“The quality of a person’s life is most often a direct reflection of their peer group’s expectations,” is one of my favorite quotes from Tony Robbins. It is often our peer group’s expectations, influences, and activities that derail our momentum journey. Let me illustrate this by taking you through this exercise.
What is the deadliest animal on the planet?
I was recently listening to the radio as I was driving home. The host posed a question to the audience: “What’s the deadliest animal on the planet?” A series of educated guesses ran through my head. The Mojave rattlesnake? The great white shark? The Australian box jellyfish? Perhaps the crocodile or a tiger?
As it turns out, I wasn’t even remotely close. These predators don’t even make a dent on the numbers of human deaths racked up by the world’s deadliest animal — the mosquito. In fact, mosquitos kill more human beings each year than sharks do in an entire century. In the US, a shark kills someone once every two years. By contrast, mosquitos are responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans yearly.
So what makes a mosquito so dangerous?
Why Mosquitos Are So Dangerous to Your Momentum Journey
Mosquitos claim so many lives because they can carry and infect humans with a range of potentially deadly diseases. If you thought it was just malaria, unfortunately, you’re significantly wide of the mark. Zika virus, West Nile virus, Chikungunya virus, dengue, yellow fever, Japanese Encephalitis, and malaria are all mosquito-borne diseases.
All told, these tiny flying insects kill more than one million people every year and account for 17% of the estimated global burden of infectious diseases. Worse, they can pass these diseases on to other parasites, increasing the risk to us humans further still. The most concerning species is the Anopheles mosquito, which is responsible for the deaths of 400,000 people (mainly children) through malaria transmission.
And yet these insects are so unassuming and benign. You wouldn’t think twice about swatting one away that was bothering you — which got me thinking. There are numerous examples in the business and personal world whereby people spend so much time and energy staying out of their perceived predators’ clutches that they miss the mosquitos sucking the blood from them right before their very eyes.
Confused? Let me explain.
The Sharks and the Mosquitos — Learn to Distinguish Which is Which
As mentioned, so many of my peers have spent their whole careers worrying about the predators (let’s call them sharks) in their life, rather than the mosquitos. But if you can learn how to distinguish between the two, you can take a shortcut to achieving your goals and objectives.
The Helpful Sharks On Your Momentum Journey
In a business setting, a shark is usually defined as someone above you in the corporate food chain, most likely your boss, or a mentor of higher rank that has a direct influence on your future career trajectory. In a personal setting, it could be a life coach, friend, your mother or father-in-law that may hold you to a higher standard than that of your parents, or indeed your spouse or significant other.
However, the truth is, no matter the setting, and regardless of how scary the shark may be, they are the ones that drive you on, force you to reinvent yourself, help you find another gear, and move forwards in life.
Whether it’s the fear of getting on the wrong side of your boss or avoiding the shame of letting a personal mentor down, the result is the same. They give you the motivation to develop, grow, and progress in life. In other words, sharks are helpful to you in life. They give you an impetus and edge over your peers.
By contrast, mosquitos are so deadly they’ll drain the life out of you before you’ve even had the chance to notice.
The Deadly Mosquitos
Human mosquitos are nowhere near as easy to distinguish, and some of them might well be your closest friends. They come in differing guises, too, rendering the identification process even more challenging. One type of mosquito that is most common is subordinate or peer individuals that suck up to you, sing your praises and use your relationship for personal gain.
Type 1 — The Blood Sucker
As a future leader, this is incredibly dangerous. Transformational passion-struck leaders never settle in their momentum journey. They never think they’ve made it. They actively seek discomfort, challenge conventional wisdom, and question subordinates rather than sit back and receive unmitigated adulation. Being attacked by these mosquitos will leave you plateauing in your career and personal life. You’ll ease off the strict workout program, miss deadlines, stop putting work into your relationships, be left unable to make tough business decisions, and struggle to take the next step.
The issue with the bloodsucker type of human mosquito is that they are motivated by self-identity and self-preservation over the organizational mission or team. They tend to use manipulation tactics to orchestrate situations or outcomes that are in their interest.
This type of bloodsucking mosquito was something I experienced first-hand at Dell. During my time there, we adopted a GE policy in our yearly performance review process that 10–15% of all employees were furloughed every year. This employment strategy created an extremely subjective ranking system and a hostile environment with employees trying to suck up to stay on the boat. I saw this happen with both subordinates and peers.
This approach created a situation where long-term employees would take care of their friends instead of those who were genuinely pushing the needle forward. I witnessed countless great talents being thrown to the curb because they were trying to create change and go against adopted norms.
As lovely as it was to have some subordinates compliment me on an almost daily basis, I knew that to advance the business and my career, I had to keep them at arm’s length, actively swatting them away when necessary.
The same went for peers who tried to take credit for all positive outcomes, pushed blame your way, never took responsibility for their actions, and kissed up to the boss.
I am sure now that I’ve described the bloodsucker, you have likely run across them in your career. If not, beware.
Type 2 — The Invisible Suffocator
Another deadly type of mosquito is the “glass half empty” people in your life. These are often in your inner circle, making them extremely difficult to detect and remove from your life. Best described as the people who like things the way they are, they may have made strides in their career to a point where they seek no further progression and try to influence their friends to share the same outlook.
For example, if you were to gain a promotion, rather than be excited for you and congratulate you, they immediately look for the negatives. “Think of the extra hours you’re going to need to put in at work.” “How are you going to fit time with the kids?” “That’s a lot of pressure; you might not last long.”
These people are much easier to distinguish on the outside looking in as opposed to when they have an immediate influence in your life. If you feel your career or progress towards personal goals has stalled, look at your inner circle, and assess them. Are they at a similar level to you? Do they ridicule you for putting in extra work? Do they want to keep everything in your social or workplace the same as it’s always been?
When working with one of my mentors, Tony Robbins, he once said to me, “The quality of a person’s life is most often a direct reflection of their peer group’s expectations.” If those expectations always stay the same, how do you expect to progress as an individual? As I’ve stated many times before, comfort never leads to breakthrough ideas. You have to embrace change and say yes every once in a while, even if it scares you.
When I was at Catalina, the world’s largest in-store media network, I saw a perfect example of talented employees who had become trapped by several mosquitos around them. These mosquitos were dining out on past successes. They wanted to keep things the way they were and even actively disrupted the process of implementing digital and data transformation projects.
The talented employees were stifled, unable to identify the game their mosquito friends were playing. Every time they mustered the courage to go against the grain, they were quickly batted back down by their peers without so much as a confrontation.
Type 3— The PITA
You may not have heard the PITA abbreviation before, but I am sure you are certainly aware of people in your life who are a royal pain in the Ass. I first learned of this type of mosquito as a teenager working on the truck crew at my local grocery store.
The PITA may be difficult to spot initially. They are the ones who often say one thing to your face but then take the opposite direction. It could be the investor who promises you money, and then when they do gets in the middle of your daily operations or takes up your valuable time with constant questions.
The friend, peer, or boss who asks you for your advice and then since it is not their idea throws it to the side and then a few months later enacts the guidance as if it is their original thought. Or, a promising client who expects that they need to be the only fish in your pond and makes continual unrealistic demands taking you away from other client needs or growing your business.
How many of you have gone into a job where they are not ready for you on your first day? They don’t have a straightforward onboarding process for the role. They probably have none at all. Instead, they say, “why don’t you go to lunch with Julie” or “we need you to spend the day shadowing Angie.” The fact of the matter is you have likely just entered a PITA environment and not the tribe of “your people” that you need to be around.
A few years ago, I agreed to join the board of a technology start-up company with a few other prominent leaders. The founder of the company is a personal friend of mine. He is bright and hard-working. However, he became a huge PITA because he failed to listen to any of the advice that the other board members or I would provide him. He was utterly tunnel-visioned that his way was the only way.
For almost a year, I remember telling him that instead of building a complete solution of his product, he needed to create a minimally viable product and then test its results. He refused until he went to the west coast and met with several top tier Venture Capitalists who gave him the same advice. Suddenly he came back acting as if it was his original idea to take this approach. As did the other board members, I left the board because none of us could influence his direction or thought process. It was a waste of all our time and energy.
Future Leaders Need to Avoid Mosquitos at All Costs
Here’s something you need to consider as a future leader in the midst of your momentum journey. Some of the most influential people in your life could well be mosquitos. That’s why they are so dangerous because even if you do manage to spot peers that are actively harming your progression, it may be too painful or challenging to strip them from your life.
They could be your closest friend from high school or your work-shy co-worker. It doesn’t matter who they are. What matters is the impact they can have on your life and career. When you manage to identify a potential mosquito in your life, keep your distance, actively swat them away or exterminate them completely.
They, like the real-life counterparts, can inflict life-altering damage, which, in many cases, won’t become apparent until you’re nearing the end of your time here on earth.
So make sure to perform a mosquito audit at your earliest possible convenience. Otherwise, you could be accidentally fraternizing with the most dangerous animal on the planet.
To listen to my entire Mosquito Principle story, subscribe to the Passion Struck Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. Or, you can tune into my YouTube channel.