The people closest to you determine your level of success. “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” (Jim Rohn). Those statements are easily proven, if you look honestly at your own life and the lives of people around you. Your inner circle is very, very important if you are interested in reaching your full potential. You will not stay sharp and growing and relevant throughout your life if the people around you are not.
So what should determine who is in your inner circle? They should have…
Matching fundamental values – complementary differentiating values Matching values means their information, insight, and advice will be in harmony with what you believe. Fundamental values determine moral and ethical behavior. Differentiating values can determine important nuances in life and bring clarity to purpose. These are values that don’t distract from each other but complement. For instance, you might have a high value on curiosity and another person may have a high value on optimism. Those will help you both.
Diversity Your inner circle can’t mirror each other. Choose people with differing educational, occupational, and cultural backgrounds. Gather different gender and age groupings. The more diverse your group is, the greater opportunity for a balanced view.
Truthfulness Speaking truth into every situation is vital. Both inspiration and caution can be found in truth. Your inner circle needs to be able to speak the truth even when you don’t want to hear it.
Empathy Anyone who provides advice needs to comprehend and be able to put themselves mentally into your situation.
Competence Inner circle people should be competent in those areas in which you are seeking help, advice, or direction. No one will be competent in all, but they should be competent to offer help specifically.
The people you spend the most time with should make you a better person by supporting you, pushing you to meet your goals, inspiring you, and helping you transform. You need dreamers who can help you imagine and think of things that others do not. You need leaders who can see how the dream can happen. They are results oriented. You need motivators, a voice of inspiration. They give you energy and enthusiasm. You need supporters, true friends with whom you can let down your guard. They are your safe haven. You need a devil’s advocate who asks questions and lots of them. You may not like what they have to say but they often will be the voice of reason.
Be relentless in surrounding yourself with people you trust and respect, people who add value to you, and have a good track record of integrity and achievement. They will determine where and how far you will go.
In John Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, he says, “A leaders potential is determined by those closest to him.” He gives two practical ways to build and have a strong inner circle:
1. Connect and build relationships. Having an inner circle of people requires that you have been deliberate in building and having relationships. This is because your inner circle will come from the relationships you have already developed. Build relationships with others and over time you will see the people who should be in your inner circle.
2. Be strategic. Leaders are around people the majority of the time. Though our time is spent around others, it’s critical that you are careful and wise about the people who are closest to you. Being strategic about your inner circle means you take your time to determine who and how many people will be in your personal circle.
Realistically, your inner circle will be five to eight people. Choose these people carefully. You must have mutual respect and support to build a mutually giving relationship. You will be safe to share your good and bad with them and they will do the same with you. You will cheer each other on and hold each other’s feet to the fire when necessary. You will be weighted to the positive and be determined to seek knowledge and growth. As billionaire Charlie Munger said, “Knowing what you don’t know is more useful than being brilliant.” You will help each other find out what is right and great about your ideas and direction and also what is wrong.
Reach out—and reach out to the right people. You need a carefully cultivated inner circle for you to be who you can be and all you can be. You need to help someone else be that as well.