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A very wise individual once said, “You can’t soar with the eagles if you’re hanging with the turkeys.”

Reasonable minds can differ on what exactly this is supposed to mean. On the one hand, we can think of turkeys as negative folks who for one reason or another are involved in our lives. Whether by their poor influence or discouraging words, these turkeys prevent us from getting closer to our goals. On the other hand, we can also think of turkeys as an absence of eagles. In other words, perhaps the problem isn’t so much being surrounded by negative people as much as it is not engaging enough positive people.

The point of this article is the latter. We don’t wish to influence you to line up your closest friends like a schoolyard pickup game and start making cuts. Rather, we want to encourage you to identify and build relationships with strong-minded, supportive individuals who will push you toward your goals. A lively network of people who want to see you succeed can supercharge your progress by bringing out your best and challenging you when necessary.

These eagles don’t need any special expertise. In fact, you can vastly outpace them in experience. For instance, a 30-year-old attempting to launch a startup might find tremendous benefit palling around—or maybe even partnering—with a focused, high-energy individual in their early 20s interested in the same business venture. Imagine being that fledgling business owner and receiving a constant stream of solutions and goal-oriented vision from that younger partner. Then imagine if that younger partner were replaced with a lazy, doubtful turkey who found the flaw in every plan.

Which arrangement do you think is more likely to produce the next Apple?

Martial arts gyms are outstanding examples of this principle in action. Every day, incredibly diverse people gather on a mat with the same simple goal of taking just one baby step toward improvement. And anyone who’s ever spent more than three minutes in such a place knows there is much more going on than jiu jitsu and physical fitness. The supportive family atmosphere, starting with the leadership of the coaches and trickling down to the freshest white belts, is magnetic. Everyone is ready with constructive feedback. Everyone is quick to offer positive words of affirmation. Everyone wants the best for one another—even their sparring partner. It is this electric environment that enables people from all walks of life to continue showing up for class every day, bruises and all, constantly getting better.

What makes someone a turkey or an eagle will be different for different people. Whatever the goal, though, one fact remains invariable: The people we surround ourselves with have a monumental impact on who we become.

The first step is to answer for yourself: Are you hanging with the turkeys?

To reach out to the author, send him an e-mail at [email protected]