You Are the Sum of What You Look At

You may have heard the saying that, “You’re the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.” 

Maybe before the internet age that was true, but it’s really not true anymore

I think today what’s true is, “You are the sum of what you look at.” 

The idea used to be if you hung around with certain people, they would rub off on you. Their attitudes would rub off on you. Their ways of thinking about things would rub off on you. That you’d be influenced even if you thought these were just little interactions that didn’t really matter, you’re gonna be influenced.

That’s true, but it’s even more true for what it is you look at. 

If you spend time flipping through “feeds”—be it Facebook, or Reddit, or Instagram, or Twitter, or whatever—of things that make you angry all the time, you are going to be the sum of all those little posts that make you angry. 

That’s what you’re going to turn into. You’ll become incredibly bitter about life. 

On the other hand, if you’re always reading books that are uplifting, or biographies of great people, or sci-fi that you really enjoy, stuff like that, that’s going to have that impact on you too. You’re going to be the sum of the quality of what you look with there, as well.

In Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work, he talks about how we tend to think that it’s the big outcomes in life that really matter, and they’re the only things we really need to think about: Did I get the job? Did I get married? Did I get a raise? Did I succeed at the thing? 

We think the big outcomes are what’s important, and all the little moment-to-moment stuff can be ignored.

But it turns out the reverse is actually a lot more true. 

What you do moment-to-moment, what you look at moment-to-moment, what media you’re consuming moment-to-moment—it’s those little moments that actually add up to who you become

It’s easy to discount these effects. 

It’s easy to say, about the five people you hang out with who have the biggest impact, “Well, you know, we just hang out occasionally, it doesn’t really matter.” 

It’s easy to say, “While I’m standing in line I flip through Facebook, and that doesn’t really matter.” 

But if you’re doing that literally for, perhaps, hours a day, it actually really does matter. 

It’s the little things in life, as they say, that matter. And they actually create that big picture outcome that you might be going for.

So what’s the takeaway for this? Over the next few days, if you think of it, think about, “What is it I’m looking at most? What is it I’m absorbing most?” 

Ask yourself: “If this is influencing me ten times more than I think—if this is influencing my attitude, my day-to-day feelings, and my ability to focus on something for more than a moment—would I really want to be looking at it?” 

And if you feel like you wouldn’t, maybe search out things that actually do inspire you and do make you feel good. Either reading books, on the internet, people you like—something like that. 

It’s just so easy for these little moments that we have throughout our day to get sucked up and filled up with flipping through the “feeds”—the five internet friends —who make us the craziest. 

Choose what you look at, in those little moments, wisely. They make up who you are. 

By Dmitri Bilgere

Dmitri Bilgere is leader of the Inner King Training, and author of “Gateways to God: Remove Your Roadblocks and Live His Love.” Find out more at

Photo Credit: magicatwork via Creative Commons