I am a self motivated person and an independent thinker. But I’ve discovered over the years that my actions are directly shaped by the people I see the most.
- When I hang out with someone who goes out all of the time, I go out all of the time.
- When I hang out with someone who is fat and out of shape, I become fat and out of shape.
- When I hang out with someone who is fiercely driven to succeed, I’m motivated to succeed.
Even my wants, needs and desires are heavily influenced by my peer group.
For example, before I started my 2 online businesses, “post-college Steve” wanted to…
- Start a high tech startup company that would go public and make millions.
- Drive an Audi A4 Turbo.
- Buy a gigantic house in Palo Alto, CA where all of my friends could crash and throw parties.
- Own the latest computer equipment and gadgets as soon as they came out.
Why did I want these specific things?
- I wanted to work at a hot startup company because that’s what all of my friends were doing. It was the cool thing to do.
- I wanted to drive an Audi A4 because it was the dream car of a girl I liked back in college. She would have been impressed:)
- I wanted to live in Palo Alto because it’s where my friends wanted to live.
- I wanted to own all the latest gadgets because my friends are geeks and love tech.
Now I’m not a follower or a lemming:). But once I realized this about my personality, I made some simple changes that drastically improved my life.
Here’s my story.
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Your Relationships Dictate Everything
First off, I want to say that I’m blessed to have very successful friends who have propelled me forward at different stages of my life.
During my high school years, I hung out with a bunch of geeks who really cared about getting good grades, so I got good grades and got into Stanford University.
At Stanford, I was surrounded by other successful and driven kids which pushed me to pursue a career in electrical engineering.
The hard part is finding the right people to push you in the direction you want to go at your specific stage in life. And if you’re feeling stuck, chances are that your current peer group is the wrong fit.
For example, it took me about 20 years to realize that my immediate friend group from Stanford was NOT the proper group for me in terms of starting my own small business.
Here in the Silicon Valley, it’s all about funded startups.
“Yo Steve, I just raised 10 million dollars at a 50 million post!”
“Steve, I’m pulling 80 hour weeks right now, but my company is on the cusp of a huge payout!”
“Steve, I can’t wait to tell you about what I’m working on. It’s the next big thing!”
When I graduated from college, I thought that I wanted to start a venture backed startup because all of my friends were starting their own companies. And my friend’s desires became a model of my own.
As humans, we tend to imitate what our peer group wants because it becomes a localized symbol of success.
Is it a coincidence that 5 of my friends remodeled their houses during the pandemic?
Is it a coincidence that all of my friends own a Tesla?
We all want what our close friends want.
Competition Is What Makes Us Strong
When you surround yourself with like minded peers, you start subconsciously competing with each other and wanting the same things.
It’s a little twisted but sometimes we need our friends to want something first in order to want it for ourselves. And if you don’t have a peer group to model yourself after, your motivation will slowly start to drift.
When my wife and I first started our handkerchief business, none of our friends thought anything of it. They didn’t think it was cool and many questioned whether the business was worth our time.
It’s because my Stanford friends were too busy taking venture money to start the next billion dollar company. Creating a lifestyle business to spend more time with family did not interest them one bit.
As a result, my wife and I considered shutting down our business on several occasions because starting a hankie business wasn’t “cool” within our peer group.
Now I’m happy that my wife and I stuck with our business but it was an extremely lonely process. We didn’t have anyone to share our successes and failures with.
I had a similar experience with MyWifeQuitHerJob.com. At the time, none of my friends believed that blogging could possibly make any money so they regarded my blog as just a fun hobby and a passing fad.
“Hey Steve. How’s blogging going? Made any money yet?”
Early on, my blog struggled to generate traffic. And I was fairly close to quitting until I attended my first in person conference called FinCon. And it was at FinCon where I met a few key people who fundamentally changed my way of thinking.
Immediately after attending FinCon…
- I became more motivated than ever to succeed.
- I met people to share my successes and failures with.
- I learned new strategies to apply to my own businesses.
In fact, my FinCon peer group was responsible for turning Bumblebee Linens and MyWifeQuitHerJob.com into the 7 figure businesses they are today!
How do you find your own version of FinCon? Follow these steps to make forward progress with your business.
Hang Out And/Or Follow Successful People
The hardest part of the process is realizing that you’ve outgrown your current peer group and that you need to make new friends. Heck, it took me over a decade to realize that I needed new people in my life:).
If you find that your friends and family aren’t being supportive or if they are constantly questioning your actions, it’s time to make new friends.
For example, if you are determined to get into better shape and lose weight, don’t hang out with friends who are constantly inviting you to get boba tea.
Thanks to social media and the Internet, it’s easier than ever to find likeminded people with your same goals and aspirations.
Do a Google search, use Instagram or start watching TikToks to find people who inspire you. Then, break down what they are doing in their daily lives to achieve the life that you want to live.
For example, I follow the TPATennis YouTube channel because I want to learn the exact techniques the pros use to become better tennis players.
People follow MyWifeQuitHerJob.com because they want to learn how to spend more time with their family and loved ones.
My readers/listeners have no desire to start the next billion dollar company or work their butts off at the expense of family and friends. They want to earn enough money to give them the freedom to do whatever they want, whenever they want.
Even though following people “virtually” through social media is a great start, a better way to meet “your people” is by attending in person events.
Over the years, I’ve met most of my close friends through conferences like Sellers Summit, Fincon, Social Media Marketing World, Ecommerce Fuel and countless others.
Most of you don’t know this, but I started my podcast for the sole purpose of meeting new people. By running an interview based show, I’m forced to chat with someone new for 1 hour every single week!
Editor’s Note: If you want to meet people running 6,7 or 8 figure ecommerce businesses, consider attending my annual ecommerce conference, The Sellers Summit.
Create A Mastermind Group
Once you’ve found a group of like minded people, form a mastermind group. A mastermind is a cohort of 3-6 people that meet on a regular basis to…
- Hold each other accountable for making forward progress.
- Bounce ideas off of one another.
- Motivate each other to take calculated risks.
Ideally, every member of your mastermind group should share the same goals and desires so you can psychologically push each other forward.
Over the years, I’ve belonged to many different mastermind groups and they’ve all been instrumental in pushing me out of my comfort zone. In fact, just the mere presence of other successful entrepreneurs will inspire you to take action.
We are all heavily influenced by our peers and you’ll find yourself subconsciously imitating greatness. You’ll find yourself breaking through artificial barriers that have all been in your head.
For example, I never thought in a million years that I could create a 7 figure business without a large team. But once I saw my friends doing it, I knew that it was possible with the right systems in place.
The fastest way to grow is to talk with someone who has been there before.
Remember Your True Motivation
After you’ve found “your people”, don’t get carried away.
A byproduct of surrounding yourself with successful people is that you’ll start wanting the same things and it’s easy to get caught up in the competition.
Even though I love my small business entrepreneur friends, they sometimes push me beyond where I want to be:)
For example, I have several colleagues in the ecommerce space who are killing it online. They set aggressive goals, work their butts off and they are rewarded with great success.
However they don’t have kids, a family or similar priorities. The goal of running my businesses has always been to spend more time with my loved ones.
But deep down, I want to achieve the same level of success! There have been times where I’ve been guilty of “trying to keep up with Joneses” by sacrificing my health and my friendships to make more money.
There is no such thing as the perfect peer group and you have to distinguish between your true needs and wants.
When it comes to my businesses, I constantly have to remind myself that…
- I already make more money that I spend.
- My businesses are a tool to spend more time with family.
- Making more money will not make me happier.
- I can already buy anything that I want.
Busting my butt to make more money than my peers is NOT a good use of my time or brain power:).
Bottom line, you have to understand your true desires. Is your purpose in starting a business just to make money? Or is it to provide you with the freedom to do whatever you want?
Don’t get caught up in the competition!
The Single Most Important Change You Can Make For Your Business
The single most important change you can make to propel your business forward is to find the right peer group.
It’s been over decade since I started my first business but I will never forget how lonely it felt.
It’s hard enough to start a business from complete scratch with no experience. But if your friends and family are talking you down at the same time, it makes it even harder.
Jim Rohn once famously said that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.
When it comes to relationships, we are greatly influenced by those closest to us.
- We want what our friends want.
- We want what our friends own.
- We want what our friends have achieved.
If you spend your time with deadbeat friends who aren’t going anywhere in life, you won’t get anywhere either.
But if you find people who want what you want or have achieved what you want to achieve, you’ll feel energized.
You’ll gain confidence. You’ll feel motivated. And you can use this energy to propel yourself forward.
So follow these steps right now.
Take a Google doc and make 2 lists.
- List #1 should contain friends/influencers who are living a life that you want to live.
- List #2 should contain people who are holding you back from your goals or are giving you negative energy.
You don’t have to completely ditch the people on list #2, but you need to distance yourself from excessive negativity.
Meanwhile, find out where list #1 hangs out and meet as many likeminded people as you can in person. Form a mastermind group, meet regularly and I guarantee that it will transform your life.
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Steve Chou is a highly recognized influencer in the ecommerce space and has taught thousands of students how to effectively sell physical products online over at ProfitableOnlineStore.com.
His blog, MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, has been featured in Forbes, Inc, The New York Times, Entrepreneur and MSNBC.
He's also a contributing author for BigCommerce, Klaviyo, ManyChat, Printful, Privy, CXL, Ecommerce Fuel, GlockApps, Privy, Social Media Examiner, Web Designer Depot, Sumo and other leading business publications.
In addition, he runs a popular ecommerce podcast, My Wife Quit Her Job, which is a top 25 marketing show on all of Apple Podcasts.
To stay up to date with all of the latest ecommerce trends, Steve runs a 7 figure ecommerce store, BumblebeeLinens.com, with his wife and puts on an annual ecommerce conference called The Sellers Summit.
Steve carries both a bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Despite majoring in electrical engineering, he spent a good portion of his graduate education studying entrepreneurship and the mechanics of running small businesses.