowledge base), I am always reading a book (classics and biographies are a personal favorite; art-related, spirituality and self-improvement a close second), I soak up at least 2 podcasts per day (The Tim Ferriss Show is a MUST, but I also enjoy the Art Of Charm and The Good Life Project, all of which bring out the best in my entrepreneurial and artistic spirit), I listen to at least one audio book per week (I highly recommend The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday and How To Stop Worrying And Start Living by Dale Carnegie), I youtube talks by Eckhart Tolle and Tony Robbins regularly (for a shot of spiritual and business strategy adrenaline), and I constantly search the web for new ways to learn how to market and strategize in the business of the art world. This may seem like a lot, but it is enjoyable and keeps me laser-focused and highly driven.
Think of this as a current solution and/or substitution for the lack of a stellar “Top Five” in your world right now. It will more than get you by, and hopefully even get you a jump start on your competitors.
Or maybe this is just a something that annoys me. Well in that case, it feels good to get it out anyway. No, no. There must be millions like me out there that are perturbed each time they hear someone spout out this ubiquitously uttered “Top Five” theory.
To you I say that you are not alone and I hope this helps, even a little.
Here’s to creating your own Top Five peer group in your own world and mind, however you can.