What to Do When You're Not in Anyone's Top Five

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As motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, we're the average of the five people we spend the most time with. I've also heard it said about the last five books we've read. Even the last five meals we ate.

The point is, at least as far as the five people go, these are the people who shape and inspire us. We look to them for knowledge and information, for support and wisdom, or even just friendship.

If you hang out with negative people, you'll become negative. If you hang out with athletic people, you'll be inspired to work out. And if you hang out with people who lack motivation, you'll only be dragged down.

Some of the biggest leaps and growth I made professionally came when I had people I could look to for guidance and knowledge. These were people who were older than me, smarter than me, or more experienced than me.

I can name the people who have inspired me, motivated me, and guided me forward. And when I first heard Rohn's advice, I found my own Top Five — a sort of advisory council or mastermind group of mentors, even one that was loosely based and organized around your learning.

I never pulled my group together, and I don't even know that I always had five people at any one time. But I knew who, whenever they spoke, I would pay attention to what they said, learn from it, and read anything they put out.

Replace As Needed

I've heard from plenty of productivity experts that you should always be updating and growing, replacing outdated knowledge, disposing of books with outdated information. And as you begin to surpass someone in your Top Five, you're supposed to drop them from your rotation and replace them with someone who's more advanced than you again.

Now, I don't know how you're supposed to break up with someone and remove them from your five. If you actually have a monthly mastermind group, it can be a little awkward to actually kick someone out because they're not smart enough or accomplished enough or capable enough to keep up with the new you. I mean, that has to be kind of awkward, doesn't it?

I'm sure you don't actually tell them this. Maybe you're just supposed to let that relationship peter out and come to a stop without saying anything. Or maybe you actually dump them: "I'm sorry, you can't come to the meeting anymore."

I mean, can you imagine how devastating that would be? That would crush them!

And what do you do when it happens to you? What do you do when you realize you've been cut from your friend's Top Five?

How devastating would that be? To be given the breakup speech, "I'm sorry, I have to take you out of my Top Five. It's not me, it's you. You're not smart or successful enough for me."

I don't know that anyone has actually ever made that speech — at least I hope not. It's a pretty terrible thing to say to someone, and means the other person is vapid and shallow. (If you've done that, don't tell me; just know that I secretly judge you.)

And it may feel worse, as you take stock of your life and your friends, to find that you may not be in anyone's Top Five. I don't mean that you're unloved or that people don't like you. (Because, hey, you're awesome! Those people are jerks.)

So if you ever have that realization (or if you really did get the breakup speech), there are two different options if you come to this realization.

  1. Say "To hell with them. I don't need anybody." You don't.

  2. Get better at what you do in order to help people get what they want.

Always Build Value

Last year, Tim Sanders sent an email newsletter that explained his "Always Build Value" advice.

In it, he told a story about riding with an Uber driver who wanted to know how he could achieve success and move up at his day job.

This is what Tim said:

"Find ways to improve your resume annually by learning new things," I replied. "Grow your network of relationships. Improve your ability to share knowledge and network other people together. That's the secret to lifelong success. You move forward by adding value to other people's lives. But you can't do that without building value every day of your life."

As I got out of the car, he shook my hand and said, "That sounds like a lot of work. What's the point of developing so much value? Being smart? Having a lot of connections?" I could understand his confusion.

"Nope," I replied. "It's about having something you can share that helps other people be more successful. When you are adding to your knowledge bank and network all the time, you'll never hoard them like so many people do. It will change your personality as well as your perspective.  You'll believe you have enough to share, and that will make you a generous person who stands out from the crowd."

So if you want to be in someone's Top Five or if you want to stay there, you can't rest on your laurels of past knowledge. You can't sit back and say, "I know enough." You need to always be learning and making yourself better.

I don't mean as a Jack- or Jill-of-all-trades. Focus on the two or three things you're best at. The things that you love doing. Find people you can learn from and read or listen to everything they've done. Put that knowledge to work.

Next, find people you can share knowledge with, such as speaking at conferences or even lunch-and-learns at small companies. As you share what you know, you reinforce it in your own mind, and become better at it. Plus it makes you look like an expert.

Finally, make connections between people. Introduce them, refer them, and connect them. If someone says, "I'm looking for someone to help me with X," then connect them with someone who can do X.

If you think two people have great ideas and motivation, introduce them to each other. I've introduced people to each other just because I thought they were both very smart and hoped they could meet each other and be aware of the things they each do. Some of those meetings have resulted in some incredible opportunities, including a city wide art exhibit, a new job, collaborative projects, a few sales contracts, and even a close friendship.

My friend, Starla West, refers to this idea as "I Got a Guy." This is when someone expresses a need and you pipe say, "Hey, I got a guy who can do that." (Or it could be a woman; I'm not trying to exclude anyone!)

You make the introduction, and then you step out of the way. You don't stick around to see what happens, you don't need to be CCed on their emails, and you certainly are not owed anything in return.

You let them connect, and the chips will fall where they may. Maybe they'll do some cool stuff, maybe it won't go anywhere. But the more you do it, the more opportunities will be created by the meeting of those minds.

If you do this enough, you become known as the person who is 1) not only smart at the things you're great at, but 2) known for helping people get what they want. If you can do these two things, you'll have amazing opportunities visited back on you as well, and people will be clamoring for your advice and wisdom.

Erik Deckers is the president of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing agency with clients throughout the United States. He is also the co-author of Branding Yourself, No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine. Erik has been blogging since 1997, and a newspaper humor columnist since 1994. He has written several radio and stage plays, and numerous business articles. Erik was the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL, and now serves on their board of directors.

Photo by Aditya Chinchure on Unsplash.

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