The Scourge of the 20 Something: Complacent friends.

by Alexander Heyne · 9 comments

Do your friends suck?

And by sucking, I mean that give you no fuel to better yourself and improve your situation?

The majority of 20 somethings I see are unfortunately suffering from the same set of similar circumstances: bouncing around from jobs they mostly hate (6 month to 3 year intervals, depending on money and tolerance), drinking themselves retarded on friday to de-stress (Crucial), and not really planning many changes in the future to better their situation.

And the problem is that the ones who are trying to better their situation are being constantly dragged down by their friends who usually aren’t.

So, “I wanna be my own boss” thoughts usually get “uhh.. you know how hard that is?” responses.

“I’m gonna quit my job to travel around the world”  usually meets the “what about your job?” response.

And “I wanna run a sweet company of my own” usually meets the “blank stare” response.

A while back we were talking about the pain of people close to you doubting you instead of supporting you in your quest for world-changing.

But I noticed a particular trend the other day — I noticed that firing your friends may be the single best thing you can do in your quest to live a meaningful life.

Just think for a second about the psychic energy it takes to constantly fight  3, 4 or 5 of your closest friends that don’t understand what you’re doing (at best), or disagree with what you’re doing (at worst).

Think about how much time it takes to fight that and try to convince them otherwise, versus just happily do your thing with people supporting you.

…Seriously, ponder that. Incase you aren’t sure whether or not your friends are keeping you stuck, check out the following 7 criteria below:

7 signs your friends suck and are keeping you stuck in the rat race

I’ve noticed this trend that your friends determine how high you can go.  Friends are sometimes what puts the ceiling above you, not your circumstances.

#1 The past 3 years of their life they have been on the same page

Successful or not, doesn’t matter. If nothing has changed in their life, they’re stuck. They won’t be helping you get unstuck. This is also known as complacency — aka not going anywhere different soon.

They got the stable job. They got their apartment. Sweet. Existing comfortably. Video games or drinking after work.

* 3 years later *

Stable job. Apartment. Existing Comfortably. Sweet. Video games or drinking after work.

For real, if your friends at age 28 have been doing the same exact thing since age 22 when they graduate college, they’re probably not going anywhere soon. The next most exciting thing that’s going to happen is when they get married. And then it’s back to more ordinary existing.

I can’t imagine that people find that very exciting, but hey, to each their own. In any case, friends that are stuck deep, deep in the rat race will not inspire or motivate you to break free. Fact.

#2 They’re without-a-doubt average joes 

Closely linked with #1: complacency.

If your friends make no effort to change, no effort to do new, exciting things, no effort to make their relationships work, no effort to change, no effort to improve their situation… that probably won’t change anytime soon.

I’m tempted to say “avoid deadbeats” but the problem is that there are successful “deadbeats” in my opinion.

The lifestyle that so many people in NYC live to me is a “deadbeat” life. Working insane hours, just to pay for a posh apartment, with very little month-to-month variety in what they do, where they party, and what they eat.

If you are really set on not being a slave to money for the rest of your existence, no matter how successful your friends are, fire your friends that aren’t into change, variety, and growth.

Decide for yourself to totally shit on the ordinary existence you once had.

#3 They choose careers over love

This is an interesting one. When you’re in college, people don’t usually say that at some point you may have to choose between a solid relationship and going somewhere because of your “dream job.”

I could write out a whole list of stereotypes about people who choose careers over love. And again, I could reference upper west side people in New York city..

But in a nutshell it comes to this: successful career people are successful hamsters. They work damn hard, no doubt, but they’re focused on getting higher up in the system, higher up in the rat race, and deeper into the carrot / stick game.

My assumption is that like a lot of entrepreneurs, you’re trying to quit being a hamster. Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat, right?

Rat race = having a job, just to pay the bills, just to exist in a place, to buy stuff, and then earning money to buy that stuff, and so on.

If your friends are focused on “working up the corporate ladder” they’ve bought big time into an illusion that is keeping them stuck. It’s like the ultimate mind game – you trick people into thinking they’re working for what they want, but they can’t see that they’re still playing someone else’s game.

What i’m saying here about people choosing careers over love is that so many of the “career” people are heavily invested in the system. They love the system, they thrive at the competitiveness of working their way up. And they also rarely think about if that’s what they really want.

You don’t want them on your team if you dream does not involve the rat race.

#4 They settle

You know people who constantly settle for less than what they should?

Like when you go into a convenience store and the cashier accidentally gets your change wrong, shortchanging you by $5.  People that settle just shrug “ehh whatever” and then let the cashier keep the change.

Why? what the hell is going on? Having formerly been a settle-er and now being an “asshole” (also known as non-settle-er), I can tell you that most of it is due to fear, lack of fight, and laziness.

None of those are desirable qualities. If your friends settle and have no fight in them, fire them.  If one of your buddies decides to stay with one girl even though she’s not his type, because “eh, she’s good enough”, even though he knows of another girl but he is too afraid to approach her… ditch.. his.. ass. Or help him get the girl.

#5 They love stuff (rather than using the money to learn something new, travel, or invest into building relationships)

For some reason, people with money can find themselves as stuck as people without money. For example, your friend who is a bum and moved in with his parents to play video games. Stuck, no desire to change.

There’s also your friend who makes 50 or 60k a year, has a pretty cool apartment, and comes home to watch tv or play video games.

The irony is that they’re both stuck in almost the exact same situation, except one is just paying the bills.  One is lazy or has issues. The other one is simply stuck in the consume-purchase cycle. 

They get the post-college job. They get the new place. They get the new car. Then they start getting the new stuff. And on and on it goes until they get married. Rinse, and repeat. They are totally stuck and a slave to their possessions.

Whatever it is you’re trying to do, assume it’s not college==>job==>marriage==>babies==>death, if your friends are obviously deep (making $31k and leasing a new 30k mustang over 36 months deep)  in the “consume-purchase cycle”, they won’t be helping you transcend this anytime soon.

#6 They’re “Too busy”…

…To do the stuff they love.

We’re all busy. For the 20 something it’s busting your ass to pay the bills. It’s making only $10 or $15 an hour and then getting stuck paying for your apartment (which is essentially paying just to exist on one piece of earth), with little left over for yourself.

When most people say “they’re too busy” in reality what they’re giving into is learned helplessness. Read this.

At some point, many people realize it’s easier just to lower their expectations and exist, rather than find new creative ways to drive themselves toward who they want to be.

So instead of coming home at 6:30 from work, cooking a healthy dinner for oneself, hitting the gym, and then doing something they really enjoy, many of us come home from work, go out to eat, and promptly flop onto the couch.

3 years later, not much has changed.  Were they really busy? from 7 – 11 “busy” time was generic time wasting.  There’s nothing wrong with tv or video games or time wasting overall, but the point I’m trying to get at is that if your friends have a lot they want to change about their lives, and they aren’t putting those outside-work hours to good use, when the hell are they planning on changing their circumstances?

#7 “They’ve made it”

I recently had a conversation with a family friend (a friend of my parents), and we were talking about her daughter a few years younger than me. She’s in her second year out of college and working at job that she mostly detests but pays good money.

“She’s doing it, she’s made it.” Her mom told me, subtly poking at the fact that I moved back in with my parents.

To me, that was one of the scariest statements I’ve ever heard. To her, “making it” was getting a job that paid you well (no matter the other factors), living in your own place (financial independence), and then getting married and having kids.

Wait. So this whole grand build up in life, everything I’ve worked for my entire life, just is to exist on some plot of earth and raise more kids to just exist on a plot of earth?  You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me..

I was polite though. I said “Yeah, hmm, she’s doing a great job” and then proceeded to thoroughly ponder this.

Do most people really think that’s “making it?” For real?

The power of friends sometimes scares the shit out of me

You know, the power they have over our success and quality of life, whether or not you want to admit it.

This isn’t really a good ‘ol fashioned “avoid deadbeats” conversation that your mom probably gave you when she first caught you smoking weed.

It’s a real, honest wake up call to some of us who may or may not realize that our friends are totally preventing us from getting to where we want to be.

I’m not even talking 6 figure salaries.. I’m just talking living a quality of life that could be termed “meaningful” and “Worthwhile.”

And I’m not talking about friends that disagree with what you do. I’m simply saying that if all your friends are living one kind of life, it’s easier to forget that there’s another way. And sometimes what all your friends have is not what you want.

Incase you have no bloody clue what you want.. it’s time to get pondering.

So read this: Success for 20 somethings.

And then fire your friends keeping you stuck.


Watch this before you go


“I’m fine, thanks” is a kickstarter project that is quite possibly embodies one of the most important messages I’ve ever heard. The issue of complacency.

I strongly recommend checking it out and helping back the project. They are 3/4 of the day to go and only 11 days left.



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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Shanna Mann June 13, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Ahahaha! I’m just remembering being in 3rd year of uni and having a group of young women talk about where they wanted to be at 30. I remember the side-eye I got when I said, “A CEO.” (While I was studying history)

The love of stuff is SUCH a big one. And the funny part is, so much of buying stuff is to prove that you can afford said stuff, in other words, that you’ve ‘made it.’ And yet, buying that stuff virtually ensures you will never really ‘make it.’

Also? Your friend’s mom? Sad as hell.

Oh, and I’ve been meaning to tell you that Feedburner lists your site as Live Life Boldly, so you must have a setting mislabelled somewhere.


Dan June 18, 2012 at 1:34 am

#8 – They spend 75% of their time looking at their ‘smart’ phones while you catch up for coffee.

The invention of smart phones has to be the possible most frustrating, annoying and detrimental devices for social lives and non-presence ever invented.

God bless the friend who disables all email, facebook and twitter notifications and keeps their phones on silent while talking to you.


afheyne June 20, 2012 at 10:44 am

Dan, I totally agree.

I wrote a post a little while back called “the rise of the iPhone and the fall of society” talking about that.

That’s my biggest, literally my #1, pet peeve.

Can you imagine awkward moments before cell phones now? Yeah, me neither, haha. But it always comes down to the person and not to the device itself – we always have the choice to be polite and put it away while we eat, or put it away with our spouse.


Tim May 1, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Alex, you are seriously a role model for me man. Your posts are so spot on.

Could you go into some detail about the process of “firing a friend”? I’ve done something like this in the past in a variety of ways for different reasons. But never in this context.



Alexander Heyne May 2, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Haha I gotchu man!

It’s tough firing friends. I’m not really very confrontational so I just subtly start hanging out with them less.

If you have a really good friend who is legit not going anywhere in life, keep the hanging out limited. It’s easy to just chill with these friends for half a day and not do anything. The important thing is that you schedule your own time (and make it a priority to value your time highly).

So even if one of these friends asks to hang out, I’ll hang out for a while, but make it clear that I can only stay for a bit.

It’s kinda sad to say, but more than once in my life I’ve outgrown friends because they wanted different things from life than I did, and it was holding me back. Most of the time I end up lone-wolfing it for a while until I can find new ones that inspire me more.

Hope that helps

– Alex


Balazs Furdek December 26, 2013 at 11:00 am

Hi Alex,

I have recently discovered ur blog and I can agree with you 99% (and the rest 1 % is not at all the important stuff btw).
Regarding this post I have just one question:
Say you have been friends with someone for a long time (10 years), and really influenced each others lifes and helped when the times were tough. But in the recent past you notice that your friend is not advancing anymore: perhaps he encountered such a huge challenge that he couldnt cope with it and just ran away, kinda gave up, and started vegetating.
This means of course, that he cant help you either with your life challenges, because he is not facing his.
So should you just dump him, beacuse hes not useful anymore to your advancement/reaching dreams? Or may be that you have instead the responsability to slap him in the face and seriously warn him that he stopped being alive and offer him all your help and support whatever his not wanting to face? (the hard part is that since he ran away from the challenge, he now is in a state of mind where he doesnt even want to acknowledge that something is wrong = slipping in complacency)
I would say the latter is the right decision, and maybe, just MAYBE, if you tried everything and you cant get him up again running, then you should consider closing the friendship (but it is more probable that if he doesnt want to change, he will end it, because you have been such a pain in the ass remembering him on every occasion that he is now vegetating).
So basically what I want to emphasize is that in certain situations the easy way would be to just quit, but that would also mean that you have chosen the wrong solution (just giving up on a long, deep and (in the past) fulfilling friendship).
Thanks for your opinion!

Greeting from Hungary,

Alexander Heyne December 26, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Hi Balazs,

Really good question. I also have friends like this – people you have been friends with forever that have grown stagnant. You still enjoy their company, but you realize they aren’t pushing you any closer to your dreams.

Here’s what I do: I still hang out with these people, but not more than once a week. I try not to spend lots of hours with them, because unfortunately their own “stuff” can rub off on you. Especially if these were friends you would hang out with every day after work. Just let them know that you have a LOT of personal stuff to work on – you want to earn more money, find a job you like, start pursuing hobbies, and you’re going to have a lot less free time. Keep them as your friends, but just remember that if you’re around them all the time, they’re probably going to influence you. I wouldn’t dump them though.

Hope that helps.


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