Imagine you step onto a tennis court, facing a partner that's at least 50% better than you. As you volley back-and-forth, you notice the precision of your shots, the power of your serve, and the intensity of your game. Your stronger opponent has raised your level of play, helping you push to new heights of performance. You played up.

Now imagine the same scenario against a player 50% worse than you. You know you can win the match handily, so you take it easy. Your play is a bit sloppy and while you win the set, you certainly don't advance your game.

Surrounding yourself with people that push and challenge you has a powerful way of elevating your performance, which is a concept that extends far beyond athletics. Conversely, if the people in your life are playing small, you suffer a natural gravitational pull working against you, dragging you back instead of helping you leap forward.

As you work to achieve your best in your business, career, family and community, the company you keep becomes an important factor. If your colleagues are driven, growth-oriented, and creative, you'll see these same traits magnified in yourself. On the other hand, if your peer group consists of lazy, apathetic blamers, you may pick up some of their negative characteristics.

It's been said that your net worth is likely the average net worth of the three people closest to you. Our peers, colleagues, and friends have a surprisingly large impact on how our lives unfold. Corner-cutting teams produce more corner-cutters. High integrity groups replicate ethical behavior. Shallow, gossipy friends drag down your own thinking and behavior.

Even if you've been stuck with the same colleagues or friends for years, think about branching out. Imagine the ideal version of yourself--the person you truly want to become--and then consider which people are most like your vision. Even if you have to network or find a fresh way to connect with new faces, purposely choosing the people in your life can drive a dramatic impact. Seek out those that can challenge you to play your best. Push you to the next level. Help you grow and expand.

Embrace one of the most powerful approaches to improve performance. Surround yourself with people that personify the qualities you seek, and you'll simply thrive.

Play up.