The Virtuous Mean

“Don’t make friends who are comfortable to be with. Make friends who will force you to lever yourself up.” Thomas J. Watson

Every person you meet has standards. One may shoot for the moon while another might content himself with representing the lowest common denominator, but these relative differences aside, everyone has a standard upon which he bases his decisions in life.

Those with high standards and expectations bring an invisible yet quite tangible pressure to bear on those with whom they associate, while those with low standards effect those within their sphere of influence much like a low pressure weather system. Low pressure systems, meteorologically speaking, tends to spiral inward, producing stable air, low clouds and consequently, poor visibility. Conversely, high pressure systems produce unstable air, radiate outward and upward which tends to lift cloud ceilings.

So it is with the standards to which people live their lives. Standards are often unspoken, but they manifest in relation to the details of living. The overall standard to which a person hews is determined by the mean of his virtues. This standard produces an “atmosphere”, a typically unseen yet perceptible quality which permeates and surrounds the person. So it is that people are described as being refined or coarse, inspiring or discouraging.

You influence the world primarily through the influence of this atmosphere. Your thoughts, words and actions assist, but are secondary. That said, the quality of your thoughts, words and actions, as well as the feelings you choose to invest in generate your personal atmosphere.

Likewise, the personal atmosphere of your friends has an influence on you. If the standard to which you hold yourself is conditional, that is, qualified by your judgments of the nature of your circumstances, you are likely to be lifted up by those with high standards and brought low by those with low ones. If, on the other hand, you are resolute and maintain a consistently high personal standard over time, you have more of a choice in the matter and you are much less likely to be tossed and turned by the atmospheric variations.

Take time to consider your friends, but more importantly, take time daily to review your personal atmosphere. It will tell you a lot about the standards to which you are hewing.

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5 Responses to The Virtuous Mean

  1. Isabelle says:

    Great advice, thanks!

  2. Zach says:

    What a great post! It makes it very clear how both the choice of how you carry yourself and who you associate with can change behavior and your personal atmosphere in general.
    I think having friends that will push you to be better is a tremendous opportunity. Most people have the opposite. When a choice is made that might be right as well as unpopular (which can sometimes happen), they will hear nothing but potential excuses from most friends.
    The true friend is one that can identify with your vision and hold you accountable in its achieving. In the end, however, it is not up to a friend to keep you honest. If you think something is the right thing you should do it regardless of what other people think. Yet your friends can either help or hinder you. I know I don’t want friends that pull me back with every forward step.

  3. Lady Leo says:

    This is so true! Such valuable insight is the information, the guidelines, that make the difference between a dissipated life and a creative one. Friendship is one of the coin of life; we can fritter it on trifles devaluing our worth in the process or use it to enrich our lives, investing it with those that treasure, protect and multiply it. The value of our friendship is determined by the standard we set in our own actual living. Terrific post, thank you!

  4. David R says:

    A high standard can mean many things in the confusing world of appearance. To many it implies adherence to a rigid concept or conceptual framework, perhaps a belief system or a set of behavioral mores. Rigid things, of course, tend to break rather than bend under pressure, and for this reason the world is often entertained by those who place themselves higher than others only to have their lives shatter in spectacular style!

    A high standard based in a refined and loving quality of spirit, on the other hand, is not rigid or brittle. Adherence to such a standard does generate the tangible atmosphere you refer to here, and great achievement is powered and directed by such atmosphere. This blog serves as a constant creative reminder of that high standard!

  5. Steve Ventola says:

    Thank you for the reminder of what friendship is about and the responsibility to extend an atmosphere that lifts the cloud ceilings. Such a need for this wake up call in all of our living.

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