#1728 Vicious Crowds

vs. Virtuous Friends

Continuing our Breakfast with Seneca, let’s feast on some more wisdom from David Fideler’s great book.

Today we’re going to talk about Vicious Crowds vs. Virtuous Friends.

Let’s get straight to work.

David tells us: “Using a metaphor from medicine, Seneca explains that we can become ‘infected’ with the bad qualities of others. In a plague, he noted, we can catch a disease by merely being ‘breathed on,’ so we must choose our friends with great care, based on the health of their character. ‘Make an effort to take on the least infected,’ he wrote, because ‘it’s the beginning of disease to expose healthy things to sickness.’”

He continues by saying: “Significantly, this isn’t something Seneca only mentions once. As he writes in another work, ‘We pick up bad habits from those around us, and just as some diseases are spread through physical contact, the mind also transmits its ills to those nearby.’ For example, a greedy person can transmit his infected character to his neighbors. Fortunately, though, ‘It’s the same thing with virtues, but in reverse.’ So while people with flawed characters can transmit their bad habits to us, people with good characters, who befriend us, can make us better human beings.”

That’s from chapter-theme #9: “Vicious Crowds and the Ties That Bind.”

David walks us through the ancient Stoic wisdom that has been verified by modern science and is best summed up by Jim Rohn’s adage that we are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time.


To be clear, later in the same chapter, David talks about the commitment Stoics have to seeing themselves as part of a broader, universal “family” and that deliberately finding ways to serve authentically while embodying the virtue of love is a hallmark of the Stoic practitioner.


We need to be very mindful about the people with whom we spend the most time. Epictetus echoed this wisdom.

In Discourses he tells us: “It is inevitable if you enter into relations with people on a regular basis, either for conversation, dining or simple friendship, that you will grow to be like them, unless you can get them to emulate you. Place an extinguished piece of coal next to a live one, and either it will cause the other one to die out, or the live one will make it reignite. Since a lot is at stake, you should be careful about fraternizing with non-philosophers in these contexts; remember that if you consort with someone covered in dirt you can hardly avoid getting a little grimy yourself.”

The Buddha echoes this wisdom as well.

In The Dhammapada, he tells us: “If you find no one to support you on the spiritual path, walk alone. There is no companionship with the immature.” And: “Avoid the company of the immature if you want joy.”

That’s Today’s +1.

Let’s embody the ideals of LOVE in all of our interactions Today.


Let’s be mindful of the power of Vicious Crowds vs. Virtuous Friends.

Practically speaking…

Who’s ONE person with whom you could (lovingly!) afford to spend just a little less time?


Who’s ONE person with whom you could (joyfully!) choose to spend a LOT more time?!

Here’s to swapping out that -1 for a +1.

All day, every day.



P.S. The scientific power of community is one of the reasons we created the social component to Heroic. It’s still in its nascent form as I type this, but it’s incredibly inspiring to see thousands of people coming together and supporting one another in showing up as our best selves.

I’m fired up to help bring these connections OFFLINE and help create 1,000+ Heroic local communities in 100+ countries around the world.

Day 1. All in.


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