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I picked up a trinket at an airport gift shop to use as a visual aid in a presentation I made to a group of at-risk youths—a group that traditionally struggles to understand the importance of being surrounded by the right people. Many of these individuals landed in their present predicament because they chose the wrong circle of friends.

I wanted the group to understand how impactful their “circle” can be.

As the great Jim Rohn famously pointed out, we become the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time. The point I wanted to make to the group was that if they are not careful, their circle of friends can become a trap.

ring device imageThe gift shop trinket had a series of interconnected thin metal rings. When held collapsed, the device looked like a single two-dimensional ring. But a flick of the wrist released the rings and the device expanded to form a three-dimensional sphere that encompassed the person’s hand.

I explained to the group that the collapsed ring represented their circle of friends and that the expanded ring represented the influence their circle of friends can have on them. Surrounding themselves with the right people can protect them and provide an opportunity to grow. However, surrounding themselves with the wrong people can trap them into being something they aren’t.

The values, morals, and mindset of those around them have a tremendous influence on their standards. Surrounding themselves with the wrong people can limit their ambition and prevent them from becoming the version of themselves they could be.

We all need to periodically remind ourselves of this concept, as it’s easy to let the wrong people slide into our circle.

A subsequent point that I made to the at-risk youths may have particular relevance to those of you struggling with the quality of teammates that surround you. I told the group: Sometimes you can’t choose the five people with whom we spend the most time.

Some of the at-risk youths lived in dysfunctional environments. They had alcoholic parents, drug-addicted siblings, and immoral neighbors. Some were housed in detention centers and surrounded by criminal behavior. Toxic influencers were everywhere.

While you may not be surrounded by those specific types of dysfunction, you may find yourself surrounded by alternative forms of toxicity on your team (selfishness, complaining, complacency, shortsightedness, ego, etc.). When this is the case, how can you keep your circle from being a trap?

The answer lies in your time. You may not have control over who you have around you, but you have control over how you spend your time. The key is to spend more time around someone who provides a positive influence on you than someone who has a negative influence. The time spent being influenced by a positive source must surpass the time spent being influenced by one of your toxic sources.

You may not be able to find an actual person to fill this role. You may have to replicate the experience by spending your time reading books or watching videos or movies by/about influential persons.

But know that alternative sources of influence are available.

When you flood your time with positive influences, you see a definitive difference in your attitude, values, and mindset. You find yourself caring about what—and who—really matters to you. You become motivated to become a better version of yourself.

As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.

Lance Loya is the founder and CEO of the Good Teammate Factory. He is a college basketball coach turned author, blogger, and professional speaker, who inspires TEAMBUSTERS to become TEAMMATES. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or through his weekly Teammate Tuesday blog.

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