“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”
Photographer: David P. Brown
Being a teacher, I spend most of my work hours with young people, but not any few in particular, so it was pretty easy to come up with the five adults I spend the most time with.
Between my fiance and four friends and coworkers–all of whom I admire and respect for different reasons–I can see myself as an embodiment of their collective values, interests, and personalities. Of course, there is some give and take–I’m not simply a sponge, soaking up influence.
My fiance challenges me to become a better listener, among other things, as my mind tends to move on to the next idea before hearing people out. I’ve improved in this regard since knowing her. One colleague is an innovative urban farmer and local food guru. He has inspired me to keep my own chickens and be more mindful of sourcing my food. Another colleague is the most empathic teacher I’ve ever met, and also maniacally conscientious when it comes to thoughtful classroom instruction. And another friend and colleague I spend hours with is light-hearted and goofy, and I certainly embrace those qualities.
The idea of the five people relates to the law of averages, which is the theory that the result of any given situation will be the average of all outcomes. It’s basic probability. So with blogging, I can expect this post to receive an average number of hits if its characteristics are similar to my previous posts. How about catastrophe? Apparently I have a 1 in 340,733 chance of dying an accidental death by fireworks during my lifetime.
Many of us frequently think about averages and probability, but I hadn’t thought about the concept as it relates to my being–how I could represent the average “person” depending on who I spend time with.
This Business Insider article by Aimee Groth emphasizes the effect relationships have on us: “When it comes to relationships, we are greatly influenced — whether we like it or not — by those closest to us. It affects our way of thinking, our self-esteem, and our decisions. Of course, everyone is their own person, but research has shown that we’re more affected by our environment than we think.”
This might seem obvious to some, but the idea of whittling down your interactions to five people shed light for me about the power of the idea.
It’s something we should talk to students about. After all, how many of you know young people who hang out with an unruly or disinterested crowd, and have a tough time breaking free of their influence? I have little doubt that challenging students to reflect on this idea would provide some insight, and perhaps some discomfort. Especially for those students who want to do well, but realize that the people they spend time with–willingly or unwillingly–do not share their same goals and desires.
What do you think of this idea? Does this quote apply to you? Who do you spend the most time with?