We can think of ourselves as a function that takes inputs and produces outputs based on those inputs.

When you want to do well for an exam, you change your input by allocating more time to studying. When you want to perform well athletically, you change what you eat and how you sleep.

The thing is, humans aren’t as complicated as we like to think we are. If you are striving towards a certain goal, forget about productivity hacks or shallow motivational Youtube videos — you should fundamentally change the inputs around you instead.

And the input with the biggest weight? It’s the people you spend your time with.

We are social animals, and the pull towards imitating the people around us is greater than we realise.

Therefore, one of the most important factor to success that people neglect the most is surrounding yourself with great people.

Here is why:

  • There are more ways to do something wrong than right. Be around successful people. Adopt their habits and thought processes.
  • Success is like gravity. The more successful you are, the more you attract the best opportunities. This leads to a pareto distribution (80:20) of opportunities. You want to be around people who are at the peak of that distribution.
  • Learning. There is an enormous amount of passive learning you gain by being the dumbest person in the room. It’s one of the reasons why people like Elon Musk are so knowledgeable across so many fields.

Being around 5 exceptional people will teach you more than your entire bachelor’s degree. The amount of learning, growth and opportunities that will come from those people is difficult to even quantify.

Here is how you can start surrounding yourself with great people.

1. Be selective about what you want to be better in

Being around great people takes dedication. You need to make sure the relationship is authentic and beneficial for everyone. This will take more time and effort on your end if you want to be with someone more senior than you.

Set a clear goal on one thing only, and start from there.

2. Join or create micro-communities

If you already know people who can help you become the better version of yourself, organise or join a micro-community. Maybe you can do an online course together, research a certain area and have discussions, or launch a project together. You will need to take charge, take ownership over the community and set the rituals. Because if you are mainly gaining value from others, why should they?

3. Always be meeting new people

If our goal is to surround ourselves with the best people possible, this will depend on the quality of people we know. And to optimise this, we want to be constantly meeting new people (I also personally believe meeting new people is one of the most enriching thing you can do).

Try to have a 1-on-1 with at least one new person per week.

Joining a community is an obvious way to do this. But you can also reach out to your mutual connections via LinkedIn.

Too many people decide learnings and opportunities only come from textbooks and jobs. You are missing out on an entire world if you think this way.

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Blake Im

Blake is a co-founder of Next Chapter and current data science and decisions co-op scholar. Outside of Next Chapter, he's an investment intern at OIF, with previous track records at companies like J.P. Morgan and Westpac.