Choose Your Friends Wisely

There are about 9 million punk/hardcore documentaries now, and even though I think most of them are pretty lame I watch every one – and ditto for any any graffiti-related thing I come across on YouTube. Why? Because although easily 80%+ of it is total shit, when there’s something good it’s GOOD – it connects with me in the way that leaves you thinking about it for days.

Such is the case for a movie I stumbled across called “Quality Of Life,” which tells the story of two friends in the San Francisco graffiti scene (watch the full movie here, I highly recommend it). To make a long story short, after getting in some trouble with the law, one of them gets scared straight and becomes a graphic designer while the other one continues down the path of self-destruction and spirals out of control – the point of the movie is to contrast the two paths they take after finding themselves at a crossroads.

Ever have that friend who was a powder keg just waiting for a fuse? And feel like you could get caught in the blast at any moment? Hang out with that guy enough times and it will definitely happen.

The kids in this movie are just characters in a movie, but they 1000000% could be me or my friends. Or you and your friends. And while I somehow managed to escape my 20s without getting locked up, living on the streets, or otherwise permanently fucking up my life, I know plenty of people who didn’t – plenty of people who ended up doing time, strung out, dead or just slowly turning into zombies who drift from one dead-end job and toxic relationship to the next.

I could have easily ended up as one of them, and there’s only one reason why I didn’t: because I saw where I was headed, it scared the shit out of me, and I made a conscious choice to walk away from them – and that meant making a break from some of the closest friends I’ve ever had.

I won’t lie – it was painful and to this day I still feel guilty about it at times. But if I didn’t do it, god only knows where I would be today.



I cannot overstate the importance of this. The saying that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with is 100 fucking percent true, and you should act accordingly.

This isn’t some kind of metaphysical crap from a fake-deep Instagram quote picture, it’s real shit. Think about it this way: if you’re hanging out with thugs then it’s very easy for drugs or a gun to accidentally end up in your car – next thing you know you’re in handcuffs. On the other hand if you’re hanging out with people doing cool creative things then it’s very easy for you to accidentally end up making a movie or starting a company together. And next thing you know you’re making a living doing what you love.

Of course, the consequences of hanging out with the wrong people aren’t always as dramatic as addiction or gangbanging. But the wrong friend group can rob you of your potential, waste years of your life and poison your mind with negative, self-defeating thinking – a really toxic combination that can fuck your life up as bad as any drug.

You choose which path you want to be on by choosing who you hang out with. You become like them, and they become like you. It’s just the physics of human relationships.

And here’s what that means for you: if you’re spending time around the wrong people, it’s time to edit them out of your life.

Yes, this might feel shitty at times because it may mean that you stop hanging out with someone who is an old friend, someone who you really care about and may have gone through a lot of shit with. But do you really have a choice? If keeping them in your inner circle is going to suck the life out of you, what else can you do but walk away?

It’s not that you WANT to walk away from dysfunctional friends — you HAVE TO. You can’t save them.

And if they’re pulling you down with them, you have no real choice but to walk away and hope that they figure things out.

I firmly believe that 9 times out of 10, we know in our hearts what is true – we’re just usually scared to admit it and even more scared to act on it. So if you have a nagging feeling that there’s something a little bit dysfunctional about your friend group, I’ll be you a million dollars that there is.

Here’s a couple specific questions to ask yourself that may help clarify: Do your friends have the same priorities as you do? Are they making progress toward their goals? Do they inspire and motivate you to push yourself a little harder than you would have on your own? Do you learn from them and vice versa? If you set the clock ahead 5 or 10 years, do you think their lives will be a good place?

If the answer to any of those is no or “uhhhhhh…. well, I mean….. maybe? Sort of?” then you know what you need to do. If you’re reading this and you have that “aw fuck this hits way too close to home” feeling, then you know what you need to do.


Let me start with a “don’t”: Do NOT make a dramatic Facebook announcement about how you’re “cutting people off” or anything like that. First of all that’s super cringey and corny, and second it will only make things worse.

Step 1: Slowly start fading out the toxic people and bad influences. If they ask you to do something, tell them you’d love to but you’re busy, feeling tired, etc. You only need to do this a few times in a row before they’ll get the message and stop hitting you up. Again – this will probably make you feel like an asshole but it has to be done.

Step 2: Find new friends– friends that are in line with the person you want to be. If the thought of this gives you a mild panic attack, I totally get it – finding new friends is tough, and it gets tougher the older you are. But it’s gotta be if you’re serious about taking control of your life, and the truth is that it’s not as hard as it can feel.

2a: Open your mind to being friends with anyone. I used to think that I could never be friends with someone who wasn’t into punk/hardcore, and in hindsight that was really dumb because it kept me from making friends with some really cool people. I foolishly thought that if they didn’t listen to the same music as I did we couldn’t possibly have anything in common, which is complete bullshit – and by the same token, the fact that someone DOES like hardcore doesn’t mean that we have anything in common or that we should be friends. If you find yourself thinking like I used to, you’re just holding yourself back – open your mind and make a conscious effort to make friends with unlikely people. If you make a real, honest effort at this I guarantee you’ll be stoked on the results. This will make you grow as a human more than maybe anything else.

2b: In parallel, make a conscious effort to go new places. It’s super easy to get stuck in a rut of relying on shows/skating/parties/etc as the only way to socialize, but you’ve gotta break out of that if you want to re-design your friend group. You can’t expect to catch new fish if you keep going back to the same pond. My personal favorite way of doing this is meetups – look for your city on Meetup.com and I’m sure there is a ton of shit going on. Classes are another great way to meet new people (cooking, group fitness, jiu jitsu, etc).

The most important – and yet for many, the most difficult – part is just opening your mind to the idea that you need to break out of your rut and edit/expand your friend circle. Once you’ve come to terms with that, the rest kind of sets itself in motion. So start there.

Important note: You don’t have to become a different person overnight
I want to be super clear about this – I’m not suggesting that you have to do a 180 and suddenly turn your back on the scene and your friends. That’s always a little sus, especially the people who do that every year or two (“I used to be Mr X Hardcore X, now I’m a DJ and I party 24/7 – and next year I’ll be a crossfit bro”) because that suggests that they don’t know themselves or what makes them happy. It’s natural and healthy to change as you grow up, but don’t jump from one identity to the next – slow down and think about who you are, what you want out of life and make small course corrections one step at a time (the one notable exception is addiction, in which case you have to be willing to reboot your entire life).

You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) break away from ALL your friends, just the ones who aren’t a positive influence. Keep the ones who are growing with you – and hold on to them dearly because those are the people who will be your support system when the shit hits the fan and your best resource when you want to do something cool and need help from people who get it.

The point is to edit your friend group — keep the good ones and let the bad ones go.

I was hesitant to write this because I know some people will take it the wrong way. They’ll misinterpret it as judgmental or call me a sellout or yuppie who wants you to turn your back on your friends.

But it’s not about judgment and it’s not about selling out . It’s about understanding that the people you surround yourself with have a very real and profound effect on who you are and the direction of your life– and therefore that you need to make your friend group a conscious choice.

What it really comes down to is this: Losers let themselves passively drift through life, going wherever the path of least resistance takes them (hanging out with the wrong people just because it’s easy). Winners choose their path and don’t let anyone or anything take them off of it, even when that means making tough but necessary decisions like editing the negative, bad influences out of their friend group.

In the words of Hatebreed, choose or be chosen.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Chris Pinson says:

    Your posi stuff as Sarge way back when (dunno if it’s kosher to mention that here, sorry if not!) had a big impact on me, even though I still acted like a dummy and didn’t take the advice for a few more years, during which I finally caught a drug charge (funny how that happens if you’re a junkie for long enough). But these days, largely as a result of your advice and some other like it, I’m actually on a career path (currently apprentice embalmer yeah boy) and my life is much less bad than it was when I was doing drugs every second of every day. thanx sarge

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