What I’ve Learned Yesterday #26 (influence of environment)

No, it is not an article about a climate change or air pollution and how it affects nature and life on our planet, although I care about those things a lot and one day will put a lot of resources into it, but at the moment I do a necessary minimum – sharing an article, recycling, using less energy and water, taking public transport to commute throughout the city, not smoking and so on.

This topic requires a separate article, there is a ton of data, hundreds of thousands experiments that confirm global warming and pointing what causes it, but we still hear people saying it’s a bullshit. OK. Enough. I wanted to talk about social environment and what I learned about this.

There is a magic rule I wish everyone to know. It is not a secret, you can find it in Google, you can find different forms of it, spelled by different people in a different way, but the key message remains the same.

The people you spend the most time with shape who you are. Actually the number that always figuring out in this rule is 5. It derives from the law of averages (statistics again ;)) which is the theory that the result of any given situation will be the average of all outcomes. We might interact with a lot of people, but the closest ones will have the greatest impact on our thinking, our behavior and the decisions we make.

I like to look at it as scaling. If you and your friends are thinking hundreds you will always be around hundreds. People who think millions will always look for the ways to get to the millions and stay in that scale. If all your friends are negative and see only bad things in life, you won’t see anything good, because you’re looking into a different direction. You don’t even have a chance to see the positive, because you are focused towards the negative.

Now imagine that you are thinking hundreds and you meet a person who think thousands and one of your close friends accepts a job offer on a station in Antarctica and you cannot spend that much time with him. Before your average was (100+100+100+100+100)/5 = 100 (I suppose everyone knows the formula to calculate average, here is the refresher, just in case). And now it is (100+100+100+100+1000)/5 = 280! And now you start to think bigger, you expand your scale, you find it is possible to go beyond 100.

Now you see there is another direction. You know it exists. Now imagine you decide to change, to improve yourself and become let’s say 150 (you can’t convert into a 1000 overnight, reality, nothing else). The value of your group now 150+100+100+100+1000 = 1450 and your average is just 290. It didn’t change a lot, did it? Because if you want to get to a 1000 you have to be around 1000s. All members of your group have to move their asses.

The horrible truth, there is a statistical effect called regression to the mean. That says that all extreme results on a long term are getting moderated to the average. So if no condition changes, everyone in your group will be somewhere around 300. It’s awesome, you have changed your scale, but also you have destroyed someone’s life! That 1000 guy became 300 only. Shame on you.

Now let’s make another calculation. Imagine your all friends became 1000. (150+1000+1000+1000+1000)/5 = 830! And now you start to improve even faster, because the average of your group is 830! And what if you were 1000 too?

Of course, life is not that easy. It is not just addition and division, it is much much more complex, but doing little math gives you a perspective. You understand your scale, you understand your focus, you understand why you where you are. And what to do with this is completely your choice. 

And the last thing I would like to say, – science is not just for the guys in white coats, we can also use its methods in our everyday life; here is just a little example.


Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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