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This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, LawSikho.

I am going to talk about something that is very important, but kind of unpopular. You may not like what you read here onwards.

I started smoking by accident, thinking that I am just smoking a few and I will never get addicted. It started with the odd smoke after drinking. It felt amazing. I started smoking every time I drank alcohol. How did this happen? My college friends used to smoke and drink. Smoking and drinking was the way to party and have fun. I resisted it for one whole year. And then one day, just like that, I thought I will try it out. I learned that behavior. 

For 3 years, I smoked only when I drank, never otherwise. And I drank maybe once or twice a month. It wasn’t much to talk about.

Then I realized smoking with the morning tea feels great. 

How did this happen? 

In my fifth year, I started hanging out in the morning near the university gate with a bunch of friends, who all drank tea and had a smoke along with that. We did not have classes in the morning usually, the benefit of being in the senior year. So we chilled at a tea stall until class.

Smoking was a way to socialize and connect with people. Nobody said I had to, but it was a subtle influence. Smoking and drinking tea was an excuse to go and experience some human company and a bit of banter. That’s when I really began to get addicted to smoking.

Then came life in a law firm. The only respite from sitting at your desk for 14 hours a day was the smoke breaks with a view from the 13th floor of One Indiabulls in Lower Parel. Smoking was also an excuse for connecting and socializing with other lawyers. In the evenings, that would be drinking and smoking after office.

Pretty soon, I was smoking and drinking more than I ever did.

Then I was dating someone who smoked a lot. One of my flatmates went through a couple of packets every day. So now I began to smoke at home.  

Reinforced from all directions, smoking and drinking became a way of life for me. 

Later, when I dated people who didn’t smoke, I would naturally quit smoking for a while, or cut down drastically. The same happened with drinking as well. But if I dated anyone who smoked a lot, it immediately had a telling effect on my smoking habit. 

By the way, all through this time I quit smoking many a time. Sometimes I went without smoking for several months, only to fall prey to it again in some unsuspecting moment. 

Currently, I have been off smoking for almost a month. I gave in once and smoked a lot for one night around the 14-day mark, but has been completely off since then. I may have had 2-3 drinks in between as well. That must be the lowest in 10 years. I feel amazing and very healthy. My sleep has improved, so has overall health and energy. 

It helps a great deal that people around me mostly do not smoke or drink.

I finally feel in control with respect to smoking and drinking. I am no more helpless for giving in to the urges that drive me nuts. However, I doubt that this would have been possible without my environment being so drastically different than what it used to be once upon a time. 

In my current environment, if I smoke or drink, I am frowned upon, told off by several people and reminded of all the ill effects. Imagine how hard that makes to continuing self-harming activities. Binge drinking and smoking is neither normalized nor justified. 

Quitting smoking was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But I want to share a greater lesson than how to stay away from smoking or how to quit it. Now if I go to a party, I order a mocktail and not a hard drink.

I told you this long story to highlight one important lesson – that the people around you, people in your life, house, workplace, communities and society – have a great deal of say in how you live your life and who you get to be. 

If people do not accept your behavior, they will find you unbearable and will demand that you change. If you don’t, they would leave, retaliate, disassociate or just fade away. They will make it hard for you to be what you are being. They won’t live right next to you or put up with it.

Those who put up with you or encourage you, enable your behavior. They enable you to be who you are. Good and bad, both.

Just like the victim of an abusive person often stay and enable the abuser to continue being that way. 

If all people forcefully rejected one for being an abuser and did not tolerate or justify his behavior, it would be insanely difficult for him to not change.

But people do put up, and others even justify abusive actions and bullying, even publicly, and that is why there are so many abusive people and so many abused people in the world. 

What you are in life, where you are in life, and where you want to be but cannot reach, are all because of the people you are surrounded with. People around you vote for who you are, even if they crib about it.

Someone I used to date would tell me not to smoke every day, used to crib about my smoking a lot, and tried to ration how much I smoked. However, whenever she was distressed or experienced stress herself, she was the first one to smoke. You bet her persuasion of me to quit smoking didn’t work. She was voting for me to smoke when I was stressed or worried, which is exactly what I did. 

However, when the people in my life unequivocally rejected smoking, not only in words but their own behavior too, it was not possible for me to not smoke anymore, at all. 

Are you lazy? Then I bet that the people around you have accepted you to be lazy and work around it. You could not afford to be lazy if they didn’t support your laziness one way or the other. 

Are you amazing at photography? I bet people around you support, admire or at least accept this one way or the other. Even if they didn’t help you or push you to be that way, there is at least a passive vote by allowing you to be that way. 

Nonetheless, if you are going to be great at photography, and very successful as a photographer, you will need an environment that is not merely passively allowing you to be an OK photographer but actively pushing you towards that greatness, demanding that you become amazing at it.  

Why do tens of thousands of law students graduate from law colleges around India completely unprepared for the legal profession, with very little practical skills and expect people to give them work and teach them how to do their job while they are on the payroll?

It is a ridiculous expectation if you think about it, and a vast majority of them are getting terribly disappointed every year. And still the behavior and the expectation does not change. Why is that?

It is because the entire college system, from teachers to parents to classmates all reinforce that behavior and that entitled belief. 

As if it is fine to spend 5 years learning nothing but some sections and a few case laws in the name of legal education. As if getting lots of marks in the exam by memorizing class notes is going to set them up for a great career in law. What a joke!

But this notion exists in the world, in the mind of young law students, because the legal education system votes for this behavior, this mindset to exist. Many senior lawyers also like this situation. It allows for competition to stay in check! They do not want young law graduates to be super dynamic and smart, they do not want these young lawyers to be amazing at their work from the get-go. It is not good for their business.

So they dole out outdated, irrelevant advice which poor young lawyers follow blindly and find themselves in a ditch. 

If you are not doing very well in the legal profession, it is because you are part of the wrong tribe, people pursuing the wrong angle, engaging in unproductive behavior, or following the wrong advice and the wrong path.

You need to follow and associate with people who are doing something different, and seeing early success if you want to succeed early, and at a bigger scale, yourself. 

If you are not rich, it is because people around you reinforce beliefs and behavior that keep you that way.

If you do not exercise, overeat and drink too much, it is because people around you do so too, or encourage such behavior, or even identify as a group who engage in that kind of behavior. 

Hey, we are foodies! 

Hey, we are the party animals! 

We have a lot of fun and drink like a fish! 

We are potheads!

These things reinforce and teach people to behave in a certain way, as a part of a community.

If you saw your parents work out every morning as a kid, looking super hot in their 40s, would you not want to look as good or better in your 30s and 40s? I bet kids of parents who work out also tend to work out regularly and build great exercise and healthy habits early in life. 

If all your friends work out and look great, and you don’t, how would you feel to be the odd one out who is out of shape, tending towards obesity?

If people around you are rejecting all the time that you are smoking too much, complain about it and ask you to stop, you will either have to leave that environment altogether or consider stopping. That happened to me. Everyone around me was dead against me smoking, so it led to me finally being able to quit. I wanted to quit all along, but my environment and the people around me truly enabled me to do it.

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You cannot alter your life without altering your relationship with the people around you. Who are you? Who do you want to become? Are the people around you supportive of you changing your habits and behavior? 

I bet that you will find that they are not.

And that is when you need to find a different kind of tribe or people to associate with.

Have no doubts, whatever may be the life you are living, good or bad in your opinion, in the long term, it has been enabled and fostered by the people around you. Your parents, teachers, bosses, co-workers, friends, everyone plays a role in keeping it the way it is. They are the guardians of the status quo.

Even if they say they don’t want you to remain in the same place, even if they say that they want you to improve and reach greater heights, they are the ones enabling you to stay the way you are. They are all weighing in to keep you at the same place. They are not allowing you to slip away even further down, but they are preventing you from going upwards too.

A big part of success in life is being able to severe attachments with people who are keeping you where you are and replace them with people who help you to take the great leap forward, who are surging forward in their own life and will accept no less from you.

Please make no mistake about this if you are committed to personal and professional growth.

Do you want to grow in terms of your knowledge and skills of law by leaps and bounds? Do you want to grow the time you spend on becoming a better lawyer and surround yourself with people who have the same goal and teachers who would push you to become a better lawyer every single day? Do you want to earn drastically more from your law practice?

Try LawSikho. We are a tribe of lawyers and business people and are always learning, always growing and always demanding greatness from ourselves. 

If you love reading our emails and watching our YouTube channel or just following us on Instagram, you have no idea how much you will love to see your legal career transforming into what you always wanted to be, supported by the LawSikho community and tribe of lawyers committed to personal and professional growth. 

Do share this with your friends and encourage them to join us as well. You could tell them to download this book or this book for example. Of course, they are both free. When your environment changes as your friends become committed to growth, your life will change for the better, too.

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