At Work

We Are Who We Spend Time With

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“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” —Prov. 11:14

In a recent blog post, I mentioned one of my favorite quotes:

You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read (Charles “Tremendous” Jones).

In that post, I discussed the influence of the books you read on your life. In today’s post, I want to talk about the other part of this quote, the influence of the people in your life.

Mastermind Groups, Peer Mentoring

How intentional are you in deciding who you hang out with? If you are like most of us the answer is, “Not very.”  In fact, we often don’t even see how the people in our lives affect us. Yet, the impact others can have on our lives can be so significant, it can radically change us for the better or worse.

In the 1930s, a group including C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams met regularly to discuss philosophy and literature and to read aloud from their own works in progress. The influence of the different group members on those works in progress was huge. It was in this company that such classics as The Lord of the Rings, The Screwtape Letters, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe first found an audience. This group eventually became known as the Inklings.

Many other successful individuals formed meeting groups of like-minded people and have written about how those groups helped them to achieve their goals and grow. Benjamin Franklin launched “The Junto” in the 18th century, and Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and others gathered in the early 1900’s as the “Vagabonds.” Today, this type of group is often called a “mastermind group.”

The Bible stresses the importance of such friendships. The book of Proverbs says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”(27:17). And, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice” (12:15).

The Bible also warns about the possible negative impact of some relationships:

Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, or you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself.… (Prov. 22:24-25).

From our informal friendships to our more formal mentoring groups, relationships are important. And as Christians, we should purposefully build peer groups to help us grow in all areas of our lives. We should be people committed to helping each other.

Intentional relationships make us much more productive, creative, and purposeful. They help us bring about more flourishing because God made us to work in community.

A number of formal peer groups, like Convene, C12, Pinnacle Forum, and 4word, are Christian CEO/leadership forums that bring tremendous value to their members and are obviously intentional in how they interact and the things they share.

It’s All About Community

On his blog, author Michael Hyatt asked the question, “What if we could create communities that helped everyone involved achieve their goals together—like Lewis and the Inklings?” He goes on to suggest why such relationships are so important:

•   Learning—Getting connected with a good group can accelerate your learning, provide key insights, help you find important resources, and teach you best practices.

•   Encouragement—Whether it’s business, family life, or our faith journey, life can be tough. A good peer group can give you the validation and support you need to keep going and rise above the tempests.

•   Accountability—We need people who can speak into our lives and help us when we’re veering off track.

What we get out of an intentional peer group is directly proportional to what we put into it. We should intentionally seek out opportunities, whether formal or informal, to build relationships with others who have a positive, godly influence on our lives.

Hyatt goes on to suggest that these peer groups, or mastermind groups, can take different shapes and configurations depending on what we desire them to be. Here are some of Hyatt’s examples:

  • Reading or study groups—As quoted earlier, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the books you read.” Often the best way to engage in reading is with a group of people studying a book together.
  • Accountability groups—Whether you need to lose weight or stop drinking, there are a host of formal accountability groups in which members can share, encourage, and offer course-correction advice to one another. Also, smaller, informal accountability groups are useful for holding one another to specific goals.
  • Close friendships—Hyatt writes, “Nothing replaces good friendships. Lewis and Tolkien’s relationship went on for years, and even when it was strained, remained beneficial to them both. Without strong friendships the quality of our lives can be greatly diminished.”

I would add to that list the following groups:

  • Bible studies—For believers, few things are as important as studying God’s word. When we do this with others, we discover a secure, informal, and nonthreatening place where we can build authentic relationships.
  • One-on-one mentoring relationships—The idea of growing and learning from someone who has already been there is an invaluable experience. Being a mentor is also very rewarding and very biblical (Titus 2:3-5).

Ultimately, these insights are nothing new. The following wisdom on relationship, for example, is thousands of years old:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Eccles.4:9-12).

With whom do you spend time and how intentional are those relationships?

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