Ep 224: The Power of Peer Influence

Episode Summary

Justin Blaney, author of Relationshift, joins us to discuss the power that peer influence has over teens. Plus, how teens can find great mentors and how the right friends always encourage teens to expand their worldview.

Show NotesParenting ScriptsInterview TranscriptGuest Bio

Full Show Notes

Teens are undeniably influenced by their peers. They adopt their friends’ fashion, hobbies, attitudes and even opinions….for better or for worse! 

Whomever your teen decides to spend time with, those people are critical to your teens wellbeing. These individuals might encourage your kids to follow their dreams and become their best selves, or involve them in risky and regrettable behavior. That’s why it’s essential to understand the power of peer pressure–and guide teens to make the right kind of friends.

To help us ensure that teens are hanging with the right crowd, we’re talking to Justin Blaney, author of Relationshift. Justin is a successful entrepreneur, professor of business at the University of Washington, and the author of 12 books! He’s here to share advice about forging healthy and helpful relationships, gathered from both his professional life as a businessman and personal life as a father of three!

In the episode, we discuss why it’s so essential that teens spend time around peers who lift them up rather than those who drag them down. Plus, how kids can find the right mentors, and  how good companions can help teens expand their worldview.

The Power of Peer Influence

In the episode, Justin talks a lot about how teens can get in with the “right” crowd–but not in a moral sense. Instead, these friends should be the kind of people who encourage teens to follow their dreams, find happiness and live their best lives. Of course, no friend is going to be perfect, but a good companion should motivate teens to feel confident and strive for self improvement, Justin explains.

Justin and I talk about how teens can evaluate their friendships to see if they’re bringing happiness or hindrance. He explains a method that he refers to as the plus/minus statistic–a metric borrowed from sports! Justin says that teens can weigh the good and the bad to discover if teens’ friends are making their lives better or holding them back. We talk further about the plus/minus statistic in the episode, and how it can help teens surround themselves with the right people.

Guiding teens to pick the right companions starts with encouraging them to be self aware, Justin says. Sometimes teens can be a bit oblivious to the negative parts of their friendships, and refuse to think of their friends as bad influences. 

Justin recommends sitting kids down and asking them to recount their dreams, goals and vision for their life and then reflecting on whether or not their friends are conducive to this dream–or are actively keeping them from achieving it.

Beyond just peers, teens need mentors to push them in the right direction. Justin and I are talking about how teenagers can find the right mentor to guide them through their own personal struggles and goals.

Finding Meaningful Mentors

Finding a great mentor requires teens to choose someone who’s been through the same things they have, says Justin.  

Sometimes teens tend to gravitate towards those who have found immense success in the field they aspire to…but oftentimes these successful people were just lucky, says Justin. It’s even more likely that these people had a leg-up in life, whether it’s inherited wealth, nepotism or simply an especially encouraging family.

Justin encourages parents to reiterate this disparity to teens who might find themselves frustrated by the success of others. Other people might have simply been born with more athletic ability or academic intelligence, or maybe their financially comfortable background allowed them to study instead of spending time working. Whatever the case may be, teens shouldn’t compare themselves to peers or even adults who seem to excel effortlessly.

In the end, these lucky people often make poor mentors, because they haven’t gone through as much struggle as most other successful people, saud Justin. Finding mentors from a similar background who are familiar with the same difficulties teens are facing will create a much more successful mentor/mentee experience at the end of the day, he says. In the episode, Justin and I talk about all the different kinds of mentorship that teens can take advantage of.

One of a mentor’s many roles is to help teens expand their worldview. Justin and I are discussing how important it is for teens to broaden their perspective and how strong relationships with peers and mentors can help them do so.

Embracing New Perspectives

As teens grow up, they start to learn more about the world…and sometimes think they know everything! That’s why it’s so important for teens to be surrounded by people who put their worldview to the test. 

Half the time, kids don’t even realize just how oblivious they are to certain realities, and they need someone to broaden their perspective. Justin uses the example of kids who grow up in poverty and don’t even realize options like college could ever be a reality for them–until they meet a role model who changes their mind.

Parents, mentors and peers alike can help teens break out of their comfort zone and rethink their lives by simply encouraging them to take risks. In the episode, Justin and I talk about a sort of mental immune system that we develop as we grow up and start to filter “bad” things out and welcome “good” things in. Over time, we start to do it habitually, without even thinking, leading us to reject things that seem unfamiliar or vaguely threatening in any way. In our interview, Justin and I are talking about how we can push teens to tweak this system and invite new experiences into their lives.

As much as we try, parents can’t teach kids everything, and we’ll always have certain blindspots. To remedy this, Justin suggests that parents find someone who can help kids in the areas where we struggle to give guidance–like a younger relative or a career professional. 

Arranging meetings or phone calls with someone who can give teens valuable advice is a gentle and kind way to help kids learn about the world and challenge their own opinions. With a greater worldview, they’ll be able to envision possibilities for themselves that they never imagined, growing one step closer to living their best life.

In The Episode….

I had a wonderful time talking with Justin this week! On top of the topics discussed above, we also talk about:

  • Why teens shouldn’t treat people as transactional
  • How to stop overthinking
  • What we can learn from Justin’s own parenting journey
  • How peer pressure can sometimes be positive

If you enjoyed this episode and want more from Justin, you can find him at Blaney.app. Thanks for listening and don’t forget to share and subscribe. See you next week!


Parenting Scripts

Word-for-word examples of what to say to your teen

1. Talk about the power of peer influence:

“People change us for better or worse, and the key is that we have different relationships in our life, and they have the potential to impact us in positive and negative ways.”

Justin Blaney

2. Prompt teens to evaluate their friendships:

(Members Only)

3. When a friend might be bad influence:

(Members Only)

4. Advice for finding a mentor:

(Members Only)

5. When teens are experiencing regret:

(Members Only)

Complete Interview Transcript

Andy: I just read this volume called Relationshift.

Justin: Yeah. That’s my latest one just came out about a month ago.

Andy: It’s up for a pretty prestigious award right now.

Justin: Yeah. It’s incredible. We just got the news. There’s an award called the Next Big Idea. It’s a fancy book club. And it is curated by a couple of pretty famous names. You ever heard of Malcolm Gladwell?

Andy: I know that guy.

Justin: Adam Grant, Susan Cain, author of Quiet. So what they do is they pick their favorite two books of the quarter and then they have thousands of people in the club that get mailed the book, but then they have millions of people that follow them online. So I’m a finalist for that. We just submitted the promo. They wanted to have the five key takeaways so that they could decide without having to read the whole book-

Andy: Yep, yep. That make sense.

Justin: … whether it was worth promoting, I’m guessing. So yeah, very excited about that. And so, fingers crossed, but in any case, big honor and really excited that I was nominated for that.

Andy: That’s a topic that you know well. It sounds like having three children of your own.

Justin: Yeah. I have a unique story with having kids of my own. I got started a little early, 17. I had my first daughter, was unplanned, needless to say. And then the woman that I had my daughter with, we decided to get married at 17.

Andy: Okay. That sounds like it worked out well.

Justin: Then we had two more, two more girls. Yeah. Big recipe for success.

Andy: I see. I see where this is going.

Justin: Not just success in relationships but made life a lot easier too.

Andy: I’m sure. Yeah. Smooth sailing from that. And then we lived happily ever after, really.

Justin: Yeah. Exactly. So we wanted to have our kids close together. We were very religious at the time, and so we just like, “Let’s just have our family. This is what we’re doing.” So by 21, I had my three daughters, and then we thought, “You know, that’s good.” So I’m 40 now and my daughters are 23, 21, and 18. Still got a teenager left. And talk authoritatively on the subject.

Andy: Yeah. Definitely can. Well, you just spent a good chunk of time in the teenage phase with three girls all in the teenage years for actually a decent portion there. You mentioned that the big five ideas from the book that you put together in your video. Can you walk me through what those are? Any of those that stand out as really being meaningful for parents and teenagers?

Justin: Yeah. Absolutely. The first one is really just that we become like the people we hang around, which is a very common-sense concept. But really the idea is that people change us for better or worse. And the key is that we have different relationships in our life, and they have the potential to impact us in positive and negative ways. And when I refer to positive and negative, I try to strip out any sense of morality. I’m not talking about whether it’s moral or immoral. What I’m talking about is are they helping us become more like the people we want to be living the life we want to live, or are they perhaps hindering us on that journey? So by being aware of the fact that… Even someone say like our own mom or dad who maybe… Let’s assume, we have a great relationship with our mom and dad, and they have all this great impact on us, but there still might be some ways that they’re actually hindering us from becoming the people that we want.

So we want to be aware of that, and we want to try to lean into the ways that they help us become who we want and mitigate some of the influence where they might not be impacting us the way we want. So I’ll give you an example. If a parent, they might be a great influence on parenting, but maybe they’re a workaholic. And so they’re pressuring us to work more all the time. And maybe we’re trying to work smarter, not harder. We’re trying to do the four-hour work week from Tim Ferris. They don’t get that. They say, “That’s not the way life works. You’ve got to work 12 hours a day.” And if you’re not, maybe they’re a little harsh with us. Parents can be that way sometimes. And it can become a part of us and then we start thinking, “I’m not working hard enough, I’m not working hard enough.”

So they’re pulling us away from that, maybe that dream of the four-hour work week, which other people are enjoying. So you have to take those and set those aside and find other mentors in your life to help you with that aspect. Someone who’s living that life the way that you want to live. And maybe those people are terrible parents. So you don’t let those people influence you in their parenting because maybe they’re never present for their kids. So it’s about looking at the people in your life and then also finding new people who can help you in all the different aspects of life, whether it’s spiritual, physical health, financial health, peace and prosperity in your heart and emotions and so on.

Andy: And being able to compartmentalize that in a different categories or you talk about having different pillars that are important to you. And I thought this concept was really interesting. You are talking about the plus-minus statistic, and you’re talking about pulling force, and I love this little diagram you have in this book.

Justin: Yeah. Transformational gravity.

Andy: Yes. I love that. And how some people have more pulling force than others and can pull you with a lot more magnetism towards the person that you want to be than others. Well, how does that work and how do you tell the difference?

Justin: Yeah. So you mentioned the plus-minus statistic. That’s a basketball statistic. I love sports analogies, even though I don’t love sport. I actually love sports analogies more than I love sports because I love the purity of sports. Sports, it’s competition. There’s not usually favoritism involved. It’s all on the court. It’s all whether you’re scoring or whether you’re defending or how you’re doing. But if you look at basketball, say what’s the impact of a player? Well, they might score a lot of points, but they might be terrible on defense. So the plus-minus statistic is one that allows you to look at the impact of a player, whether they’re playing defense or offense. And what they look at is just does your team score more points when you’re on the floor? Does your team do better or worse when you’re on the court? And so it’s an instant measure of relationship.

Andy: Totally, yeah.

Justin: Because you’re seeing some players that come up in court-

Andy: Are you lifting everybody else up or are you dragging them down?

Justin: Yeah. They don’t score any points and yet the team is doing better. So it was a really beautiful statistic that someone came up with a while back. I saw it as a perfect analogy for relationship because people can come into your life and they can impact you in different ways and it can be confusing, but then you look at it, are they making your life better overall or are they hindering you in some way? So that’s the analogy. Now if you look at that in a relationship sense, specifically say with teenagers, when parents want their teenagers to have good friends around them.

Andy: Yeah. Of course. Yeah. Oh, yeah, I hear them talking about this a lot.

Justin: We tend to talk about peer pressure in the negative sense, but pure pressure is just as likely to be positive as negative. But some people, some mentors have the ability… Either mentors or peers. It’s important to remember that relationship happens actually in three directions. Mentors who are further along in the journey, peers who are about the same place in the journey, and mentees or proteges who are not as far along in the journey. And you look at that specifically in a particular area of life. So what’s interesting is the parents who might be listening, you might have teenagers who are mentors to you with technology or with the way current culture is happening. And so they can teach you things that you don’t know, which is pretty exciting as you become an adult and you start to realize, “This is really cool. My kid is teaching me something, or they know more than me about something than I do.”

It’s a fun realization, I think, as a parent. So being aware of the idea that some people can impact your journey much more than other people. So as parents are looking for maybe mentors or good peers for their kids, some of them… Depending on what the kid wants to do, if your child wants to be really successful in a scholastic setting, there’s some peers who can help them be a little more successful in a scholastic setting. There are some peers who can help them be a lot more successful.

So if you are trying to optimize that scenario, which you could argue for against, and I’m a big believer in… By the way, not treating this robotically or mathematically or coldly, it’s really important that you do all of this within the realm of having rich, real relationships that are reciprocal, that aren’t about using people. It’s about giving and taking and having that real relationship. But if you can find some peers or some mentors that can help you grow much further and faster, then lean into that relationship for that aspect of your life as much as you can, and you will travel further faster or your team will travel further faster.

I have a lot of other analogies that I typically go to for career. It’s easier to imagine this in light of business. If you have a business partner who knows a little bit more about you than business, they’re going to be able to help you. But if you could go partner with the late Steve Jobs and have him be your business partner, who would probably go much further and faster than if you partner with your uncle who owns hair salon. And again, it’s nothing wrong with having an uncle go into hair salon, but that’s the general principle and you can apply that in different aspects of life.

Andy: Maybe you’re not going to find someone who’s the perfect mentor in all aspects of life or a peer who’s really pushing you to where you want to be in all aspects. So maybe you’ve got a friend who’s really, really stellar academically, but they eat like crap and play video games all the time and they’re a negative influence on your health or your goals in terms of your body or something like that. And well, how do you recommend we help teenagers to tease those apart or to not be dragged down in one area? And how do you even think about that?

Justin: It’s really the core of the concepts of the book of Relationshift is that you simply start by being aware. So as your parents are talking to your children about how their friends are impacting them or maybe teachers, maybe they have youth pastors or different mentors in their life, and you can help them see that everybody has different aspects of themselves, some that they’re good at, some that they’re not as good at. You mentioned somebody might be really good at athletics, but they’re bad at doing their homework. Or you might have someone who, like you said, eats very unhealthily and is a bad influence on that. Or maybe they even abuse substances, maybe they drink, maybe they do drugs, and you don’t want your kids perhaps to get into those things, but they might be really good at something else.

And so you can just teach your children, and parents yourselves, you can also do this with your relationships to just be aware of it and say, “Just remind yourself that this person has a positive impact on me in this area of life and a negative impact in this area.” And simply by being aware of it, you unlock the entirely new levels of potential. Because what I’ve found personally and what I’ve found is, I’ve talked about this with everybody I’ve ever talked about it, always the first thing they say is, “This is exactly what I believe. This is what I’ve always done.” Because it’s so common sense, we know that people impact us, but we are blind to the way that they are impacting us in different aspects of our life, I believe. And we know that they’re impacting us in one way positively, but I think that sometimes we’re blind to the ways that they might be impacting us negatively in certain aspects of life.

So I think just teaching your kids to be aware of it and maybe pointing it out and saying that, “You don’t have to cut this person off, but be aware of the fact that…” And also relate it back to their dreams. “Also you want to be a great athlete. Well, hanging out with your friend that likes to go partying is going to impact your performance as an athlete. So be their friend. You don’t need to cut them off. But be aware of the fact that if you let that side of them impact you and change you, you’re going to be changing your ability to go after that dream of yours, that dream of being a great athlete.” So you can tie it back to that. It all goes back to me again, it’s not about morality, but it’s not a moral judgment. It’s about what do you want from life and what is helping you get more of that versus taking away from that.

Andy: I also love this discussion that you have in here on understanding the influence of luck. And a lot of times we might look at someone and say, “Oh, well, they’re really great in this area. And so, awesome, they’re a great person to be hanging out with because I want to be better at that too. I want to be more athletic too.” But yeah, especially as teenagers, you don’t have a lot of track record to go by. Maybe they happen to have a parent who was a really good coach and had helped them a ton to become more athletic or they got lucky and genetically to be a certain have more coordinated. And who knows that sometimes I think we discount the influence of luck and we say, “Oh, well, hey, I should do what this person’s doing because they’re killing it in this area.” How do you factor that in or tease out luck versus actual habits or doing things that are based on how a person is actually living or showing up in a certain area?

Justin: It’s a really difficult factor to consider, but it’s important to consider. You brought up, again, we’re talking about sports. I like to play a little bit of sports when I was a kid and I was okay at it, but I was never great at it. There was always people that were greater, a lot better to say playing football. Now I look back and I see… Well, when I was a young man, I didn’t have a dad to throw the football with me. And a lot of those kids that were really good at football, maybe it wasn’t a dad, but they were playing football from very early age. They had people to play with, they had brothers or sisters, or moms and dads, uncles, aunts, different people in their life. And that is a factor that when you’re 16 years old and you’re comparing yourself to someone else, you can’t go back in time and change the fact that you might not have had that support structure around you from a very young age that helps you become a great athlete.

So you might just feel in that moment, “Why am I not as good as this other kid? What’s wrong with me?” And you could call that luck, you could call that a lot of different things, but really what it is there’s things that are outside your control and it applies on a lot of different situations. You could look at doing well scholastically, some people are born with more intelligence and can learn more quickly than others. That’s one factor of luck. But there’s other factors like some students were pushed really hard when they were young. And so now when they’re 18, taking their SATs, that is a factor that if you weren’t pushed really hard when you were young, maybe you had to work a job because your parents didn’t have as much money, so you wanted to pay for camp in the summer and you had to work all summer.

That’s taking time away from this other student that their parents maybe put them through tutoring in the summer. So all of those things play into the fact that now you and this other person are taking your SAT, you may be naturally DNA-wise similar in intelligence, but you may not perform as well in that scenario because of all the factors that led to that moment. So how do you do that or how does that apply with relationship? You’re trying to find people who have been through similar circumstances as you to get to where they are because they’re going to be able to help you get from where you are to where you want to be better than someone who’s lucky. Sometimes when people are really good at things, they just say, “I don’t know, you just do it.” If you’re talking about say, natural intelligence, someone who’s really naturally intelligent may not be the perfect mentor for someone who struggles with school because they have ADHD.

Because they might just say, “I don’t know, you just do it.” Or they might say, “I don’t study, I just sit in class and listen to the teacher and take the test and get an A.” Now they may be smart, but it’s not necessarily going to help you. If you struggle with ADHD, then you can’t sit in class, and you can’t pay attention or you can’t study after school because you have to go work a second job. So I’m trying to come up with examples that relate with teenagers, which is off the top of my head. So I don’t know how good all of these examples are, but you can take these principles and apply it to your own situation. And so what I’ve found is, in this scenario, if you have ADHD and you’re trying to do good in school, it would be better to find someone who has ADHD who learned how to deal with that and ended up doing well scholastically because they’re going to be able to help you with your specific path better than someone who followed a different path.

Now that person who’s really smart and scores, and they were tutored, and they were wealthy, and they’re different than you, they can still help you. That’s what I’m talking about with the plus-minus score. And that’s why I’m saying it’s not about morality. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s great. I’m really glad for that kid that they got to have that life.

Andy: Awesome. Yeah.

Justin: But they’re not going to be able to help me as much if I’m different and I’ve had a different life path. So it’s about finding people who can help you, who have been where you’ve been and have gotten to where you want to go. That’s going to be the best possible scenario for a relationship mentor.

Andy: I love that. And the more similar their background is to yours, then the more you can follow their example or trust that what worked for them will work for you.

Justin: It’s like in a different matter with finances or again, with business. Somebody might be really successful in business, but they have a parent who gave them a business that was successful. And maybe that business grew under their supervision.

Andy: Sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Justin: They might be surrounded by people that call them geniuses and they’re looking up to them, but they may not be able to actually help you get from poverty to success because they didn’t have to do that themselves. Again, they can still help you. They probably still know more than you about business, but they’re going to say, “Well, you know what I did was I went out and spent a million dollars buying warehouses and we created all this efficiency.” And you’re like, “Well, I can’t do that.”

Andy: What are you talking about? Yeah.

Justin: Yeah. So it’s not really healthy.

Andy: I make $15 an hour. Yeah.


About Dr. Justin Blaney

Dr. Justin Blaney, D.M., is the author of Relationshift.

Justin is  a serial entrepreneur who has founded and sold multiple companies in industries ranging from advertising to consumer goods. Currently, Justin runs a digital marketing agency that has generated more than $250 million in revenue growth.

He’s also the author of twelve books. His novel, Evan Burl and the Falling, has sold over 100,000 copies. Online, his work has received close to a billion views all over the world. He also created an app that features daily meditations on living well.

He teaches at Foster School of Business, University of Washington and created the first course on influencer marketing at a major university. 

Justin lives in Seattle with his wife, Anya, and dog Arlo.

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