Monday, August 22, 2011

You Are The Average Of Your Friends

Friends are one of the best things in life.  They also influence you more than you may know.

A very wise man once told me that we are all the average of our five closest friends.  They influence our habits, our diet, our hobbies, our profession, and our income.

A common anecdote I've heard is that your income will be with in 10% of the average of your 10 closest friends.  I have no statistical evidence to back that up, but anecdotal evidence is everywhere.  Teachers hang out with teachers, actors hang out with actors, NBA stars hang out with NBA stars.  I'm not sure if correlation means causation here, and I'm sure most of us make friends from the people we work with.  But it's also true that similar types of people are drawn to similar types of work.  Many of my good friends from high school have also gone on to be teachers.

Whether it can be proven or not, the saying speaks to the importance of our friendships, and choosing good friends.  People that stimulate you, challenge you, support you, make you life, encourage and correct you are worth their weight in gold.  People that lead you into bad places and bad decisions (for some reason I'm thinking of Kesha right now), are worth their weight in something else.

And if we are the average of our friends, are we lifting our friends up?  Or are they lifting us up?  Something to think about.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Arrival: New Orleans

New Orleans smells spicy. The sticky air is a shock for someone not accustomed to humidity.
When traveling solo, I undergo a slight unease when first stepping into new environs. No friends waiting, no familiarity. Just a couchsurfing address to arrive at and a big bunch of unknown standing between me and it. And the unknown, while not always scary, is sometimes unsettling. I cope by taking a go-with-the-flow mentality that gets me to my destination much like a river carries floatsam and jetsam downstream. Might not be the quickest between, and I might be a little battered, but I arrive eventually.
I hopped on a bus that went downtown. The view out the window was breathtaking. Delapitated homes, bombed out warehouses, it's like a third world country, or a war zone.
There were four of us on the bus. I was squinting at my blackberry, trying to make sense of the map I had downloaded. The bus was dead quiet, so the conductor's voice startled me and the rest when she said, "Turn down your music."
I looked up, and saw the other three passengers looking at me. I looked at them. They kept looking at me. I looked at my phone, suspicious it might be making a secret noise that only I couldn't hear. Nothing. I looked up, and no one was looking at me. Relief. Silence.
60 seconds later. "I'm not joking. Turn down your music or I will pull the bus over." The looking started again. I was beginning to think either she, or I, was crazy. Finally, a young man seated in the front half of the bus, but closer to me than the driver, moved to the back half of the bus. More silence. More abandoned buildings.
We arrived downtown with no more interruptions. I rolled my way down Bourbon Street, dragging my luggage with a bum wheel behind me, rat-a-tat rat-a-tat. It's the travelers walk of shame, announcing to the world A) no one would pick me up and B) I'm too cheap to take a cab.
After passing Bourbon's endless strip clubs, jazz clubs, bars and trinket shops, I found the Frenchmen Street bar where my couchsurfing host works, equal parts sweaty and victorious. She took my luggage, and gave me a beer on the house. Arrival.