Choose the Right Friends On the Way Up


Choose the right friends. Do this, and you’ll accelerate at a joy-inducing speed towards your dreams (and watch your peers do the same). Pick the wrong bunch, and you’ll constantly wonder why you seem like you are always pushing the boulder uphill and no one else seems to understand you.

This happens both in how you treat your friends after you have success, and how they treat you.

How Do You Treat Friends After Your Success?

Let me paint you two scenarios.

In both of these, you hit it big. Your band takes off, your startup sells for tens of millions, your book becomes a bestseller, or you get lucky on the stock market and suddenly you’re a millionaire/famous/stereotypically successful.

Scenario one: you start hobnobbing (lol) with other successful people. You attend dinner clubs now. You’re wearing nicer clothes. You adopt the slang and speech patterns of your new people. You slowly start ghosting your old group—they don’t really get what you’re about now. That’s fine; you don’t really need them anymore.

Scenario two: your friends are ecstatic about your success. It’s not jealousy; it’s joy. You bring them along to your new events and invites. Sure, they’re a little awkward—but mostly enthusiastic about your new world. You start to broadcast some of their pet projects to your followers. When one of them starts a business, you’re the first person to jump in on their friends & family funding round—or you’re telling them honestly if their idea isn’t quite there yet. In a couple of years, they’re inviting you to events and circles you didn’t have access to. By now, you’ve grown a powerful network not by “networking” but by elevating the folks in whose quality you already trusted.

Did you choose the right friends in scenario one or two? If you end up dumping your friends once you’ve entered a new life stage, you chose poorly.

Which one sounds more appealing?

Notice: for these scenarios, it’s pretty much about how you behave. If you think your main friend group is genuinely full of losers, you’ll go with the first route. Sometimes you have to break with the crowd around you if they’re acting like the proverbial “bucket of crabs.”

However, if you’re wise before you’re successful and you know how to find other quality people, you’ll probably want to end up with the second. In fact, I would venture a guess that you are much less likely to succeed if you’re not already surrounding yourself with wise, intelligent (if unheard of) people.

Side With Creators, Not Climbers

Genuinely, I give a lot of grace to celebrities. It’s not easy to live under public scrutiny for every little word. Most people don’t get it.

The toughest thing about it is you don’t know who you can trust. You often have to stick with your old crew you grew up with. When it comes to new friends, you’re not sure if they just want to be around you for your proximity to wealth, fame, sexual attention, etc. or if they actually like you as a person.

This is a case-in-point example of what I’m talking about:

From Garry Tan (video below)

Social climbing is a disease, and smart people will sniff it out in a heartbeat.

VC and investor Garry Tan wants you to choose the right friends in the form of other “geeks” and creators. The people who are obsessed with actually making stuff and adding value are the ones you can trust for a myriad of reasons.

The right people:

  • Are not around you for your attention but for your shared interests
  • Are not trying to scalp your clout
  • Want to build a better world (like you, hopefully)
  • Are not as impressed with you, so they’ll call you on your bullshit

If you’ve got 10 minutes, watch the video.

Like in scenario one above, not only do you not want to become friends with “climbers” but you don’t want to become a climber yourself.

When is it time to cut friends?

Short answer: when they’re not being friendly.

Long answer: a friend treats you with respect and wants you to succeed. If your friends are jealous, petty, or always join you but never invite you—they’re not acting like a friend.

Them not getting what you’re doing isn’t the same as them not supporting you. It’s when they start to not get excited about your success—when it starts to look like y’all are playing on different teams.

This isn’t an event you witness once and then cut them out, but a pattern of behavior you recognize over time. Here’s a quick litmus test: if it’s 10:30pm Saturday night and your car breaks down, who would you call to come pick you up?

Not going to lie—there’s a darker part of me that gets some pleasure when I see someone who is very successful turnaround and end up struggling. I don’t enjoy that part of myself, but I’m not going to deny it’s there. When I notice this in myself, I actively decide to be a better friend—encouraging the person struggling, telling them who they are, and offering any help I can muster.

I don’t want to end up a friend worth cutting.

The Best Way to Choose the Right Friends

As my dad would say “to have a friend you must be a friend.”

Prof G is right about one thing. You do want to be leveling up your friend group. That doesn’t have to mean you’re a social climber. Instead, recognize you can be building up your friends as you climb, too.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” If you’re hanging out with losers now, you know it by their character. If they’re not losers, then you should be proud to have them with you.

If you have talented friends who are undiscovered, you are in exactly the position every good friend dreams of being. YOU can elevate them.

Maybe that’s investing in them, retweeting them, or just giving them words of encouragement. The rising tide lifts all boats—when you raise your friend’s status and create new opportunities for them, yours gets raised, too.

If you’re looking around and you don’t see anyone in your circle who inspires you, it’s time to start some legitimate networking. Pay the price to be around folks who will build you up—and who you can build up, too.

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