You are what you eat, and you definitely are whom you associate with. The people closest to you make all the difference--in a good and a bad way.

Of course, it can be tough to find great new connections and friends to add to your inner circle; people who will support you, help you, and encourage, motivate, and inspire you.

It's a lot easier to spot the people in your inner circle who are holding you back.

If you have people like these in your inner circle, remove them:

Devilish Advocates

Devilish advocates are rarely advocates for anything other than their own egos and points of view. "Perspective" is often just bragging in disguise. "Voice of reason" is often just the voice of ego or the voice of a person who tried and failed and therefore thinks no one can--or more likely should--ever succeed.

Keep the people who ask smart questions, share lessons learned and ways to do things differently, and offer to help you if a problem does pop up.

Get rid of the people who always forecast doom and gloom based solely on their bad experiences. Your results may vary because you aren't them.

And you don't need them.

Raving Fans

On the other end of the spectrum is the person who thinks your every thought and deed is astounding, amazing, incredible. You're Michael Scott and he's Dwight Schrute (well, most of the time).

Unconditional praise is fun but rarely helpful. None of us are that smart, that insightful, or that talented. Often we do get it wrong. Often we do make mistakes.

But often we don't realize it until someone tells us.

It's easy to tell someone he or she is great. It's much, much harder--it takes a real friend--to tell someone he or she can do better.

Hype is the enemy of improvement. Be nice to raving fans, but don't pay much attention to what they say.

Let your mom be the only raving fan you need.

Inside Scoopers

It's hard to resist inside information and gossip. Finding out the reasons behind someone's decisions, the motivations behind someone's actions, the inside scoop about someone's hidden agenda--jeez, that stuff is hard to resist.

The problem is, the person who gives you the inside scoop on other people is also giving other people the inside scoop on you.

The people you want in your inner circle are willing to share the inside scoop on only their own thoughts or feelings--that's not gossip, that's just truth.


The people in your inside circle should have one another's backs.

Backstabbers have no one's back but their own.


Before Copernicus, most people thought Earth was at the center of the solar system. Too bad there hasn't been a Copernicus for people who think everything revolves around them.

Self-interest is good. Enlightened self-interest is better. Self-centered just sucks to be around.

So don't be a Galileo and try to change their minds. Just move on. It's easy.

They won't even notice you're gone.

Roadblock Prophets

The seer of all roadblocks has the uncanny ability to foresee a long list of potential barriers and problems that in reality will not appear and sometimes even cannot appear.

Granted, none of us want to make a mistake we could have avoided. But when someone always counters every single idea with a never-ending list of reasons it just won't work, then he or she needs to go, because unreasonable doubt is the enemy of achievement.

If my idea truly won't work, I definitely want to know. Tell me, tell me why, and then tell me what might work instead. Then you're helping. Then we can go places together.

Otherwise, we should just go our separate ways.


Building connections is important. But networking isn't a numbers game. Connections aren't an end; connections are just a beginning.

Too many beginnings means lots of starts and no finishes. There's no way to build meaningful connections with dozens or hundreds of people.

Be nice, but otherwise keep the schmoozer outside your inner circle. He cares just about making connections.

He doesn't actually want to connect.

Maintenance Schedulers

It makes sense: You need to service some equipment regularly so it doesn't fall apart.

What doesn't make sense is when you need to "service" some personal and professional relationships or they fall apart: They need regular check-ins. They need regular contact so they can feel reassured that you still "care." When they don't get serviced, they make you feel you've somehow let them down.

In short, they're needy.

Real professional relationships are based on only one kind of need: The people you truly want in your inner circle are there when you really need them--just like you are for them.

The Walking Dead*

Some people just drift like zombies. They wander aimlessly from task to task, from day to day and year to year with no plan, no purpose, no goal.

Surround yourself with people who have ambitious plans, meaningful purposes, and big goals. Even if their goals are different from yours--and they probably will be--you'll feed off their energy, and they'll feed off yours.

And stay away from the walking dead. They won't kill you, but they'll definitely kill your motivation and enthusiasm.