I had a friend for years who was a horrible influence on me.
First, he made me feel great about myself.
(I know — what a jerk.)
Second, he was a convincing leader.
He also watched out for me.
(Yep, this guy was rotten to the core.)
At first, he was a great friend.
My gut told me I could trust him, and so I did.
I followed him blindly.
And it was a lot of fun.
He was strong, charismatic, and a great communicator.
Being around him made me feel strong, charismatic, and like a great communicator.
Over time though, I started to notice that he only made me feel great about myself when I was doing what he wanted me to do.
I also noticed that he was more of a manipulative leader.
I slowly realized that he “watched out for me” by warning me to not chase my real goals because they were too risky.
But by the time I realized all of this, it was too late.
I had already become someone I didn’t want to be.
I had wasted years trying to be liked and trying to be someone else.
All because someone made me feel good enough to follow them blindly.
Here’s the science behind why we follow others blindly…
Behavioral science has long established trust as an essential foundation for any interpersonal relationship.
Friendships and trust are evolutionary across species and no relationship can exist without them.
Not trusting anyone isn’t the answer: that’s illogical and rigidly stupid.
But blindly trusting others and following them unconditionally is just as stupid.
We have romanticized the idea of unconditional love and acceptance to a level where we are making poor choices that are negatively impacting our lives.
What we’re forgetting is what social science has already picked up on — we blur the lines between familiarity and trust.
A paper out of the University of Oxford suggests that familiarity is often mistaken for trust, but where it actually differs, is that it holds no risk.
Trusting what is familiar without scrutiny is always a mistake.
Look — trust involves risk.
As a result, trust is almost always uncomfortable.
In response to this discomfort, we look for someone else to respond in our best interests and to reduce that risk.
If the other person’s interests are consistently aligned with ours, trust builds.
But if their interests and our interests diverge too much, trust is broken.
Dr. John Gottman, author of The Science of Trust states that trust is not just the #1 desired quality cited in relationships but is a key factor in making communities, states, and countries work.
His metric found that high trust scores led to positive outcomes and increased relationship stability.
Roderick Kramer wrote in Trust in Organizations that risk is weighed against the level that we trust others with the addition of an ongoing assessment of personal gain and self-interest.
What does all of this mean?
It means your goal is to protect healthy self-interest while exercising wisdom and discernment with others.
Trust, but don’t trust unconditionally.
Learn from others, but never blindly follow them.
Here’s how to stop following others blindly…
Everyone wants to have friends.
Everyone wants to be well-liked.
There’s nothing wrong with this.
But some people want to be liked by everyone.
Some people want to be liked unconditionally.
These people think the world owes them friendship, unconditional love, and a free pass to do whatever they want.
They’re desperate for attention and affection.
It makes them feel good about themselves — powerful, even.
They feel entitled to mass approval without conditions.
They feel they deserve trust without proof.
Don’t be one of these people.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that other people owe you friendship.
Nobody owes you anything.
And you definitely don’t owe anyone else.
Your goal should be to cultivate relationships where trust is built and strengthened over time, not to feel obligated and make others feel obligated.
The problem is that some people will demand the world from you without giving anything back.
They will ask for unconditional support, loyalty, and trust without reciprocating it.
These people are not leaders. They are manipulators.
Very often, they are greedy and entitled.
Don’t be one of these people and don’t be dumb enough to follow one of these people blindly either.
Here are 3 steps that will help you stop following other people blindly…
1. Reject popularity.
Reject the idea of popularity altogether.
It makes you diluted.
Popularity is nothing more than the lowest common denominator of everyone around you.
The more friends you have, the more fake friends you have.
Wake up. Not everyone is going to like you.
Being well-liked is not a measure of success.
Having a lot of “friends” isn’t either.
In fact, if you’re living well, most people won’t like you.
The more successful you become, the more you let your happiness show, the more enemies you will create.
People will be jealous.
Some might turn on you.
Some people only want to be your friend when you’re struggling.
As soon as you start to put your life together and reach your goals, these same people will stop supporting you and might reject you altogether.
Their friendship is conditional: they keep you feeling low so they can feel superior, more powerful, and needed.
These people are toxic and if you keep them around, they will endlessly repeat this cycle.
They will abuse the trust you once offered them in all your short-sighted foolishness.
Too many people in your life in general will distract you from your focus.
Trying to be popular and fit in will just create noise in your life.
This noise will make it hard to tell who’s really your friend and who isn’t, who is actually trustworthy and who isn’t.
It’s impossible to weigh loyalty in a crowd.
The liars and thieves will blend in with the honorable, and you won’t know who to trust.
So you’ll end up blindly following anyone and everyone.
You’ll chase quantity over quality — and you’ll chase it right over a cliff.
Take a step back and start separating wheat from chaff.
Be analytical as you sift through the masses you’ve accumulated while you weren’t paying attention.
Remove yourself from the chaos and start being strategic.
Get over the idea that popularity means value.
2. Reject complacency.
Don’t let others convince you that everyone should like you.
Don’t let crooked and confused hippies, gurus, and mindfulness hucksters convince you that you are worthy of everyone’s love and attention.
More importantly, don’t let them convince you that you should shower everyone else with love and attention no matter who they are or what they do.
Wisdom and discernment matters.
Yes, there are some people in your life who you should trust and learn from.
But there are many others who you should stop trusting and stop following blindly.
If others try to convince you that they deserve your loyalty, friendship, and favor despite their negativity, laziness, and bad behavior — run.
These people are looking for a free ride, where your loyalty is guaranteed, no matter what they do.
They are looking to take advantage of your complacency in life.
They’re betting on you taking the easy way out in life and refusing to engage in conflict.
They’re leveraging your own desire to keep the peace and get along with everyone to take advantage of you.
Complacency can be toxic.
Comfort can be a weakness.
When someone wants you to follow them unconditionally, what they’re really asking you to do is to turn a blind eye to their manipulative actions.
They’re asking you to turn off your brain and play dumb.
They’re asking you to be complacent and comfortable avoiding conflict and hurt feelings.
Anyone who wants you to follow them blindly is bad for you.
You can be warm and caring in life, but you can’t blindly welcome the entire world into your living room with open arms.
You will have to turn some people away.
You will have to support some people from a distance.
Reject people that are manipulative, negative, dramatic, reactive, unhealthy, unbalanced, unconscionable, whiners, victims, …
Bad behavior needs to be rejected — right away.
Otherwise, you become a crutch and accomplice, supporting and empowering their negative behavior
from a book titled ”live like a lion” by Isaiah Hankel