“If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas.” I first remember hearing this famous Ben Franklin quote as a teenager being taught the dangers of peer pressure. My good friend (and two of my kids’ former Youth Pastor) John Orr puts a more positive spin on the idea by saying, “Your friends will determine the quality and direction of your life.” Read that simple statement again. Think about it deeply for a moment. Do you believe it? I do. I believe I am who I am today because of friends I have had. I am not where I could be because of other relationships I have had or ones I failed to pursue. And I am convinced the place I will end up will be the result of the people in my life as I move forward. The same is true for you. But don’t take my word for it, or John’s or Ben Franklin’s. The Bible also teaches this principle. In 1 Corinthians 15:33 we read, "Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character." And Proverbs 13:20 tells us, "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm."
This was true in the days of the Old Testament and the New Testament and in the days of Ben Franklin and today. When I hear a teaching like this my thoughts often go to those who have ended up in a really bad place. I think, “if only they had chosen better company." But the principle is also true for the person who ends up in a boring, average place or an excellent, adventurous one. How would you describe the place you are in today? Wherever you are, it is largely because of who you have chosen to spend your time with. The good new is that while you have to start where you are, you don't have to stay there.
As you think about your future and the person you want to become let me encourage you to pursue three types of relationships in your life - three types of people who will form you into the person I think you want to be.
This week we will explore the first of these: a person who is a little (or a lot) further along in their journey than you are. This will often but not always be someone a little older than you who has navigated some of the waters you find yourself in today. This will be a person who can help you as a single adult, a spouse, a parent, a worker, or in your spiritual life. Does anyone come to mind? Let me give you a few examples from my life.
When we first became parents Susan and I naturally spent a lot of time with other parents of young kids. We had a lot of fun but none of us had a clue about how to raise a family. We’d talk about parenting techniques and philosophies but honestly it was the blind leading the blind. Like the blind squirrel who eventually finds a nut we would occasionally do something right. Over time we wised up to the idea that we would benefit from relationships with couples who were a few years ahead of us. We became better parents because of those relationships. Now, we are blessed that a few young couples consider us to have enough wisdom (or at least experience) to share our perspectives with them.
A few years ago when our older two were leaving the house for college we sat down with a couple we admired and asked them for advice on parenting adult children. They shared about how to let go of certain elements while still clinging to others. We discussed how to be friends with our kids and the importance of giving them freedom, and allowing them to make mistakes. These were valuable conversations that have helped us make this transition.
As I have begun my new career as a life coach I have connected with some seasoned professionals and gleaned from their wisdom and experience. Of the four or five successful life coaches I now have a learning relationship with, none of them sought me out but all of them were willing to invest in me when I asked. Successful people are usually busy people so you will need to be the one to take the initiative to have that initial conversation. Be bold and ask if you can have a few minutes of their time. Take them to lunch and be prepared with a few good questions that will show you are both an eager learner and sensitive to their time. I am a better person and a better professional because I have been willing to make this ask.
Do you want to grow, really? Is personal and professional growth important enough to you that you will go outside your comfort zone and find others who might invest in you? Go ahead and write down the names of two or three people who could be potential mentors for you. Reach out to them this week. I dare you.