It’s important to meet like-minded people, who share your goals and can support you towards them. But what if everyone you know is, well… boring?
A reader recently commented that most of the people he knows are boring. He found it difficult to connect when so many people lack ambitions, a passion for life or a drive to do anything remarkable.
I feel this is fairly common. If you’re an ambitious self-improver, the masses often seem lethargic and mediocre. Everyone is too busy worrying about swine flu or Britney Spears. It can often feel like everyone is worrying about the trivial minutia of life while the really important issues are barely mentioned.
There are More Than Enough Interesting People
Most people aren’t exceptional. If everyone was exceptional, that would be ordinary, and it would no longer register as being special. So, don’t expect everyone you meet to have the same values, ambitions or drive as you do.
Luckily, you don’t need everyone to be interesting. Your friends will be only a small fraction of the total population. I’d guess I have a few hundred friends, a few dozen close friends and less than a handful of best friends. So, out of over 6 billion people, my closest friends make up less than 0.00000001% of the world.
With those kind of odds, you can easily be surrounded by interesting people with interesting goals if you choose to be.
Stop Trying to Be Interesting, Be Interested
I don’t think that being surrounded by boring people is the real problem. For most people, I’d say there are an abundance of interesting people around them, they just don’t notice.
I’ve found ambitious people tend to suffer from this problem more than others. A side-effect of obsessively pursuing your goals is that you become self-absorbed. Not in a conceited way, but just that your brain is forced to push out a lot of other thoughts out in order to focus on your pursuits. By pushing out other thoughts, you end up spending most of your time thinking about yourself.
If you aren’t careful, your ambition can cross over into your conversations with other people. So, when you’re meeting somebody new, you are either talking about yourself, or filtering their conversation to see if anything applies to you. Talking, or waiting for your turn to speak.
This has definitely been a flaw of mine in the past. I’m a more aggressive talker, so that can interrupt some people who are more quiet from sharing their pursuits. I’ve had some success in overcoming this problem, but as in all things, it’s a work in progress.
The solution is to stop trying to be interesting in conversations, and instead be interested in other people. Many people have interesting goals, life experiences or ambitions. But those unique traits don’t come out until you spend some energy getting to know them and learning about them.
Trying to Impress Others Shows Insecurity
Truly confident people don’t need other people to think they are interesting. Trying to impress other people by your life, ambitions or goals, only shows that you’re secretly insecure about them.
If you spend most of a conversation talking about yourself, you miss the opportunity to find other interesting people. I would say 90% of the friends I know that have interesting ambitions, didn’t seem particularly noteworthy at first. I had to get to know them more, in order to learn about the book they wrote, the volunteer program they started or their background as an extreme, arctic canoeing guide.
The other flaw of trying to impress is that it usually backfires. When you try to tell people about the interesting facets of your life, they usually end up thinking less of you, not more. So instead of becoming more interesting, you’ve just become an arrogant snob.
Don’t Build a Cult
Another attitude that holds some people back socially is trying to only meet people that share all the same values as yourself. If you are a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, vegan who always votes independent, don’t limit yourself to only the people who fit in those categories. Seek out the pro-life, religious gun nut and find out just how many things you have in common.
Most people wouldn’t consider themselves prejudiced, but they deliberately prevent themselves from getting to know anyone who doesn’t fit into their group. I think this is a big mistake, because if you only associate with people who are the same as you, how will you meet anyone that is truly interesting?
A characteristic of a cult is that all the members are brainwashed into thinking like each other. Don’t build a cult. Be willing to meet people you disagree with on 90% of your values so you can learn from the other 10%.
Where the Interesting People Are
They’re everywhere. And often not the people you’d first suspect. But, if you spend too much time focused inward, you’ll never find them.