Why You Should Surround Yourself With Difficult People
The longer I blog, the more I interact with other bloggers. The more I interact with other bloggers, the more I do cross-promotion with them and work with them. And the more that the cross-promotion and working with other bloggers happens, the more I recognize that I don’t always agree with other bloggers.
I’ve come across advice blog after advice blog in recent weeks, only to find I have mixed opinions on the blogging advice being shelled out in such posts. On one hand, it’s great that I don’t agree with some of the advice being offered to other bloggers. By not agreeing with someone, it forces me to analytically think about why I don’t like their opinion at a level beyond calling the person a stupidhead who is incapable of writing an article with any original thought (even if it is true). On the other hand, it’s disappointing to see bad advice and misinformation make their way onto the internet, because there are people who will blindly follow the first thing they see that even remotely conforms to their preexisting opinions.
I love thinking analytically. I love being challenged with a difficult problem. I love learning. To do any of those thing though, I have to keep people who don’t agree with me around me. There’s a common saying that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. There’s a lot of basis in that theory — after all, it relies on the Law of Averages to succeed — however I choose to look at that saying a bit differently.
For the majority of my childhood, I spent a significant amount of time around both my mom and my dad (albeit in separate locations thanks to their divorce when I was very young). There was quite a bit I learned from them, however the items that stick with me the most today are what I learned not to do thanks to them. My mom1To my knowledge. hasn’t had a job since she was 19 because she feels it’s a man’s responsibility to provide for a woman in all situations. Her insistence on this being a part of her life taught me that this kind of unfair thinking was not only sexist in many situations, but also set standards of what a very unfair relationship would look like. My dad, on the other hand, had a bad habit of spending money frivolously on things he didn’t truly need. While many times my brother and I would have a nutritious* dinner of ramen noodles and kool-aid, he continued to compile guns for his collection, while spending more money on cigarettes than food.
If anything, being exposed to behaviors like these reinforced the fact that I didn’t want to be like either of my parents. The same goes for keeping difficult people around you. Part of their involvement in your life is to make your opinions and arguments stronger by challenging your preconceived notions as to how something should work. When the difficult people around you fulfill this need, it’s a wonderful thing. Sometimes, those difficult people will do nothing more than teach you how not to act (or how not to write in the case of bloggers).
The demoralizing thing is that in some situations, there will be more people who agree with the difficult person than with you — even if you’re the one in the right. There will also be difficult people who refuse to recognize your input, no matter how valuable it is, just because they don’t agree with you. While these people are (obviously) a bit more of a nuisance to deal with on a daily basis, this doesn’t mean you completely remove this person from your life. If anything, keep this person around to serve as motivation to do better. Even if their shitty, crowd-sourced blog post is drawing hundreds of hits and tens of comments per day while the post you spend four hours working on is barely noticed, you’ll be the one setting yourself up for more long-term success.
What’s the most difficult type of person for you to deal with? How do you use difficult people for motivation in your own life? Sound off in the comments.
Front page image credit: Alexandre Dulaunoy on Flickr