As I sit here and work on my newsletter and podcast, I am reminded again how rich and full my life is because of the network of friends I have who encourage, cajole and laugh with me. In short, I get by with a little help from my friends.
I always liked that Beatles song. Most of them I’m ambivalent about, but something about the tune and truth of having strength in numbers makes me feel safe in the world today.
Like many of you, I have groups of friends for different aspects of my life. I have church friends, work friends, former work friends, political friends (former political friends), my mom’s friends, my brothers’ friends and my sweet neighbors. I even have a small group of more mature friends whose company I love. In the midst of it all, I have a small group of trusted friends that keep me motivated and real when my work and world close in. So my message is simple today, and it is backed by science, that we all do better when we work to make our relationships real, strong and long-lasting.
Family, for the most part, will always be with us, but it is the friends we made long ago or yesterday that bring a burst of joy and gladness to the mundane and ordinary that makes the journey more enjoyable.
Without a doubt, one of the saddest things we all experience is when we lose a friend, either by choice or by necessity (because some of them are nuts) or by death, but I am not going to dwell on the loss by death for my thought today…it’s just too sad.
What I really think is important to refresh your memory about is the value of working on your friendships. I know you have your posse, and by all intents and purposes you’re doing fine, but what I want to drive home is the idea that a little bit of work on your part now will pay dividends for the rest of your life.
I’m not talking about doing good deeds to add some chits to your list of those who owe you something. Let’s go a bit deeper to acknowledge that when you are in need of a friend, there will be someone who you can call when your world falls down around you.
There is a quote online that I’ve always liked that says, “Friendship is so weird…you just pick a human you’ve met, and you’re like, ‘Yep. I like this one,’ and you just do stuff with them.”
And that is how it works.
There are many articles online about the need and value of friendship, and I will post links for you, but in short, I find that, for all the reasons psychologists have for their friendship valuations, while they create metrics for your friendship quotient, I have three that make my list.
My list is my narrative that gives me the purpose I need to set aside time and see my friends. Your list may be different, and that is okay, but please do take a moment this week and make three lists of your friends: 1) Those who you would call if something really bad happened to you, 2) those you would call if something great happened to you and 3) those who you would call just to shoot the breeze and catch up on life.
Granted, all three groups might have some of the same people, but my thought is you need to have a few different folks in each category, or you will wear out those few friends who are on every list. And if you are not careful, they might go looking for a new friendship if you spend too much time unloading your burdens and worries on them or you are constantly bragging about your accomplishments or take up a lot of their time with your chatter.
I look for a few traits in my friends: those who are understanding and who do not judge (unless I am off track), those who will encourage me and those who laugh at my jokes and are my partners-in-crime, so to speak.
Like many of you, I run at high speed, and sometimes I get myself stuck between a rock and a hard place when I over-commit or embellish a bit. That is when I need my friends to rein me in, make me slow down and breathe.
I have my own business, so sometimes when I spend a lot of time thinking through an issue I come up with a brilliant solution; when I don’t seek outside counsel, at midnight all my opinions seem like dazzling ideas until the wheels come off. And then I realize if I had just run my magnificent idea by my friends, perhaps I wouldn’t have lost my shirt on a project.
There is no better feeling than knowing that someone believes in you and is willing to encourage you to stretch yourself to do the thing you need to do even if you are afraid.
A few years ago a friend encouraged me to accept an offer and travel to a country I had zero interest in going to. While the trip was okay and I am glad I went, in the end, it wasn’t the location that taught me much; it was the fact that I had to dig deep to make it through and keep a positive attitude for others, so the whole affair didn’t end up being a messy situation. Yes, I know I am vague on this point, but the bigger issue is simply that the encouragement of a friend forced me to call on my better angels to grow up and be my best without complaint. Only I know that the trip is on my list of “places Deb never wants to visit again,” but the time I spent made me see the world through a new lens, and years later I can honestly say I am better for it today. I would have never put myself out there without the encouragement and trust of a friend who knew I needed to grow.
We all have that friend or few friends that when we’re together life is good. Our common interest and shared fun make memories for a lifetime. The late night talks, the early morning walks and the meals shared with love and laughter are the moments when you look up at the night sky and thank your lucky stars that you are in this group of kind, loving, amazing like-minded friends. It is my prayer that you have a crew of friends like that.
Now, from the outside, it seems like all my friends are cool, amazing, smart and good looking and they are, but the truth is I have had to walk away from a few friends who really were not good for me or to me. And as hard as it is to pull away, when I looked at the list of who I could call, who I could share with and who I would enjoy shooting the breeze with, those people were not on any list. We just happened to be at the same place at the same time, and it seemed like they would be a good choice until their true colors showed. That’s when I realized that I had connected with a person whose values are not mine, whose words are not true and whose goal was to use me (and you) and our network for their personal gain.
We all have had those friends (too bad they don’t all get together and make each other miserable) who seemed legit on the outside. They are masters at finding good-hearted, honest, kind people and using them for their success, going so far as to ruin reputations unless you can break away before it all falls down.
I don’t know about you, but it is hard to tell your friends that you’re sorry for bringing the disruptor into the group. Funny thing is, though, you will find out that they all seemed to know the interloper’s true intent, but you never saw it. And it is hard to walk away from the soon-to-be former friends when they are so good at making you feel guilty for pulling away. But pull away you must, to save yourself and your reputation.
Remember, you have to do what is best for you. If walking away and being alone for a time is best, make your move sooner than later before they become so entangled in your life, your business and friend groups when hanging on a minute more would cause greater harm to the rest of your honest friends.
Removing dishonest friends and business partners might cost you financially, but it is worth it to take the hit early before they smash your hard work and reputation into the rails. They will walk away leaving you holding the damage, and you will have to explain what happened while you concede to the embarrassment of your poor judgment.
Now let me stop and say I am not speaking about anyone you know, so please don’t call me and ask if you are my nutty friend. This post is from me watching others fall into the same trap that we have all fallen into at one time or another in our lives. Seriously, I am not talking about you.
I do have to tell you a funny story. When I had my radio show, one of my many themes was moving on in your life and leaving those who hurt you behind–a very typical theme that I talked about a lot. So I had an email from someone who told me to stop listening to his wife, and that he wasn’t as bad as she said he was and I was terrible for not listening to his side of the story. I wrote him back and asked him which show of my hundreds of shows his wife had heard and that he’d interpreted as being about him? Well, of course he didn’t know, and proceeded to tell me that even his friends told him that no one on the radio was talking about him so he should chill and not verbally attack strangers. So in my final note, I promised him I did not know who he was or who she was but I hoped they worked out whatever it was they had going on. His reply was the best I have ever received when he wrote me back and said, “Received and recorded in heaven.” I admit I loved that reply and I still have no idea who they were.
Okay, back to my main theme, we all get by with a little help from our friends. And to make it even, allow me to remind you that we all need to be a friend in good times and bad, in health or despair, in abundance or in need. We can be the light that gives our friends a guide or comfort or shelter from the storms of life, and we should be because that is what true friends do for each other.
Make your list of friends, reconnect and strengthen your ties, so when the winds of life blow, both of you are anchored with a tie that binds.
We all get by with a little help from our friends, and that is, in my opinion, one of the greatest joys we can all have in this life.
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