How to Build Your Inner Five

It turns out Mom was right again. Hanging with the right crowd matters because your closest associates rub off on you. You cannot fly like an eagle when you are running with the turkeys, a teacher used to tell me. When you mud-wrestle with pigs, you get dirty, and they like it, General Creighton Abrams used to say.

Scores of such wisdom point to the same conclusion: hanging with the right crowd matters.

Your Inner Five (I learned this great term from an intrepid Dallas high school senior) are the five people you spend most of your time with. These people could be friends, spouses, work colleagues, social acquaintances, etc.

Your Inner Five significantly influences you, so having the right people in that group matters for your growth, reputation, and well-being.

My mom told me to hang around with the right people. that’s what I’ve been doing, just taking it easy and having fun.

Ken Griffey Jr., Baseball Hall of Famer

How do you know if you are with the right crowd? Do the people closest to you inspire you, ignore you, trap you, or suck you dry? Most people have some combination of these types in their lives: sappers, trappers, nappers, and zappers. Only one of them belongs in your inner five.

Sappers are the ones who sap your energy. They are the complainers, trauma-dumpers, catastrophizers, backstabbers, gossips, and awfulizers who suck you dry. You feel drained, like a husk, after spending time with them.

Trappers love you just the way you are and want you to stay that way – forever. They feel threatened that you might outgrow the relationship or outshine them, so they will discourage you from taking the steps to grow. “Where does that leave me?” “You’ll make the rest of us look bad?” “You’re being selfish!” “I wouldn’t do that.” “What if you fail?” are common trapper tactics. Many are selfish, criticizing your developmental opportunities as robbing them of you.

Nappers are people who make no impact at all. They’ve gone to sleep on you. Some should be engaged but aren’t, like a deadbeat parent; others are passive bumps on the log who pass in and out of our consciousness.

Zappers are people who give you energy. They want what’s best for you, help you grow, and are willing to tell you the truth. They are invaluable in your life and belong in your inner five.

Use this chart to take an inventory of your inner five. Create some distance from the Sappers, Trappers, and Nappers. Sometimes, you may need to sever the relationship; for the most part, you can reduce your contact time to make way for more Zappers.

If you don’t have the right people around you and you’re moving at a million miles an hour, you can lose yourself.

Dave Chappelle
identifying your inner Five

Like your purpose, you should update your inner five periodically. Doing so does not make you a fair-weather or transactional friend. People change over time; your interests and circumstances evolve, and so do theirs. If a friend is no longer a zapper and begins sucking your energy, pooh-poohing your growth, or ghosting you, it’s time to move someone else into your inner five.

You should also ask yourself what role you are playing in their lives. Your answer could be a swift kick in the pants. Whenever I give a talk about the Inner Five, people invariably thank me afterward and say that they just realized they’ve been a Trapper and will change into the Zapper their loved one deserves.

What did you find out about your Inner Five? About yourself?

At the end of the day. It’s not where you get drafted… It’s being surrounded by the right people, the right coaches, how you present yourself, how you work hard.

Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills QB