Who you hanging with?

As a kid my parents were very particular about who I hung out with.

In my teens this became problematic as my parents reined me in, became overly protective and pretty much dictated who could and could not be my friends.

I was resentful and felt so hard done by – but I was raised in a family where the parents laid down the law – you got to have an opinion, when and only when, you could pay your own rent.

This style of parenting is so not popular. It’s frowned upon because children “do have rights”. But as an adult now I’m quite grateful my parents were my sense of reason when it came to who I hung out with.

Yeah their methods might have been what could be perceived as extreme (particularly in this laissez faire culture) but those methods probably saved me from much heartache and getting into situations that might have negatively impacted the course of my life.

This year most of my really close friends advanced tremendously in their careers.

One of my friends obtained her MBA and left her job to become an independent consultant.

Another got her honors degree in engineering while being offered, what I believe, to be the earth moon and stars from her employer because of how awesome she is in her job. (She’s one of those people that are a head hunter’s dream).

Another got a significant pay increase as part of her promotion package… Of course all these achievements challenged me to step it up a notch in my own career. Ok maybe more than a notch. I was kind of compelled to put metal to the pedal and also do something significant and noteworthy.

Oh I have to mention that two of these friends are moms.

The one with the MBA – she studied for it while pregnant (then later breastfeeding religiously) and working a full time job.

The engineer – she’s a tremendous, principled, mom. You can see this through her daughter who at five is such a lady and already a wonderful young woman.

A few weeks ago I had coffee with my MBA friend. As we talked about our new ventures a portion of Scripture kept playing in my head: As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17).

Perhaps the first step is deciding you are iron. Then understanding that plastic can’t sharpen iron. Wood can’t sharpen iron. Paper can’t sharpen iron. Fabric can’t sharpen iron. Iron sharpens iron.

Some (iron) people fail to get to where they need to get because of the (non-iron) company they keep.

In the workplace or in business circles, it’s oh so tempting to hang around those huddled groups giggling over some juicy piece of gossip, laboring over where the next great party will be, discussing half-ass schemes and the next silly shag – but it’s all a waste of precious time, energy, productivity, and creativity.

If none of your close friends have progressed much in the last year, two years, three years – you probably need to be rethinking your ties with them. It’s harsh and it sounds judgmental but more often than not you’ll find that if one’s friends aren’t progressing neither are they.

One of the most remarkable things my mom ever did for me in my teen years happened in my final year of high school.

In high school I was probably what would generally be considered an utter loser (weren’t they wrong!).

I’d believed the lie that I was an average student.

I hated high school with such intensity that one year I broke out in the most vicious, stress induced, pustules of malignant ooze – as the Trunchbull in Matilda would describe them.

I did very little to contribute to my school life. I did however completely dedicate myself to two extracurricular activities (which, to save face, I will not mention).

At my valedictory service pretty much everyone in my year received some kind of acknowledgment and a prize to go with it. I think there was even a prize for just being helpful. I received nothing. Despite my dedication and utter commitment to those two activities I had been involved in – I got absolutely nothing.

I sat with my mom hoping, as name after name was called, that I too would be mentioned. At the very least to save my mom from the humiliation of having a child who had, in the eyes of the school, achieved absolutely nothing.

The service came to an end without my name being called. I could have cried had I not been so busy nursing my embarrassment, hurt and utter disappointment.

The next morning the title of loser sunk into my bones and I felt ill with failure.

At some point of that unbearable morning my mom called me and handed me an envelope. In it was a wad of cash. “Your prize!” She said.

She went on to tell me: “I watched that service and I know they didn’t call your name but they don’t know what an amazing child you are. And it doesn’t matter that they don’t know. I know. And I appreciate who you are.”

Those words cemented the belief my parents had always try to instill in me: I was iron. It didn’t matter who believed it or not – I was iron.

I have carried my mom’s words in me ever since. Together with my upbringing those words have compelled me to surround myself with iron people.

Often I see parents terrified of making important choices for their children for the sake of being popular with their kids. In the end the kids lose.

Being extremely particular about whom I spend time (and hang out) with started out as a choice my parents forced on me. At the time I loathed this infringement on my independence. Today I applaud them for it.

I am iron. And a lot of how much I push myself forward comes from the people I hang out with.

So the question is: who you hanging with?


Hannah Viviers is a financial journalist and founder of HV Public Speaking

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