Your Empowerment Ecosystem

5 Steps to Intentionally Developing a Powerful Peer Group!



Your peers can make or break you!

We’re going to start this episode off with a couple quotes from the great Tony Robbins. If you don’t know who Tony Robbins is, I’m sorry. Just google the name and you’ll instantly know by the teeth, the voice, the size, the late night infomercials, the seminars, the Netflix special, the books, and, of course, the advice. Some love him, some hate him, some think his advice is harmful, while many others say it’s because of his advice that they’ve turned their lives around. I’ve quoted Tony Robbins in many of these episodes because I learn from everybody and I think, overall, he’s a good teacher with a lot of good advice for people. Nevertheless, the first quote I‘ll share is this: “The quality of a person’s life is most often a direct reflection of the expectations of their peer group.” 

This quote is not mind blowing or life changing in and of itself. We’ve heard them from others in a variety of forms for centuries. The Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius taught us, “as the same fire assumes different shapes when it consumes objects differing in shape, so does the one self take the shape of every creature in whom he is present.” He was telling us what the great Jim Rohn told us, we will become the average of the 5 people we surround ourselves with. Hang out with people who value a particular thing and you will likely start to find value in that thing. Robert Sutton, author of the book, The No Asshole Rule, told us to be careful who we surround ourselves with at our work because we will become like them, they won’t become like us. This is age old wisdom and not unique to Tony Robbins. He’s just echoing the wisdom he’s studied over his lifetime, just as we do. 

However, of all the advice I’ve ever read or listened to, from all sources of wisdom, this one has to be in the top 5, maybe even the top 3 pieces of advice. You could get some advice from a wealthy person on how to invest your money to make millions, but if your peer group isn’t supportive of that type of endeavor, it will be very difficult to venture down that type of path and stay the course for the time it takes to experience some kind of growth and success. Our peer groups have a tremendous influence on who we are, more importantly, who we are becoming. 

I’ve told stories on the show about my time at our family’s ghetto grocery store and the adventures, and life lessons, that had an enormous impact on the trajectory of my own journey. I realized at some point that my peer group consisted of two different worlds: my friends I had grown up with, and then my ‘friends’ I met while working at the store. The problem was that I had begun to hang out more with a pretty rough group of characters from the store than my peer group of childhood friends. It was only after being involved in a shooting incident where the guy I was with, who just happened to be standing right in front of me at the time, was shot in the face that I realized I should probably take a good hard look at who I was surrounding myself with and where I was hanging out. And I did! Almost immediately after that incident I started to really think about where this arc of activity would eventually take me and I made some changes to start hanging out with the group of friends I had grown up with and were actually on considerably safer paths in life. 

As we move through life, we will find ourselves in different groups of people. If you’re lucky enough to still have some of your childhood friends, you’ll probably find, like I have, that even then they aren’t necessarily the people that you would choose to hang out with today. You’ve kept them around, or they’ve kept you around, simply because they had some of the first influences on you as a young person. You had your first important experiences with these people. Of course, we don’t judge them or continue to be friends with them for what they do for a living, we like them for who they are. Where our peer group becomes much more important is as we are trying to grow and expand in some direction. If we find our peer group is holding us back in some way, or limiting the choices we know we should be making, this is when we might start putting some distance between some of those people. 

We can probably all list a bunch of names of people who, if we ran into them somewhere, we’d love to spend some time catching up and learning about where life has taken them, but we wouldn’t necessarily invest any more time than that. We can all also list names of people we were once good friends with that, at some point, simply stopped being that for us. It doesn’t mean we hate each other or that we’re enemies in some fashion, just that the relationship wasn’t working for one of the parties and the relationship morphed into a non-friendship, more of an acquaintanceship. They became people you once knew and valued, but are now simply memories. Why? Because the quality of a person’s life is most often a direct reflection of the expectations of their peer group. When those expectations change, so should the peer group. 

What I’d like to leave you with in this episode is the importance of intentionally developing what I like to call an ‘ecosystem of empowerment’. Without deliberate and intentional cultivation of an empowering peer group, you are leaving your future up to the expectations of your peer group. With that in mind, I’d like to give you 5 things to think about when it comes to building an ecosystem of empowerment. 

The first thing to consider is the question, ‘who do I want to attract?’, meaning, what kind of person do you ideally want to be around. Just like goal and intention setting in your life and business, we’ve got to set goals for the type of peer group we’d ideally like to have. I’ve said many times on the show how, for the longest time, I aspired to be in rooms and groups of people much smarter and more ambitious than me. Wonder of wonders, as I look back over the people I’ve had the great fortune of calling friends, mentors, and peers, those aspirations have come to fruition over and over again. What I know is that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be in the company of many of those people had I not had an intention to be around that caliber of individual. You must ask yourself the question, who do I want to be surrounded by? What kinds of people do I want to be influenced by? What would I ultimately want my peer group to look like? Are they positive people, negative people, people making a difference in the world, wealthy people, giving people, people comfortable with their circumstances, or people who push themselves? 

If you decided you wanted to start running marathons you would most certainly have to give this idea some thought because that type of challenge requires having a positive and empowering peer group of people also pushing themselves. It doesn’t mean you have to quit your Sunday bowling league or the Thursday night darts league, but if you’re serious about marathons, you’re eventually going to need a new peer group that values those kinds of endeavors. In fact, the more serious you become about it, the more you may find you just have less in common with your bowling and darts friends over time. They love drinking beer and eating shitty bar food every week while you’re cleaning up your diet and running 70 or 80 miles per week. You’ve got to decide and get clear on what kinds of people you want to be around, and then write it down, that’s step one. 

Step two of the ecosystem of empowerment process is to decide what kind of person you need to become to attract those kinds of people into your circle. Once you have a clear picture of the kind of peer group you’d like to have, it’s paramount that you then figure out what kind of person you must become to not only attract more of those kinds of people, but also to be welcomed by those people into their peer group. Keep in mind that people who run marathons, people who want to be better tomorrow than they are today, people who want to increase their health and wellness, people who want to advance in life and business, people who want to grow their wealth all have standards. 

You see somebody at the gym with a phenomenal physique and think, ‘wow, I’d like to be like that someday!’ Well, guess what? They most likely have a peer group that thinks and acts like they do. It’s extremely difficult to build anything in life if you’re surrounded by people telling you it can’t be done, it’s too difficult, you’re wasting your time, you’ve sold out, you’re no longer one of us because you don’t have time for bowling and beer anymore, you think you’re better than us now, and so on. Those, by the way, are called anchors and crabs. I’ve talked about the anchors and sails in your life. The anchors weigh you down, the sails help you soar. Crabs are notorious for pulling the ambitious crabs back into the bucket. Watch a group of crabs in any kind of container and what you see are a group of animals who walk all over each other in pursuit of their own desires, and then latch on to any single crab trying to make it out of the container thus pulling it back to the bottom. I don’t want to anthropomorphize crabs and give them the human qualities of intention and reason. I don’t think they pull their crab mates intentionally back to the bottom, they’re just hanging on, probably hoping at some level for a free trip out of the bucket. 

After defining who you want to attract and what type of peer group you’d like to have, you must define who you need to become to be welcomed into that type of group. The third step in this process is where many will stop because it’s too difficult. The third step is where you have to start letting go of the anchors, the crabs, and the negative relationships. It sounds harsh, depending on who those people are to you, but it’s an absolute must if you’re going to grow and start attracting the type of peer you’re aspiring to. You can’t be that kind of high level peer to somebody else if you’re surrounded by people always feeding negativity into your life. You’ll end up being the one always needing to be lifted up by your new peer group and you’ll rather quickly empty the bank account of respect. 

Like any relationship, there is an account, so to speak, whereby parties in the relationship make deposits by helping, giving good advice, doing good for others, speaking into somebody’s growth, reaching out to those in need, doing the dishes and laundry, taking out the trash, making a connection in business, and so on. Make enough deposits in the relationship account and you can be forgiven when you have to make the occasional withdrawal. However, make too many withdrawals and, eventually, the account is overdrawn. This happens in platonic relationships, romantic relationships, marriages, families, friend groups, and in peer groups. We all have that friend or family member who only ever calls when they need something. That’s an example of somebody making withdrawals on the relationship account without making any deposits. We all probably also know people who will be upset with your growth. They want you to stay in the crab bucket with them and, when you escape the bucket, they’ll say that you’ve changed, you’re not the same you, instead of them being happy and supportive of your growth, they become resentful and will attempt to shame you into climbing back into the bucket so that you can be like them again. These are the relationships you must let go of to grow.

The fourth step in this process is based on that second quote I said I would share from Tony Robbins and it’s a simple 3 word phrase, ‘proximity is power’. Being around the kinds of people you aspire to be like is vital. The fourth step is to put yourself in environments where those kinds of people will be. Go to conferences, join mastermind groups, go to meet-ups of like minded people, place yourself in proximity to people who are doing more than you’re doing if you want to grow. It’s really that simple! If you’re an athlete of any kind you’ll understand this one innately. You cannot get better as a player of any sport unless you play against people better than you. You can’t get better at martial arts unless you’re training with people better than you. 

You have to be willing to get crushed on the jiu jitsu mat over, and over, and over again in order to grow. I’ve played hockey against players and teams that skate literal circles around us, sometimes losing games to them with scores like 8 to nothing, 9-2, 10-1. While the rest of the team is in the locker room soaking their sorrows and complaining about how bad we played, I’m replaying in my head what I saw some of those competitors do on the ice against us and logging the stuff I want to practice. Had we not played against them, I would not have had my weaknesses exposed in the same way. That’s what being around people doing more than you does for you. It either crushes your spirit and you shrink back into feeling sorry for yourself, or it energizes and motivates you to be where they are at some point. You must be around people who will push you to be more than you are right now if you want to grow, proximity is power. I get to see it happen in our black belt coaching groups all the time. Put yourself in proximity and in relationship with big thinkers and doers and you can’t help but grow. 

The last step in this process is simple, but not easy, and it’s to get out of your comfort zone. You simply can’t grow when you’re comfortable. I talk about this all the time on this podcast because it’s one of the universal truths of growth and expansion. Growth hurts. Expansion can be uncomfortable. Most people are seeking comfort in some form or fashion. That doesn’t make them bad people or somehow lesser individuals. I like to be comfortable like the next person. I like to be comfortable in my bed when it’s time to sleep and recover. I like to be comfortable when I’m watching a movie. I like to be comfortable when it’s time to be comfortable. What I’m referring to, however, is finding times in your days, weeks, months, and years when you are pushing yourself out of a particular zone of comfort, whether that be in your business or personal life. 

We all hit plateaus in certain areas of life and business where we find ourselves just coasting, more or less. Sometimes we refer to that as ‘phoning it in’. This is where you get by with minimal effort and energy output. You aren’t really growing in any particular area, you’re just doing the minimum required to accomplish something. This works for some things and some situations when saving your personal resources feels like what is required for that time. I’ve been there many times in my life and business, and the only way out of it was pushing myself out of that comfort zone and into the next level. If you want to grow, in any capacity, and create an ecosystem of empowerment, it’s imperative that you find ways to get uncomfortable on the regular. 

I just did the 10 wisdom keys in a two part series the last 2 episodes and wisdom key number 10 is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Until you make friends with ‘intentional discomfort’, as the Stoics called it, you’ll have a difficult time growing. 

So, let’s do a quick recap for note taking purposes. To create your empowerment ecosystem you must:

  1. Define who you want to attract- what kind of person who you like to be around
  2. Define who you need to become to attract those kinds of people
  3. Let go of negative relationships
  4. Put yourself in environments where those kinds of people will be (conferences, groups, meetups, mastermind groups)
  5. Get outside of your comfort zone 

Until next week, my friends, I’m out…

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