After many years of blogging, and consistent with my desire to move toward retirement, we have ended the Insights blog. Thanks to Doug Bedell for his years of blog support.

Hanging Out With Our Futures

Posted on August 22, 2011
Filed Under Technology | Leave a Comment

Our colleague Dennis Owen is on the road a lot these days and that’s especially why it would be interesting to get his thoughts on this piece by David Lang from the Make magazine blog, “Surrounding Yourself with the Right People.”

The piece takes off from a quote, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” So, it follows, be careful who you spend your time with. That makes a lot of sense in terms of whom to avoid. But is it worth being careful about who you associate with in terms of hoped-for creativity? Probably, but that’s more difficult to demonstrate, at least in the short run.

Lang reflects on his work in sailing big chartered sailboats in San Francisco Bay – a skill he’d picked up in a year and a half.

“It was an achievement I was proud of,” Lang writes. “The strange part was, I didn’t feel any different. In fact, I felt like exactly the same person I’d always been. When I heard the above quote, it all started to make sense. I thought back to other jobs and phases of my life, back to college and high school. In each case, no matter how much I had studied or how much I’d tried, the skills or habits that really took hold could be directly attributed to who I was spending time with.”

So is it worth being deliberate about whom you choose to spend time with? We’d say it definitely is.

In the world of technology, David Lang suggests “three ways to spend more time with makers”:

Meetups, Hackerspaces and Volunteer!

These, we’d agree, are all entrees into creative companionship. But be careful, first, about what your interests and potential contributions are. (Or maybe you’d like to surprise yourself!)

In thinking back, my associates over time made a lot of difference toward where I ventured and what I’ve achieved – including my current role as a blogger (including this blog for Dennis).

So choose your associates well. They’ll be helping to define you. – Doug Bedell

From Dennis, “out there”: Once again my colleague Doug has found an interesting nugget on the web, blogged it on our technical writing site, and has given me much to think about. Considering Doug’s opening sentence, I can hardly avoid adding my two cents to Mr. Lang’s thesis that “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

While I agree, my guess is the magic number (five) varies among individuals quite a bit. Also, I think we have to acknowledge that our lives are compartmentalized and each compartment has its own cadre of influencers. We married folks would probably say our spouses largely color our non-work lives and the other four or so influencers run a distant second. (Though considering how much traveling by car I’ve been doing lately my wife might say her influence has fallen behind that of gas station owners, waitresses, and toll booth attendants.)

Mr. Lang’s thesis—and Doug’s extrapolation to choose your associates carefully—certainly rings true. As an itnerant writer, my day-to-day technical writing is certainly colored by my association with a handful of people at each client’s location. However, I’ve been doing this so long their influence on my actual output is marginal. Rather, there are a handful of people I see only occasionally but who nonetheless have a big influence on my creativity. These are kindred spirits and our discussions about all things under the sun stimulate me to think creatively, and that creativity radiates out to all my life’s compartments… including my technical writing.

I would include Doug in this list. We have not seen each other for perhaps three months, but when we do I’ll come away with some insight into work and creativity and I’ll be a little bit better for it.

Yes, the few people we associate day-in-and-day-out are important. However, I hope all of you have those other friends who you may see only occasionally but whose influence on who you are is greater than you realize.


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