It’s one of the first business strategies I ever learned and now – decades later – it’s as fresh and vital as the first time I learned it. “Choose wisely who you associate with – they’ll either push you forward or hold you back.” I was 19 when I first connected with that concept.

I hope that resonates with you. For a lot of us, we revisit this lesson with a tinge of regret, wishing we had paid better attention to it and applied the message earlier in life.

It could cost you friends

I carried a jammed college schedule while working full time, and I was excited to have my own place – a rented room in an old beach shack – and making new friends. However, over time, I came to realize that most of my friends seemed to be focused more on partying than getting ahead at school or work.

To be truthful, I partied a fair amount with them, but it didn’t take long to recognize that my performance was being affected and that bothered me.

A change was needed

Friends, yes, but it was easy to see the path they were on was taking them to nowheresville. That’s where I’d be heading, too. I had to switch directions so I distanced myself from them.

Long story short, my friends didn’t react well. They took it that I thought I was better than them. It wasn’t that at all. I just kept thinking about those words, that my choices of who to be around were important.

This is not about using people

Just to be clear, I’m not outlining an idea about hooking up with certain people because you feel they’ll elevate you to a higher status. What I advocate is connecting with like-minded people and together you elevate each other.

Don’t view a relationship through the lens of what you can get out of it, but instead of how you both benefit. If both parties see things this way the opportunities are endless.

Seek people who know more than you do

As the saying goes, “If you’re the smartest one in the room, you’re in the wrong room!” Whatever your pursuit, identify people who have done what you want to do and get to know them.

If you’re a small business owner you want to befriend other small business owners. Form a group of five to 10 who meet once a month to discuss common issues and give each other encouragement. If you’re a young technician you want to associate with those whose skills both equal and exceed yours.

Don’t let fear hold you back

In my years on the radio as J.Q. Fanihi, I was fortunate to be able to get in front of just about any influential person on island with just a phone call. Yet, outside of anything directly to do with my work on the radio, I took little advantage of it.

Why not? Because of limiting beliefs. I looked at successful people and didn't think I measured up to them. I was an entertainer. They got important things done. So I played the game “small.” In today’s language, I stayed in what I perceived to be “my lane.” It was safe there.

I’ve never discussed this, so it might be surprising to those who’ve known me for a long time.

The problem with playing small

If you never expose yourself to the talents and influences of higher achievers, both you and they lose. They want and need these connections, too.

Not just that, but you’ll never know how good you could have been and how much you could have done. Later in life, that may haunt you.

I refocused

In the last 25 years, publishing a business magazine and providing training solutions, I can now walk into any office on Guam, confident I can help people solve problems and transform their workplace. That's today.

Looking back, I wasted a lot of time and opportunities. You don’t have to.

Somebody out there you don’t yet know needs you to be the person you are capable of becoming.

Are you now around the people who will push and inspire you to get there?

Jerry Roberts comments on business and the workplace daily at 7:20 am on The Ray Gibson Show on The Point, 93.3 FM. He can be reached at, or email

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