Hang Around With People Who Get Shit Done

If I can only teach my kids one lesson, it would be to hang around with people who get shit done. Now, my kids are still young, so I am more likely to phrase it as “make friends with people who do cool stuff”. That would also give us the opportunity to talk about what cool stuff is.

Getting straight As on every report card? Yeah, that is pretty cool.
Building a model of the Eifel Tower out of toothpicks for the science fair? That is definitely cool.
Getting air on a 10 foot tall ramp with a skateboard? Also cool.

I believe that everyone can do amazing things, but unfortunately most of us don’t. Why is that? The reasons are varied, but in my life I have found that hanging around people who are doing amazing things makes me try harder to do amazing things.

This is what makes places like the Entrepreneur Center so great. By collecting a group of high-achievers all in the same workspace, it raises the bar for each person comparing themselves against their peers. It is also why some teams are way more productive than others.

The converse is true as well: Ditch the people who don’t do shit.


  1. You cannot use the word shit in Tennessee. All Tennesseans are baptists.

  2. I agree until your last sentence… if everyone followed that advice, no one would LET your kid hang out with them because he doesn’t do cool shit yet. I think everyone should have friends who you aspire to, who you are pretty equal to, and some who you are more of a role model or teacher to.

    1. Good advice. As a kid, I always hung around people older than me. I always learned something that way. I did have friends my age as a kid, but I just hung around them whenever I wanted to act stupid for a bit.

  3. @Rowland possibly, but I think an important lesson is that if you want to do something awesome, sometimes you have to do it yourself. I know I’ve spent a lot of time and energy on projects where other people just lost interest and the project was too big to complete on my own.

    Start with something small, and then show it off. That will show people you are self motivated and are a get-shit-done person.

    1. Its true Ryan. Many people are not commited to do something by themselves.
      Its very easy to get partners or team mates at the beginning but when it comes to work they procrastinate. In the end we’re alone struggling to do everything.

  4. So true. Trim the fat. Your group of friends will raise OR lower your goals and motivation levels.

  5. It’s a good advice, but i think it is more addressed to the adult age (let’s say 18+).
    Why? Because “cool” in this view is “productive, expendable”, so very performance-centric.

    I think when you grow up you start mapping the world in many different directions, everything is useful, even getting bored, even getting to know the bad and ugly in order to later recognize the best.
    Kids have a lot of “senses” we lost, we have to respect their empirical method to know the world.

    Of course they need our guidance, but let’s let them play.
    Then, from a certain age on, things change dramatically…

  6. Can’t agree with this enough. Don’t get hung up on what is “cool”, get hung up on doing or making things. “Cool” is kind of like money, it gets in the way. If you can teach the kids that doing anything that you have an interest is cool, then this will be the perfect montra.

    What YOU think is cool, IS cool. Keep doing it until you find something else cooler, or others realize YOU are the cool one.

    just my .02

  7. @Rowland, I don’t think he’s talking about hanging out with people because they have done cool things… It’s about hanging out with highly motivated, high achievers.

  8. This is such good advice.

    There have been times in my life where I found myself surrounded by loafers and leeches and it could not be more caustic. Not only are they not doing anything to contribute, but their problems are of a sort that I want nothing to do with.

    @Rowland, to quote Don Draper – “My life is moving in one direction. Forward.”

    Conversely, when I have made deliberate effort to hang out with movers and shakers, my whole life experience has been elevated. They discuss interesting things, challenge each other in a positive way, teach me interesting things, get it done, and push me to be my best self.

    Jackson, thanks for the reminder. Keep writing. We’re reading.

  9. I think Chad Fowler said this: ‘Always try to be the worst. Because if you are the worst in a situation you are always surrounded by people who are better than you and from whom you can learn from.’

  10. I disagree. Spend all weekend writing code in a garage is not cool. But steve jobs and bill gates did amazing things.

    1. Actually Steve didn’t write any code, you insensitive clod!

      1. that was freakin awesome

  11. There’s actually plenty of research to bolster your claim. It’s called the ‘Kohler Effect'; people tend to match their bars with who they are around. This really applies on so many levels; even down to house chores 😉

  12. Agreed. Avoid people who habitually engage sedentary lifestyles. However, this applies to physical activity (avoid alcoholics) and mental activity (avoid TV/YouTubers watchers).

  13. I disagree with the last sentence. Try to inspire and motivate your friends who are not as “productive” as you to create and be more inspired, teach them new skills and you also help to strengthen your own and reinforce the lessons which you’ve already learned.

    Teaching can be just as important as learning, as well as another method for learning.


  14. Someone else gave me similar advice when I was a teenager entering the job market (I am 45 now). It was the best advice ever given to me, and I still pass it on, amongst some other gems that have helped me forge my career.

    Every time I start a new job, I always look for the people that seem to “know everything”, be in charge, are liked and respected. These are the people I try to get to know, to hang around with, to emulate however possible.

  15. Great habits to pick up

  16. As someone who used to live on the east coast and now resides in the Pacific NW, I can say this is even more true out here. Stick to the driven ones and you can go a lot farther.

  17. I can’t agree with this more. We are trying to instill the foundations of work/engineering/building/creating in our kids, and it is going to be such a benefit to them when they are adults (we’re hoping!).

  18. I totally agree with this. Also all the people who did cool stuff as kids made their way…

    This is what I love about Silicon Valley so much that I moved there.

  19. “I believe that everyone can do amazing things, but unfortunately most of us don’t. Why is that?”

    Because its just normal! Its totally okay to do “nothing” or just hang around you´re entire lifetime. You dont have to do always cool or amazing stuff and you can surely spend you´re life on enjoying useless things. Get the speed and pressure (to do stuff) out of you´re life, is a big quality win. People who done great stuff are mostly totally fucked up persons, sick, manic or just obsessed. Dont teach youre kids to enter the capitalism race, they can´t win.

    1. Jackson Miller June 9, 2012 at 10:47 am

      Robert, that is not what I want for my kids.

  20. Learned this lesson a few years back – has helped me be at least 5x more productive and think 10x bigger. I haven’t thought too much about this concept as it relates to raising children (I’m pretty far out from having kids), but it makes a ton of sense in that sphere as well. Thanks for the perspective!

  21. what kids this is cool != what you think is cool

    And you better make sure you’re not sending your excellent ballet dancer of a kid to hang out with programming superstars.

    1. Jackson Miller June 10, 2012 at 8:47 am

      You missed the point. I don’t care what they do as long as they do it well.

      1. I think it’s more important they do things they ‘enjoy’ rather than doing them ‘well’.
        If you enjoy doing something you’ll naturally get better at it.

  22. I think I really cool idea would be an entrepreneur center for kids. More likely have a an area of an existed entrepreneur center for kids. Same sorts of resources and someone in residence that can answer all the kids questions about starting businesses. I’m sure we all had great ideas growing up still (some maybe a little bit more fantasy than others), but it could give kids a chance to realize earlier on that they can actually make things. It would also allow kids to hang out with more productive people as well. Their own peers would be shaped by hanging out there, as well as the impact of seeing adults at work.
    Just make sure whoever is at the front desk is OK with kicking out the trouble-makers.

  23. Brilliant advice! I am @ university – just finished my first year in Computer Science. This is a course where you clearly see the line between people who ‘do shit’ and the ones who sit around playing games & sleeping.

    It seems the lazy ones are very happy being useless & not getting anywhere and most even aim for the very minimum of achieving a D, to pass onto the 2nd year.

    Where else there is me starting my own company building software & starting a new app project this Monday with a bunch of new people.. exciting times!

    Another massive advantage of this, is that i now look forward to my future, which is more than some others could say in these times 😛

    U gotta make make use of your time & ‘do shit’ people!

  24. I like the idea, but the black-and-white attitude I don’t. There are kids who do shit who are self-righteous snobs and there’s lazy as shit people who have very nice personalities. “Ditch” them, jesus…

  25. Fact.

    If I had a manifesto, “Hang around with people who get shi* done, ditch the people who don’t,” would be a line in it.

  26. The book Get stuff done by David Allen was pretty useful in boosting my own productivity

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