I recently had a great experience hanging out with a group of friends I rarely get to spend time with. We had witty conversation and talked about our lives and careers. After the visit I felt refreshed and energized. Looking back, I think what I enjoyed most was the "realness" in the room. Good people are great to have around. Let's face it, most of our lives and careers are based on relationships - might as well cultivate the best ones you've got! Here's five reasons why I think so.
1. A Different Perspective: If the only people you're socializing with are co-workers and "best friends since second grade" it might be time to branch out. The more people communicating and sharing ideas - the better. Make an effort to listen and learn something new from someone outside your normal friend group.
2. Networking: I know. It sounds shallow but you know people who know people who know people. Surround yourself with friends whose opinions you trust. Don't be weird about going outside your inner-circle. There are plenty of new people out there with ideas that could help you on your career and life path. This also applies to people outside your age group, industry and belief system.
3. Positivity: "Happiness is a choice!" Listen, everyone has those days (the blues, mean reds, etc.). I believe positivity has so much to do with your state-of-mind. I am drawn to people who keep looking forward. Easy way to measure the positivity factor: Gossip. It's a blaring indicator of a negative group. Needless gossip can drag down a group. If it feels like every get-together turns into a nasty roast, that's probably a sign something (or somebody) needs a perspective shift.
4. Constructive criticism: It's a good thing. Not every idea I come up with is golden. It's important to have honest people around who can tell me when I need to take a seat. "Constructive Criticism" is different from negativity. Learning to accept and appreciate a critique is a key (and really tough) part of growing up.
5. Brainstorming Buddies: "Rangers, Power up!" Take it from the Power Rangers, the more super minds working together the better. It's not just about surrounding yourself with people, to truly benefit you've got to listen to other perspectives and opinions. The next big idea could be an off-the-wall topic at your next dinner party.
The Big Picture: Moral of the story: we're all better together, but make sure the people you're hanging out with are helping you grow, not holding you back.