How Do Friends Affect Success?

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Several studies have shown that peer groups actually do affect personal success, as people tend to follow the examples of their friends. By virtue of spending significant time together, friends influence behavior. As it turns out, being generous with others and building a network of successful, interesting people can contribute to your success in the long run.

Peer Motivation

Adolescent students’ social lives have a high correlation with their academic success, according to a study on school connectedness by the CDC. Students with many friends in different groups -- crossing race and gender -- reported a higher investment in school and greater satisfaction than those with few friends, or whose social life existed mostly outside of school. Similarly, students whose friends exhibit pro-social behaviors, such as kindness and responsibility, demonstrated those behaviors. Students with friends who promoted irresponsible behavior encountered more setbacks.

Motivation Through Giving

Cultivating relationships and helping others can motivate you to do more. We might have a culturally ingrained image of the successful person closing himself off to others, sacrificing friendship and family for the sake of work. But according to organizational psychologist Adam Grant, pro-social behavior can make people more productive, and therefore successful, at work. As the youngest tenured professor at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and an already prolific academic, Grant is famous for giving almost all of his time to other people. In an experiment he conducted, workers in a call center brought in 171 percent more revenue in one month after hearing a 10 minute story from someone who had benefited from their program.

Public Perception

People know you by the company you keep, as writer Ann Friedman notes in her article for New York Magazine: “Shine Theory: Why Powerful Women Make the Greatest Friends.” Friedman realized that when she made friends who were confident and successful, that success rubbed off on her when they were seen in public. It helps to have friends who actually are confident enough to be as generous as Friedman’s, too, by sharing a professional network instead of competing for contacts.

Empowerment Through Friendship

Good friends will encourage you to be successful. Having confident, smart friends affected Friedman in other positive ways. The women she spent time with truly had her best interests at heart. On this, she says, “I want the strongest, happiest, smartest women in my corner, pushing me to negotiate for more money, telling me to drop men who make me feel bad about myself, and responding to my outfit selfies from a place of love and stylishness, not competition and body-snarking."