In a former life, I enjoyed taking part in various martial arts; Ju Jitsu, Karate and Tai Jitsu. I watched movies with Chuck Norris, Steven Seigal and Bruce Lee with excitement as my heroes glided through the air and dispatched the bad guys with their bare hands. The problem was, I was often left feeling despondent and filled with envy because they were just so fantastic, I wondered how I could ever come close to these amazing exponents of the fighting arts. It seemed I would never be Bruce Lee so what was the point?
I was reminded of this recently when I was coaching a young man who said he was plagued by the habit of his mind of forever comparing himself to others in his business life: people who had been promoted earlier than him; people with more responsibility than him; people who seemed to have it sorted or had the job he thought he ought to have or wished he had.
Just like me watching the masters of unarmed combat, he felt envious, sometimes to the point of being totally demotivated.
I shared my story of wondering why I should bother if I couldn’t be Bruce Lee.
My coaching client recognised this feeling and said he had, on occasions, gone home to his wife with the sense that he was a complete failure and had achieved nothing with his life. For a man with a PhD, a senior role in a multinational company and a happy, healthy family, this was clearly not true. Nevertheless, that’s how he felt and I needed to help him change his negative and debilitating thinking.
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend most time with”.
This is an often misued quote by Jim Rohn.
I say misused because some motivation coaches say you should rid yourself of friends who do not aspire to the things you aspire to and may drag you down. It seems much more complex than this and ditching friends is not what this post is about. However, there is a helpful application of this idea.
Hanging around with Bruce Lee (albeit whilst he was in a movie and I was in my front room) did eventually inspire me to practice more and get better.
So I worked with my client to help him reframe his thinking to see the people he meets, who appear to have or be what he is not but wants to be, as useful sources of information, mentoring and motivation. Perhaps his envy could be a sign of an opportunity for his own personal and professional growth.
When I want to learn something new, I listen to podcasts, read books, get instruction from more experienced people and, in the process, I get better in my chosen skill or behaviour. In effect, I spend time with people who I believe are better than me. This can apply to new jobs, career progressions and professional qualifications or hobbies and pastimes. So next time you see someone with something you wish you could do or achieve, walk towards them and learn from them, don’t walk away. Absorb some of their enthusiam and discipline and use it as learning motivation for yourself.
Surround yourself with these people to sharpen your act and, one day, there’s always a chance you’ll be dispatching bad guys with your bare hands……. or whatever you are aspiring to achieve.