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You Are the Sum of What You Look At

Oct 30, 2019


Hi everybody. It’s Dmitri Bilgere here with another tip about how you can be the inspired leader you were born to be, both at work, at home, and all over your life.

What I want to talk about today is, I was thinking about that saying—you may have heard it—it’s the saying that, “You’re the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.” 

And I think that maybe before the internet age that was true, but it’s really not true anymore. I think today what you are is, “You are the sum of what you look at.” Especially on the internet, but I think you are the sum of what you look at.

The idea used to be if you hung around with certain people, they would rub off on you. Their attitudes would rub off on you. Their ways of thinking about things. That you’d be influenced even if you thought these were just little interactions that didn’t really matter, you’re gonna be influenced.

That’s true, but it’s even more true with what it is you look at. If you spend time flipping through feeds—on Facebook or Reddit or Twitter or whatever—of things that make you angry all the time, you are going to be the sum of all those little posts that make you angry. That’s what you’re going to turn into. You’ll become incredibly bitter about life. If you’re always reading books that are uplifting, or biographies of great people, or sci-fi that you really enjoy, stuff like that, that’s going to have that impact on you too. You’re going to be the sum of the quality of what you interact with there as well.

This is a big deal. I recently read a book by Cal Newport called Deep Work because I’ve been thinking about concentration a lot, and he talks about how we tend to think that it’s the big outcomes in life that really matter and they’re the only things we really need to think about. Did I get the job? Did I get married? Did I get a raise? Did I succeed at this thing? The big outcomes are what we think of like, “That’s what’s important.” And all the little moment-to-moment stuff? That can be ignored.

But it turns out the reverse is actually a lot more true. What you do moment-to-moment, what you look at moment-to-moment, what media you’re consuming moment-to-moment—it’s those little moments that actually add up to who you become. Just as it’s easy to say with the five people you hang out with who have the biggest impact, “Well, you know, we just hang out occasionally, it doesn’t really matter,” it’s easy to say, “While I’m standing in line I flip through Facebook and that doesn’t really matter.” But if you’re doing that literally for, like, hours a day, it actually really does matter. 

It’s the little things in life, like they say, that matter. And they actually create that big picture outcome that you might be going for.

So what’s the takeaway for this? Over the next few days, if you think of it, think about, “What is it I’m looking at most? What is it I’m absorbing most?” Maybe think this: “If this is influencing me ten times more than I think or 100 times more than I think—if this is influencing my attitude, my day-to-day feelings, and my ability to focus on something for more than a moment—would I really want to be looking at it?” And if you feel like you wouldn’t, maybe search out things that actually do inspire you and do make you feel good. Either reading books, on the internet, people you like—something like that. 

It’s just so easy for these little moments that we have throughout our day to get sucked up and filled up with flipping through the five internet friends who make us the craziest. That is something you really might want to consider.

So drop a comment here if it’s something that you’ve thought about, or if you feel like maybe there are things that are influencing you more than you think. And let me know how it works out if you decide to make a change.  



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