The Fastest Way To Upgrade Your Life

“Your success will equal the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time.” Have you heard this before? If you are like me, you have heard it many times. Perhaps, like me, you have repeated it many times.

Office meeting room

Today, I admit that I was wrong. Or at least incomplete…

You see, there is a flaw with that idea, and the flaw is most people do not get to choose the five people with whom they spend the most time.

For instance, when you are a child, the five people with whom you spend the most time are simply outside of your power to choose.

When you are in school, you have more choice but still are likely to drift along, and spend the most time with the people you coincidentally meet.

For most of us, after school comes work. We enter the job force. Certainly, when we are hired, we do not have a choice about the people with whom we work.

You Are Not A Tree

Jim Rohn used to say, “You are not a tree.” By which he meant, you always have some kind of choice, because you are a conscious being created with the power to decide.

But, if like most, you have drifted into the common associations of your life, there is a certain amount of pain involved in changing the five people with whom you spend the most time.

For instance, perhaps you are married, have children, and have extended family who comprise the majority of your social interactions outside work. What are you supposed to do? Leave your family in search of better people?

By no means!

This dilemma merely points up the flaw of this “five people” idea. It leaves out the factor of intentionality.

I believe that your level of income and success can become the average of the five people you most intentionally spend time with, and whom you most intentionally model and emulate.

The level of excellence you achieve, the level of financial freedom that you attain, the level of emotional and mental clarity that you secure, can be improved by creating intentional relationships.

When you choose a small group of people – it doesn't have to be five, but probably shouldn't be more than a dozen or so – with whom to associate for the purposes of improving yourself, you unlock relationship power you may have never experienced before.

What if you chose a group to associate with that was comprised of members who have attained the levels of excellence you wish to attain?

What if you planned and scheduled time where your focus was on learning from, emulating, and seeking the counsel of these like-minded individuals… all people who, like you, are reaching for new heights of excellence and achievement?

It's Not About The Hours

I submit to you that even if you don't spend “the most time” with these individuals, the time you do spend in a state of intentional learning and receiving their wisdom will yield multiples of the results you get from other relationships in your life.

This isn't to criticize, judge, nor look down on your family, coworkers, or friends.

But it does recognize this reality: if you are surrounded by people who scoff at your dreams, who laugh at your efforts of self-improvement, or who otherwise undermine your efforts to change for the better… you need to seek an antidote.

Those people who do not support your dreams destroy them.

They probably don't  consciously intend you harm, but harm you they will. Those who seek to keep you from “getting your hopes up” will keep you mired in the muck of mediocrity.

If you are surrounded by people who are not living life to its fullest potential, one of two things will happen: either they will pull you down, or you will lift them up.

Here is the danger: it takes no effort for you to be pulled down into the muck. It takes concentrated, focused, sometimes painful and Herculean work  for you to lift up the others in your life.

How to Engineer Your Success

You have to decide to do it. You have to focus your your will upon this task. And you have to fight the resistance that will come against you, often in the form of the people you love the most.

My advice to you is as follows:

  1. Find or create a group of “intentional associates”. Seek out a group of people who are like-minded, who share your ambition, your passion for excellence, and the direction of your dreams.
  2. Intentionally build relationships with these people, and do whatever it takes to spend time with them. That means travel if you have to, it means take time off from work if you have to, and it probably means enduring some skepticism from many people you live and work with on a day-to-day basis.
  3. When you have identified and determined to spend time with your fellow travelers in this journey to excellence, make the most of the time you invest. With proper concentration and focus, you can make a single day with these individuals yield productivity and results that will last for months. Go to your meetings with your new friends armed with pen, notepad, and calendar. Don't leave the meeting without a list of action steps you will take between now and the next meeting.
  4. Ask your group of new associates to hold you accountable to the commitments you make, and let them know that you plan to hold them accountable to theirs. Not commitments of work or favors that will be traded with one another; commitments in regard to what you will do to improve your own life, relationships, and financial well-being. We all need someone in our life to give us a “swift kick in the pants” when we aren't living up to our own potential. And often, our everyday friends and family too quickly “let us off the hook.”
  5. Never let your group of intentional associates in any way cause you to feel superior to the other people in your life. Never use your aspirations as an excuse to judge, criticize, shame, or blame your family, friends or coworkers. We are all on our own journey, and we are all at different stages on that path. Love the people in your life who do not have the same commitment to excellence as you – just don't emulate them, and don't look to them for advice on how to be a success.

So to restate the proverb with which we started this discussion : “You will likely experience the same level of excellence, success, and fulfillment as the five people with whom you spend the most intentional time.”

Make a commitment to upgrade, or perhaps create for the first time, a circle of such “intentional associates.”

One way to accomplish this might be to come spend the day with Cliff Ravenscraft and me, in Colorado Springs, on November 12. We are gathering with a small group of like-minded people, who want to take their business, and their life, to the next level. Click here for details about how you could be part of that group.

Question: with whom will you be spending intentional time in the next few months?

Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at

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  • Excellent post, Ray and a very informative one. Lately, I have the bias to compare your writings with the poor folk wrote the “Writing Riches” (a book a don’t have yet finished, but I think you know who I mean, Ray) and I’m always astonished by the clarity of suggestions and conclusions you provide. thank you for sharing Ray, all the little and large things make you a superb discussionist!

    You always remind me of an old quote about games in general (strategy, games, professional bias, sorry Ray)! There are two types of games (as James Carse say at his book: Finite and Infinite Games). The ones that have an end (as card games, chess, etc), and the ones played aiming at continuing the playing (as the life is).

    I’m glad you play Infinite games, Ray. Thanks you very much.

  • Jevonnah Ellison

    Absolutely love this article! I especially like your point: “If you are surrounded by people who are not living life to its fullest potential, one of two things will happen: either they will pull you down, or you will lift them up.” Being intentional about who we spend time with makes all the difference. Thank you, Ray.

    • As always, a great honor to receive your kind words Jevonnah. You are such a go-getter… and a “go-giver”! Dan Miller speaks very highly of you.

  • Fantastic article. It reminds me of Proverbs 22:24 – “Do not associate with a man given to anger, or go with a hot-tempered man, lest you learn his ways and find yourself in a snare”. Obviously God wants us to be very intentional about who we hang around with. For example, I took a bold step this year and hired a business coach. He’s not only training me but he’s also put me into contact with his inner circle – a group of highly successful internet entrepreneurs (a bonus I hadn’t foreseen). The connections I’ve made this year has accelerated my progress more than the last 3 years combined! All of this from intentionally choosing one right association. So it’s amazing that even one person can make a huge difference because of all the people they can connect you with! Thanks Ray for this post.

    • That’s an amazing testament to this principle – thanks Dan!

  • Ray this is such a great post. There is wisdom, support, modeling and power in “a circle of such “intentional associates.”

  • Great insights Ray. I’ve heard that quote many times and I like your perspective.
    I am intentionally spending time with another entrepreneur who is actively building a business, but looking for additional like-minded people to form a small group that meets periodically. It takes time to find the right people for this group.
    Thanks Ray

    • You’re very welcome Steve – thanks for stopping by!

  • James Stuart

    “Intentional” is the key that unlocks the truth of the saying… For years I’ve tried to make sense of that statement and I finally dismissed it. But the great news is I did move forward and created the friendships and relationships I desired to help me become the person I desire to be. Thanks Ray for sharing and clarifying.

    • You’re welcome James – I appreciate your insights as well.

  • Great points! I spend most of my time with people that are incredible supportive but that also stretch my thinking and many of them are entrepreneurs. That include an online group I belong to, my mastermind group, of course Dan Miller’s 48 Days group as well as IRL friends. When I spend time with someone that may not understand or be supportive I know that ahead of time and just spend time with that person as-is, as everyone is on a different level in life. Hopefully he or she gets inspired by seeing me creating my own path.

  • Ivonne Teoh

    Thanks Ray for this clarification because my current 5 people are not all supportive! It is such an eye opener! You have inspired me to set up a new Intentional Group which could include people that I admire like you! “How would Ray handle this?” Another is Joe Vitale, Mr. Fire, he is always creating new products and great at marketing! Bless you Ray, this will be a game changer for many people!

  • Kathleen Thompson

    I belong to a mastermind group of 4. I also belong to a group of 3 that works through the “Artist Way” materials together. We stretch each other as artists. I used to just hang out with people and not consider their impact on my life. Once I realized that I needed to be intentional, I eliminated some soul-sucking relationships and intentionally pursued others. It has made a huge difference in my life.

  • Micki

    I am growing my grant writing and coaching business, so I am going to start a mastermind group of local successful grant writers to help us all grow our businesses. I also have attended Dan Miller’s Coaching with Excellence program and have enrolled in his coaching with master program, which has virtually linked me with so many great people.

    Thank you for this post, Ray. I always struggled with “thinning the herd” when it comes to some of my friends and family, who support me but do not share my passion for writing or my desire to continue to dramatically grow my business. I have been intentional, though, about not spending time with people who clearly don’t want to see me succeed.

  • Ray, great post and great quotes!

    I’d love to spend some intentional time with you on my podcast to talk about this =)

    I’ve had a related conversation many times. Do we kick our friends to the curb? Do we keep them around so we can be the “nice guy” or “nice girl”?

    Sometimes people can be our wings, other times our anchors. We have to choose wisely. Even Jesus narrowed his mentors to 12 and his counsel to even fewer.

  • Never thought about this saying in that way before, but you’re completely right. Who we intentionally spend time with and learn from definitely impacts our level of success. Love the advice on finding a group of “intentional associates.” I can honestly say I’ve been about busiy doing this for quiet some time now.

  • faithbarnard

    Outstanding article. I love the fact that you make the all important distinctions. We don’t need to disown our family and friends to live an extraordinary life. We can intentionally choose a group of friends and business colleagues that will hold us to a higher standard.