Homer’s Coffee House, the local gathering place where I have worked countless hours over the past six years, hosts an open microphone jam session every Monday night during the summer. This is a time designed to promote sense of community and give new or first-time performers a chance to perform. At the same time it gives more established performers an opportunity to play songs they might not normally do, perhaps new tunes they have been working on or just music that is different from their usual style.

We go around the circle and give everybody some time to take the stage to play and sing. The variety of people that show up each Monday is amazing. It is not unusual to have a person who has never sung in public before perform a selection, followed by a professional rock-and-roll singer stepping outside of his or her normal range to do a country or folk song. We never know what is going to happen.

In the process, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon. Some nights everybody sounds wonderful, while other nights, it seems like everybody is struggling just to stay in tune. The reason, I have concluded, is that we are greatly influenced by those around us. If there are two or three people in a row that are having a hard time carrying a tune, the next persons to take the spotlight – even if they are experienced musicians – are likely to struggle to stay on pitch. Conversely, a few good musicians elevate the whole group to do better.

I think this principle applies to other areas of life as well, particularly the business and professional world.

If we surround ourselves with quality people, we are likely to perform better ourselves.

The opposite is also true. If those around us are goof-offs and low-achievers, our own expectations are soon going to be diminished.

This does not mean that we should totally avoid people we think are somehow “inferior,” but it does mean we need to choose our friends wisely. It means that we need to function in a positive working environment if we want to accomplish great things.

Years ago, I played music with a guy whose favorite saying was, “Dumb is contagious.” It turns out that he was simply restating what the book of Proverbs says when it cautions us to not be companions of fools, but rather associate ourselves with people who will help us learn and grow.

Quoting Proverbs
13:20 directly, it tells us, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”

And Proverbs 26:4 cautions, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him.”

In the Bible’s New Testament, we also find emphasis about the importance of what we might call “positive peer pressure”: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

As a Russian proverb expresses it,
“Tell me who’s your friend, and I’ll tell you who you are.”

Author:- Jim Mathis is a musician, photographer and writer. He also is the founder of Homer’s Coffee House and Executive Director of Kansas City CBMC.

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