Not long ago I watched this video from Gary Vaynerchuck about how we should “drop one loser friend“. He suggested that we do an audit of the friends we have today, spot the loser and then just stop hanging out with him (or her). The theory goes that we are the average of our closest 5 friends so if we hang out with better people, we become better ourselves but if we hang out with worse people, we become worse.
That’s rough. It’s tough because this approach forces you to be judgmental and to some extent ruthless when it comes to auditing the kind of friends we should have. The challenge doesn’t end there though.
The big question is “How do you differentiate a winner from a loser friend?”.
It’s certainly not by who has more money, or power, or fame or anything like that. We can to some extent look at how driven or motivated people are but how can you really tell? I’ve seen people talk the big game like they’re really driven or motivated but actually have little to show for themselves after years.
So I really struggled with trying to define what Gary considers a loser. What about a friend of mine who doesn’t have any ambition to do great things but is really really happy with life. He can’t be a loser… because hey he looks happier than me and that’s one thing he’s winning at.
After some time I sat down and put together the things that define a “loser friend” or just someone I don’t want to hang out with. At the risk of sounding judgmental, I’m going to share with you my unfiltered checklist I use to filter out “loser friends”.
1) He always talks about himself.
Have you ever been in a group of friends where there’s always one particular person that constantly dominates the conversations the group has. Even when the topic isn’t about him, he’ll make it about him. If you talk about something totally unrelated to him, like say how your friend got mugged, he’ll bring it back to talk about how he once thought he was going to get mugged too.
Now it’s not that this kind of friend never listens. Sure… during the span of a two hour outing with a friend there may be a few minutes where he quiets down and listens instead but in proportion of all the time spent.. you would notice he dominates the conversations some 90% of the time.
This kind of friend too often doesn’t take kindly to friendly debate. If he believes in something like “Trump is the best President the USA has ever had”… no matter how you argue with whatever data you can prove, you will never win the argument. It’ll only make him angrier.
2) He’s boastful and arrogant.
In my experience, arrogance is often caused by deeply set insecurity in someone. That person may feel that he’s not good enough so he needs to brag, show off his wealth or put down someone else in a group. It may not be about material wealth. I’ve seen people who have a lot of wealth but have insecurities that lie from their own abilities.
One particular person I’ve known comes from a rich family and does reasonably well at business but constantly puts down the success of his other friends. You’ll see such a person try to find a fault in a particular business (which isn’t hard because every business no matter how perfect has a fault). Things like “My other friend bought his product and he thought the service was terrible”. Or if he hasn’t had the time to find something bad to say, he might go with “At least I sleep well at night without having the stress he has”.
3) He treats people differently based on who they are in society.
I personally can’t stand people like that. If you really want to know what someone is like, don’t base it on how he or she treats you. Pay attention to how he talks to the security guard at your condo, or a waiter at a restaurant, or any of his employees that work under him. That… is how you can really tell what someone is like.
If you know someone is an asshole from how he treats people he considers “beneath” him, then chances are… one day if you’re nobody to him… he may treat you the same way. Life is too short for friends like that. But if you feel that you still enjoy such a person’s company then go ahead and mingle with the full realization that this is a “fair weather friend”.
4) He never fails to tell someone else what to do but never practices what he preaches.
This kind of loser friend often has a lot of opinions not just about world affairs or about himself but also about how you should live your life. Pay attention to whether he holds himself to the same standards or does the very same things he tells other people not to do. Don’t bother calling them out if you see inconsistency in their behaviour. They’ll likely get offended and have some reasoning anyway on why his situation is different than yours was.
Don’t bother. Just drop the loser friend and walk away.
5) He talks about all the great things he has done only for you to learn that he had little contribution to that.
Loser friends are constantly talking about their past successes. It works very well because people generally don’t suspect everything that someone says is a lie or exaggerated or taken out of context. We don’t because we just don’t have enough mental capacity to be suspicious of everything everyone tells us.
By some chance if you do dig deeper though and find out that someone played a small role, or even took things out of context then you know he’s bullshitting you. But even if it’s true. Even if he did do certain things, losers constantly get hung up on their past successes. Winners always look for the next success. Which brings me to my next point.
6) He always talk about things he’s going to do but never does it.
This is pretty straightforward. So I won’t elaborate.
7) He blames everyone but himself for his mistakes.
Have you ever heard someone say “It’s because of him that this happened to me” or they sometimes come with a partial concession like “Yes sure I made a mistake BUT it wouldn’t have been like that if it wasn’t for what this person did”.
Losers blame others over themselves because they can’t help it. It’s too much weight on their insecurity. Winners on the other hand always blame themselves, even if it’s not totally their fault. It’s only when you acknowledge that you made a mistake that you can start working on what to fix.
8) He talks bad about other people all the time.
This again is one of the things contributed by insecurity. The need to put other people down so that he comes off better. Gossip can create bonds and can be exciting at times but we can’t ever forget that if someone talks bad about other people with you, at some point he’ll be talking bad about you too.
I’ve used these 8 steps to identify what a “loser” friend is. Since then I feel like the quality of my life has improved tremendously. I have friends that I can count on, deeper and more meaningful relationships and more importantly I don’t have to put up with the negativity that “loser” friends bring. I guess Gary Vaynerchuck is right on this one.
Notice that at no point does any of my definition include how rich, how powerful or how famous anyone is. In recent years, I’ve learned to choose my friends based on who they are rather than what they have.
The additional benefit I derive from this kind of thinking is that I reflect upon myself every now and then to see if I fall into any of the 8 points I just mentioned above. Sometimes I do… like maybe I’m dominating conversations with friends in a group and when that happens I spot myself becoming a “loser” and start arresting that behaviour of mine.
It’s true that we are the average of our closest 5 friends but it’s also true that when we’re our own hardest critic, we become better.