The Five

I failed biology.

OK, technically I didn’t – my teacher (Mrs. Howk) was far too good at what she did to let any of us fail – but I have to (sadly) admit that I don’t remember much about the ins and outs of cellular migration, enzymes or the thermodynamic nature of the coefficient of friction (which might not even be a biology thing – I just don’t know).  Give me numbers or words any day of the week – keep me away from anything classified as a “living organism”.

All that being said I am smart enough in the whole realm of science to understand how children are made and – more importantly – that they’re the genetic combination of the biological mother and father’s DNA.  So, in other words, your genetic makeup is the average of two people.

Pretty neat…except you didn’t get to choose your parents so you don’t really get to impact who you are.  I got pretty lucky in the lottery drawing of life – I was blessed with an awesome set of parents.  But others aren’t so lucky and there’s not much (read: anything) they can do about it.

Except that’s not really true, is it?  Your parents might have contributed your genetic makeup to you, but that’s only a small part of who you are.  Isn’t the bigger piece of who you are determined some other way outside of your genetic code?

Indeed it is.

In fact, you get to decide who you are a lot more than your parents do.  Your parents don’t decide how you react to something – you do.  They might have “trained” you one way or another, but they aren’t the ones who actually bite your tongue, swing your fist or get your adrenaline pumping when something happens to you.  In case you were curious that’s all something you do.  For yourself.  Whether you’re a big boy or girl or a newborn you’re it, dude.

But it goes beyond that because while we get to decided who we are there are other influences – external in nature – that guide our decision making.  They might not be the one who jams the toe of a high-heel in the guys crotch when he gets too handsy but they certainly could have influenced you to be protective of your boundaries.  They weren’t the one who smiled at the cashier in Wal-Mart but they might have influenced you to always be nice to people you meet.  They didn’t turn in your resignation at the office but without a doubt they influenced your decision to jump ship.

There are five.

Or at least that’s what Jim Rohn would tell you: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  In reality there are more than that (just about everyone you come in contact with affects you in some way), but if you want to know who you are take a look around at the five people you spend the most time with and that’s probably a pretty good indication because they’re the ones that are influencing you the most.

Think about that for a minute.  If you’re hanging around with a bunch of high school dropouts every night do you think you’re likely to be pulling straight As in school?  If you spend 15 hours a day with a boss who’s constantly negative do you suppose you’ll continue to be a shining light of optimism?  What about a home life that’s abusive – if you’re constantly subjected to that doesn’t it stand to reason that you’re probably more likely to find yourself in that vein?

That’s kinda scary.

For me, though, it’s kind of awesome.  No, not “kind of awesome” – really awesome, and for two main reasons.  First and foremost it means I control my destiny…at least on that front.  If I don’t like who I’m becoming I can change not just my behavior (because I control that) but also the people around me that perhaps influence me in a negative way.  But the second reason is because, quite honestly, I get to spend a majority of my time with awesome people, including my Five (who are a nice cross-section of people from work, home and volleyball).

Sure, I’m not perfect, nor am I a perfect reflection of them.  But I can absolutely see a lot of similarities between what I do (and how I do it) and the five people I spend the most time with.  I have also seen some pretty significant changes in me as my time is sliced up differently and/or my Five change (a couple have been “swapped out” over the last six months or so).

As an aside, I think that’s why I continue to be impressed with missionaries (like my brother & sister-in-law).  Here you are in a foreign and potentially hostile environment, surrounded by people who don’t think the same way you do…and yet they stay strong and continue to be effective – sometimes even more effective than when they’re in a less foreign environment.   That’s pretty impressive.

So now the question is with you.  If you look at your life, who are you a conglomeration of?  Are you comfortable with that?  If you could pick any five people to be comprised of who would they be?

And then the ultimate question – if you’re not satisfied with the five people who influence you the most right now…what are you going to do to change that?

(post image courtesy of

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