Stop Spending Time With Toxic People

The people around you rarely have a neutral effect on you -- they either facilitate your accomplishments or undermine them.

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By Dan S. Kennedy

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In his book No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs, business coach and consultant Dan Kennedy reveals the steps behind making the most of your frantic, time-pressured days so you can turn time into money. In this edited excerpt, the author explains the people you spend time with affect your productivity and why you should carefully choose who to associate with.

One of the most significant things you can control is association -- your choices of who you permit into your world, who you give time to or invest time with, and who you look to for ideas, information and education. The people around you rarely have a neutral effect. They either facilitate your accomplishment, they undermine it, or they sabotage it outright.

The first useful association tactic is the elimination of toxic people and saboteurs. It's not an easy thing to face facts about a friend, family member, long-time employee or long-time vendor when they are, in some way, interfering with or disapproving of your accomplishment. It's important to face these facts and to act on them because the more time you spend with people who are unhelpful, unsupportive, disrespectful, envious, resentful, dysfunctional or outright damaging to you, the less value all your time has.

These people don't just harm the minutes you and they are in the same place. Few people can so perfectly compartmentalize that they can lock every thought, assertion and act of a toxic person in a little mind box and without leakage into other mind boxes. Paraphrasing a Chinese proverb (I found in a fortune cookie), if you lie down with mongrel dogs, even for a short nap, you wake up with fleas -- and they ride with you wherever you go.

Ideas, beliefs, opinions and habits work just like that. Even if you're associating only occasionally or briefly with someone who is intellectually or emotionally toxic or someone who is feckless and inept, it's enough time for the fleas to leap from them to you, burrow in and be carried away by you to subtly affect your performance and productivity. If your creativity or constructive thinking or work performance is thus diminished, so is the value of your time.

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People who are detrimental for you to associate with are not necessarily of evil intent. They may all be "good people," but that doesn't mean they're good for you. Good chocolate cake is not good for a diabetic. In fact, it's poison. Associating with somebody who is always pushing it to you, saying "Just have a tiny piece" is just as suicidal as baking it for yourself.

There are lots of ways a person can be toxic and poisonous to you. I've had clients describe how recurring disputes with a particular employee were mentally exhausting but couldn't be helped because otherwise, that person was a great asset. The "otherwise" is a big problem. Many small businesses wind up with a ruthlessly defensive key person who goes into murder mode anytime an attempt is made to add a second person but is "otherwise" terrific.

There's the "we tried that before" guy. If it were up to him, we'd light the place with candles because Edison would have been limited to one try. There's the "constructive critic," always making you feel inadequate or undeserving, in the guise of being a cautionary ally worrying over you stubbing a toe.

On the other hand, constructive association with creative, inspiring, encouraging people can do a great deal to bolster your performance, thus making your time more valuable. Each minute of your time is made more or less valuable by the condition of your mind, and it is constantly being conditioned by association.

The entrepreneur is particularly susceptible to gaining or losing power by association because he has so many diverse responsibilities and is often operating under pressure, duress and urgency. Playing this game in a compromised mental state, weakened or wounded by poor ideas and attitudes seeded into the mind by association, is extremely difficult. Playing it strengthened and empowered by rich ideas and attitudes seeded into the mind by association can make the difficult easy.

Simply put, you want to deliberately reduce and restrict the amount of your time left vulnerable to random thought or association, and deliberately, sharply reduce the amount of time given to association with people who won't make any productive contribution and may do harm. Does that mean you can only spend time with people you are in complete philosophical agreement with? No. In fact, such isolationism can be dangerous. But it does mean you should avoid association with people who believe and promulgate beliefs diametrically opposed to "success orientation."

You want to deliberately increase the amount of your time directed at chosen thinking and input, and constructive, productive association. You want to associate with strivers and achievers, with winners and champions. This is an uplifting force that translates into peak performance, which makes all your time more valuable.

Dan S. Kennedy

Author, Strategic Advisor, Consultant, and Business Coach

DAN S. KENNEDY is a strategic advisor, consultant, business coach, and author of the popular No B.S. book series. He directly influences more than one million business owners annually. 

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