I was recently spending some time with a friend of mine from college. Since our time as freshman roommates, I have made a life for myself in business, and he has become a medical doctor. Even though we have had wildly different experiences since the time we split a dorm room, I realized that he is one of the few people in this world that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can trust.
I have spoken before about the importance of being ruthless with your circles, and how if someone doesn’t contribute positively to your life, it is advantageous to cut them out and move on, but I have yet to discuss how I determine whether or not someone is trustworthy. In order to make that determination, I have come up with a fun little thought experiment, which involves giving away all of my money.
Picture this, for whatever reason; you need to exit society for a year. Maybe you are going on a mission trip, maybe a faraway family member requires care, or maybe you are a part of the first manned mission to Mars. Whatever the reason, your departure requires you to divvy up your assets. Who do you have in your life that will reliably hold on to your money during your time away? Who will keep it safe? Who will refuse to touch it? Do you have someone you can hand over everything to, and walk away without spending every day worrying that you will have nothing left when you come back? I encourage you to run this experiment with everyone close to you in your life, and be honest with yourself about it. I think you will find that the list of completely trustworthy people in your life is shorter than you think. If you can give someone absolutely everything you have, and know in your bones that you can take it all back without a hassle when you return, then that is someone worth keeping in your life. That is how I determine who is in my inner circle.
As you get older and more successful, the people you can trust become exponentially more important, and exponentially more valuable. Early in your career, handing over your assets may consist of delivering a used car and a couple hundred dollars in savings. 20 years later? We could be talking millions. That friend of mine mentioned above is someone that I could trust with my assets at 20, and someone I can trust today. People like that are truly the important people in your life.
Now, that isn’t to say that you should completely sever ties with your friends you think might skim a little off of the top – just understand that those people shouldn’t be your everything. You can easily and happily maintain relationships with people you wouldn’t hand everything to, but if you understand the nature of those relationships, and what those people are capable of, then you will never make the mistake of trusting them when you shouldn’t.
So ask yourself, who can I really trust? And prioritize those people.