I’m glad to announce that I am half way through my latest book due to be launched in Late April 2011. It is tentatively entitled ‘Winning the Game of Life!’. Here is an extract from one of the chapters on the influence our friends have on our lives.

In my career, I get to meet many people who desire to make a change in their life; emotionally, financially, physically and professionally. Through my seminars, my team of coaches and I help thousands of people to make life changing shifts in their habits and behaviours. For example, they get themselves to stop smoking, change their eating habits and spending patterns. In order to achieve the goals they have set, we also train them in the skills to communicate more effectively, become more productive in their work and to even invest successfully.

In the majority of cases, my students make dramatic shifts in their quality of lives and never turn back. However, what bugged me was that in some of the people we helped, the change was not sustainable. They would go back to their life and practice what they had learnt. But after a while, they would lose their focus and motivation and revert to their old limiting behaviours. Sometimes, they would not continue to apply and master the new skills they had learnt.
At first, I could never understand why they did not continue to do what was needed to be done, to achieve what they desired so much. They had the goals and the skills. So, what was stopping them from going for it?

If You Want to Change Your Life, Begin By Changing Your Friends

After some time, I have come to realize that there is a powerful force that influences the way we behave on a consistent basis. This force shapes our beliefs, attitudes, beliefs, values and life standards. It is the force of the people we choose to surround ourselves with. We can do our very best to make a change in our lives but unless we change the people we surround ourselves with, any change we make will not last.

Many people fail to make a sustainable change in their life because the people they spend time with pull them in the opposite direction that they want to go to. For example, I have got students who attend my Wealth Academy programme because they desire to learn the skills to become more financially successful.

Through the programme, they learn that to become more successful in their career, they have to start becoming proactive, doing more than what is expected and spending their time more productively. They have to consistently manage their finances and spend their time to studying stock and property markets and to invest successfully.The problem is that when some of these people go back to their old circle of friends/colleagues who are financially unsuccessful, they will find it very difficult to practice these habits.

If they were to suddenly take a lot more initiative and spend their time working instead of ‘hanging out’ with their friends during coffee breaks, they may be labeled being too ‘on the ball’ and making the others look bad. It will be difficult for them to change their spending habits and invest successfully if their friends spend their time shopping, clubbing and talking about sports instead of finance. The feeling of being uncomfortable and different will soon pressure them to be like one of the gang again.

Conversely, people who are able to stay constantly focus and motivated towards their goals are able to do so because they spend time with people who share those same beliefs and goals. One thing that many of my successful students have in common is that they choose to surround themselves with new people who will further inspire them to take on their new life’s direction. For example, when they spend time with corporate leaders and savvy investors, they find themselves getting inspired daily to continue their new attitudes and behaviours.

Friends Affect Us and Infect Us
Why are our peers such a strong influence on our behaviours? As human beings, we are creatures of conformity. We are hard-wired with the emotional need to be accepted by the people around us. And the same time, we fear rejection. To feel connected and accepted in a group, there is a tendency for us to think and act like the people in that group. Ultimately, people like people who are like themselves.

Have you ever noticed that you tend to talk and act differently when you are amongst different groups of people? All of us have different groups of friends from different social circles. For example, I have got schools friends, army buddies, colleagues, business friends and family friends.

Your Friends Affect Your Success
If friends have such a strong influence on us, we have to be very careful with who we choose to spend out time with. Whether we like it or not, our friends affect how successful we will become in our finances, relationships, careers and even our health.
I believe that we should mix around with all kinds of people from different socio-economic backgrounds, races and religions. It opens our minds and teaches us to be more understanding, compassionate and tolerant of others. There is always something we can learn from anybody, regardless of their age and experiences.

At the same time, we should consciously be aware of how much time we are spending with each group of people. Hanging around certain friends may be fun, but we should be mindful not too spend all our time with people who may subconsciously hold us back from where we want to go.

Why the Rich Get Richer
If you want to be financially successful, you have to network with financially successful people. The reason why I am able to stay passionate and motivated in investing is because many of the friends I spend time with are successful entrepreneurs and investors. Whenever we get together, they are always talking about their views on the stock market, the hottest investments and how much profits they have made.

One if my friends who is a savvy investor always talks about the few hundred thousand he makes trading FOREX (foreign exchange) and commodities. By being around people like that, it is not difficult to stay motivated to keep improving your own investing skills. At the same time, every meeting with them is an educational experience. We add value to each other by sharing our knowledge and experiences. This is why the rich get richer. If you only hang around people who take a salary and put it in a bank and whose only ‘investment’ is buying the lottery (4D), then you can forget about ever being

The Same Thing Applies in Your Health and Relationships
The same concept applies in the areas of your health and family relationships. If you are someone who is ‘trying’ to quit smoking and drinking, it may not be a good idea to hang around friends who go clubbing all the time. Instead, if you want to be fit and healthy, connect with people who are health conscious. It sound simple, but it is very powerful.
Do your friends affect the decisions you make in your relationships and your marriage? You bet! My wife and I have been happily married for ten years. Although we have had our share of fights and disagreements like all other couples, our commitment to making our marriage work has helped us to always work out our issues and to emerge even closer in the end.

Then, a few years ago my wife got invited to a gathering with some of her old girlfriends from school, whom she had not seen in over 20 years. During their get together, she found that four out of her five friends were in failed relationships. Three had divorced their husbands and the fourth woman never got married because she had broken up with her boyfriend of five years. Guess what they talked about all night? Men. Many of them were really upset so they talked about how men can never be trusted and how they will always cheat on you eventually. They complained about how men can be so insensitive and irresponsible. Naturally, in order to fit in, my wife felt compelled to complain as well.

Do you think that interaction affected how she felt about me? Thank goodness it was only one meeting and no damage was done. However, can you imagine if she hung around people who talked like that all the time. It will only be natural that the bitterness, fear and anger towards ‘men’ would soon affect her. After that one meeting, my wife said that she would never meet up with them again as they were a really bad influence. Anyone hanging around them would probably never want to get into another relationship.

Stay away from friends who poison your mind and your soul. Instead, spend time with people who inspire you to be a better husband, wife, father or mother. For every relationship that does not work, you can bet that there are plenty that do. Wouldn’t it be more useful to be inspired and learn from couples who are able to keep their marriage strong despite all the challenges?

One thing that has inspired my wife and I have been the successful marriages we have witnessed around us. My maternal grandfather was married to my grandmother for fifty years until her passing. Despite all the hardships they went through, including surviving World War II, they celebrated their golden anniversary and remained committed to each other until the very end.

I have another friend who is married with four children. Despite working in a full-time job and not having a maid, his wife takes care of his four children while he works 18-19 hour days building his business. Despite being so tired and having so little time together, they remain as loving as the day they first met. They may disagree, but they never raise their voices on each other and always work things out together. Again, it is hard not to get inspired when you spend time with such people.

Raise Your Game By Playing With Better Players
Let’s imagine that you play a sport like Tennis. If you only play with players who are at your standard or slightly worse, would you enjoy your game? Yes, you may. You will find it easy to win and it will make you feel good about yourself as a player.
However, if you play once in a while with players who are a lot more experienced and skillful would you enjoy the game? Initially, you may feel the frustration and inferior. However, if you continue playing, you can be sure than in a few months you would become a much better player. Playing with better players raises your standards and gives you the opportunity to observe and learn how the best play.

One of the secrets to my own personal success has been the fact that I have always enjoyed networking with people who were more successful than me. This has applied to all aspects of my life. When I made my first million at age 26 and ran two businesses that achieved a combined sales revenue of $20 million, I thought that I was pretty successful. After all, all my peers had achieved a lot less than I had. After a while, this made me complacent. I lost the drive to keep learning and achieving even more. There was nothing to challenge and stretch me out of my comfort zone.

Then in 2002 I joined an organization called the Young Entrepreneurs Organization (now, called EO) where I had the chance to meet and network with many other entrepreneurs from around the region. From feeling like I was on the top of the hill, I suddenly felt inferior among some of the more successful members. What I had achieved was nothing compared to what some of them have achieved. Some of them ran publicly listed companies worth over $300 million and had personal net worth in the region of $10-$20 million. They led a staff of a few thousand in offices spread over many countries while I only had a team of 60 in Singapore at the time.

From feeling complacent, I suddenly felt inspired and challenged again. ‘If these people can do this, why can’t I?’ I said to myself. Every meeting and networking session was a tremendous learning experience for me as I picked up new ideas that would later lead to breakthroughs in my own business and personal wealth. The right people you spend time with will provide you with a richer education that whatever you have learnt in school.

If You Want to Be a Winner, Be With Winners
Simply put, be around people who you want to be more like. If you want to be happy, hang around with happy people. If you want to become wealthier, spend time with financially successful people. If you do not know where to find them, joining the Wealth academy program and the alumni would be a great start. If you want to be more successful, develop relationships with people who are driven to achieve.

As a final exercise, I want you to make a list of people you would like to meet, network with and spend more time with? Who do you think can help you bring out the best in yourself in the different areas of your life? Could it be a colleague, boss, friend, fellow seminar participant, relative etc…? Think about this and make a list of people you aim to connect more with.
Once you have this list, start taking action and take the first step to initiate a relationship with them. This first step will set you on the path to much greater success.

P.S. Let me know what you think of this chapter. The feedback will be very helpful in the writing of my new book!