Mark Danger Powers

drummer • educator • author

What A Cup Of Coffee Will Buy You

I’ve often heard it said that you are an average of the five people you spend most of your time with.

I don’t believe that “five” is the precise magic number for everyone of us. And “time” could mean a variety of things: that spent physically in the company of another person, and that spent communicating via telephone, emails, text messages, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. But I do agree that our attitude, values, morals, confidence, goals, motivation, productivity, and even income, are heavily influenced by (and often end up being almost identical to) those that we surround ourselves with.

One of my resolutions at the beginning of this year (yes, I still make that silly annual list) was to become aware of who those people are, analyze whether each of these relationships is a positive or negative influence on my life, and adjust accordingly.

Tyler Tervooren wrote about making a similar decision in his recent post on PickTheBrain.com:

Just like your environment, the people you’re around influence how you act. Truth is, your friends don’t want you to change even if they say they do because that makes them uncomfortable. The first time I decided to be a writer, I hung around with all the same people that didn’t understand me. The second time I decided to be a writer, I started hanging around other successful writers. Which one worked?

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Give a Latte, Get a Lot(te)

In addition to learning to say NO to people and projects that are holding you back, one of the most valuable things you can do is . . . go have a drink? Yep! You’ve probably heard of David Bach’s Latte Factor. This is my latte factor: a simple cafe beverage (with prices ranging from $1.75 to $4.50) may very well be the best investment you can make in yourself right now.

In the last six months, I have made it a point to seek out and befriend several Portlanders who I feel are making some serious waves in the world. People who may not be doing exactly what I want to be doing with my life, but they are doing what they want to be doing with theirs. Self-starters who aren’t “settling for,” won’t take no for an answer, and are creating the lives they desire, no matter how unusual or risky that might seem to the rest of us. They follow their own rules . . . and inspire the heck out of me!

How have I been able to sit down and chat with such amazing individuals? I’ve invited them each out for coffee!

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Fellow traveler Brittany Sims is one of my new favorite peeps in the area- but unfortunately, not for long. She’s soon headed back to Cambodia, where she’ll be building a social enterprise from the ground up, to help bring some much needed change to the women of the country.

You may recall me mentioning Sean Ogle a few weeks ago, as he was launching his incredible online program, Overcoming the Fear of Uncertainty. We first met in Bangkok, Thailand this past March and then reconnected once he landed stateside over the summer. Sean has been helpful, generous, and I’m absolutely blown away by the mobile lifestyle he’s created for himself.

The Professor of Riskology, Tyler Tervooren (quoted above) is unstoppable! This guy just keep pumpin’ out loads of killer blog posts, jam-packed with fresh ideas and concepts that every single one of us can benefit from. In our few times hanging out, Tyler has tossed me even more great thoughts and advice for my own specific projects. Check out his free eBook, Take This Job & Shove It, and stay tuned- I’m going to talk him into playing some music together here before too long!

If you were watching NBC about two months back, you might have caught Tammy Strobel giving the Today Show a tour of her home. Tammy and her husband, Logan, have effectively downsized their lives and have proven that it’s possible to get by comfortably with a mere 100 personal items! She’s written a couple of awesome eBooks about how to work for yourself & the benefits of living car-free.

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Meeting up with Brittany, Sean, Tyler and Tammy has provided me with piles of great ideas, a renewed motivation to plow ahead with my personal and professional projects, an enlarged team of supporters and some cool new friends. Oh, yeah . . . and a caffeine buzz.

Two powerful action steps for you to take today:

1. Sit down and, down the left side of a sheet of paper, create a column identifying the five, or seven, or three, or ten, people that you associate with the most.

I’ve created a handy-dandy PDF that you can download, print and use for this exercise! Snag it by clicking here.

Then, add a short list of thoughts to the right of each name on the page, quickly writing the first things that come to mind about that person and/or, in general, your relationship with them. There are no right or wrong answers here; anything goes. It’s okay to have a seemingly random, stream-of-consciousness list of ‘stuff.’ The point is to not overthink the exercise, but rather to record your gut feelings and reactions.

Your sheet will start looking something like this:

(click image for larger view)

Now, take a long hard look at the paper in front of you. Again, no right or wrong answers exist, but what do you see? What do these lists tell you about what you’re drawing from your time and interactions with these friends/co-workers/etc.? Now, I fully understand that a relationship has to be a two-way street and what you are bringing to the table is important, as well. But I’ll bet that everyone of us has been (or is) in at least one situation that is purely draining, negative and detrimental to our mental, emotional and even physical health and growth.

It’s not my place to tell you what to do with the insight you gather from that list. But do it. Now.

And, while you’re at it . . .

2. Think of one person (perhaps who you’ve never met) that you respect, consider successful and would love to get some advice and direction from. Someone who’s doing something along the lines of what you wish you were accomplishing. Once you’ve picked a name, DO NOT wait and allow time for excuses to pop up. Immediately get on the phone (or email) and invite him (or her) to meet one morning yet this week. Offer to buy him a coffee, saying that you would love to get his thoughts on your current project, idea or goal. Or, you might ask to simply hear his story- what steps he took to get where he’s at today. What failures has he learned (and grown) from along the way?

Keep your mind wide open during your little coffee date and I guarantee you’ll leave with inspiration that you hadn’t walked in the door with. In our pursuit to grow and succeed, I challenge you to come up with a better investment for those few loose dollar bills in your back pocket.

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After you’ve written that list, made that call and had that coffee . . .
drop a comment below and tell me how it went!

25 Comments

  1. Wow! Great advice. Mom always said I’d end up like the kids I hung around!Thanks Mark…

    • And mom is usually right. 🙂 Thanks for swinging by, Steve!

  2. I can appreciate the challenge put forth. I will do my best to go out of my comfort box and invest in a cup of coffee with a complete stranger. Update to follow..

    • Awesome, Erin- I’m stoked that you’re up to the challenge! Look forward to hearing how it goes!

  3. An additional tip.

    I find it is the 8 closest people to you. Create a spider web with you in the centre. Put in the 8 closest to you in the web, then the next 8 and so on for 32 people. These 32 people are defining you, your happiness and your success.

    Review it often and if you need to make some changes then get proactive about it.

    • Interesting idea- I like the web way of looking at it, because your influencers are certainly being influenced from other directions, as well. Very cool that you dropped by and added that, Jonny!

  4. Mark Powers: Definitely one of the most genuine, true, talented, inspiring people I know. Gotta make it a priority to stay in touch with this guy.

    • Gretchen, I’ve said it before and this certainly won’t be the last time . . . you’re the best! I truly appreciate you.

  5. Excellent Mark! Really loved this post, and your unstoppable attitude toward life.

    • Wow- thanks a ton, Lucinda! Your continual support and encouragement keeps me goin’ stronger!

  6. Great advice. Life is about making connections and by reaching out you never know what opportunities may lie ahead.

    • Hear hear! Some of my most rewarding projects and adventures have come out of casual chats with new acquaintances. Thanks for the comment, Jenny!

  7. Such a simple yet amazing concept. As I was reading I was thinking of the people I associate with most and started to put the pieces in place before even doing the excercise.
    There are as many people who add some degree of negativity as there are positive and the real question is how to approach that. Obviously cutting contact with them is in most cases not an option but I think recognition is the first step in correcting or in the case of positive influences embracing and building on.

    • Hey, Dave! I completely agree . . . I’m definitely not suggesting that we start cutting ties with a pile of friends. Simply becoming aware of who we keep closest, and who we allow ourselves to be influenced by, is a huge step in the right direction!

      • I find that recognizing and moderating the negativity from an individual is valuable not just to me, but to the individual as sometimes they are not aware they are being negative. Sometimes it’s just a kind nudge to get them to phrase/see things in a more positive lite, and often that light will shine on something they hadn’t seen in themselves. Being honest with friends is a key factor in friendship for me.

        • Great point, Alice. In some cases, helping someone get around some negativity, rather than running from it, would be a win-win scenario. And most likely more healthy for all involved. Thanks for that!

  8. I can think of 2 people I’ve met recently that are doing what I’d like to do. A cup of coffee is an informal, and easy way to get to know someone and share common interests, thoughts, and goals.

    Thanks for this simple, yet fantastic idea!

    • And thank you for taking the time to read and comment! Keep in touch- I’d love to hear how those coffee dates go!

      • Actually I find the coffee idea quite civilized. When I was an at home mom, that is how I connected with the neighbors, an afternoon coffee party. Consider that too as you get to know more people you admire.

  9. Again Mark, I am impressed. You’re creative thought and style of writing is very encouraging. I am focusing on the Five. This blog is right in line with the same message from several people to me. Thanks. Alice Block

    • Alice- you’re awesome! Thanks for contributing to the discussions on here. Focus on the Five and be sure to keep me posted . . .

  10. Love this idea! Sometimes we don’t know how influential people are in our lives until we see it on paper. I met with Sean Ogle this morning for coffee and I will admit that it was some of the best time I’ve spent recently. Sean is one of the most genuine helpful guys you will ever meet. Looking forward to meeting up with Mr. Mark Powers in a week as well. 😉

    I’ve always tried to surround myself with like minded friends. That doesn’t mean they are all “yes men” but people who are sincere, honest and challenge me and call BS when I need it. Those are your core friends, the people you can really count on.

    • Right on, Matt- very cool that you connected with Sean! He really is a super genuine, generous dude. And here you and I finally get to meet, in only a matter of days! Here’s to expanding that core inner-circle . . . see you soon!

  11. We’ve talked about this in the past, and its just all that more meaningful to see it written here. In fact, I picked up my phone and tweeted someone who I’ve thought for a long time would be amazing to meet. He was most receptive and we had a tea and a fantastic, productive, inspiring conversation as a result. Being in constant contact with people who are supportive and challenging seems like a great way to open up exciting possibilities- and it’s amazing how the ideas can flow between people when the mix is right!

    I don’t like the idea of cutting someone out of my life because I don’t think they contribute enough value to mine. (but maybe that’s not what you’re talking about) Something about that seems too calculating for me to be able to apply it to people with whom I have a long history and care about. On the other hand, sometimes distances happens organically as people follow different paths. I am definitely a proponent of following your own path- and that does sometimes take people in different directions. Being self aware and refusing to march to anything other than the beat of your own little song will result in like minded people filling up your life and sharing your time.

    In any event, I like where you’re going with this. Thanks for sharing a great post and providing me with a little homework.

    • Yes, yes, yes! I’m so happy you did that, Lucinda! And as you suggest, “cutting people out” is definitely not what I’m recommending anyone to do. But awareness of the vibes we’re surrounding ourselves with, and perhaps increasing the time spent with those “supportive and challenging” people, can have a major impact on everything we do and are. Thanks a ton for coming back here and passing along your experience. And congratulations!

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