Sometimes in the rush of life and work, we can let ourselves become cocooned in our busy-ness. We rush from task to task, crisis to crisis. Life becomes an endless series of wake up – go to work – go to lunch – go home – go to bed. We can become distanced from our family, our friends and even, in the long run, from ourselves. Continue this long enough and you might eventually find that you are truly alone. If you don’t cultivate your outside relationships — if you don’t sit down with your family or go out with your friends — there will come a time when they will stop trying to be part of your life.
We all need friends and family around us — even if they might irritate us or make our lives a bit more difficult. Overall, the benefit of relationships is incalculable. You need friends for commiseration, networking, job searches, shoulder to cry on and a host of other reasons. No one makes it in this world alone, even if they might profess the desire to be alone. We all have to exist as part of a larger civilization and culture.
Sometimes, when my wife and I are talking, we will often comment on how many good friends we have. Both the quantity and quality of our friends amazes us. We are not famous. We are not rich in dollars, but we are rich in a number of other ways. We have friends who would go out of their way to help us in even the most extreme cases. We have friends who support us and allow us to build the life we want. We have friends who help us do fascinating and interesting things. We have friends who sometimes are just “there” — for listening, for dinner, for help, whatever. More importantly, we see this as a reflection on ourselves. It only makes sense that we have to be great friends to have so many great friends in return.
So, how about your friends? Are they acquaintances or people who would crawl out of bed at 2 in the morning if you called? Are they people you hang out with regularly, or only see on special occasions? Do you have friends that help you be the best person you can be? Are there friends that help you do amazing things? If not, the time has come to ask some hard questions.
Are you trying to “go it alone” in your life and your career? Do you dislike relying on others, even in the most basic ways? Do you work to cultivate friends or to keep people at arm’s length? Are you a good friend yourself? If you don’t cultivate friendship, you are limiting yourself and your career. It isn’t strong and brave to go without friends. It is lonely and dispiriting. Even worse, when times get tough, you have no one to listen — no one to help — no one to fall back on. I personally find this a frightening thought.
So, now that you know a few reasons why you need great friends, how to do you go about finding them? First, you need to expose yourself to the world. Whether this means going to church, going out to eat, hiking, biking, going shopping, whatever — you have to engage the larger world in order to find other like-minded people. Too often we are confronted with people complaining how they have few friends, or even worse, no real relationships. It usually comes down to the fact that they rarely engage the world. They drive from home to work and back again and, as Charles Dickens said in A Christmas Carol, “edge their way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep…its…distance.”
Second, be a good friend. Help others. Share your knowledge and your skills. Care about others as you would like them to care about you. I am not telling you to subsume all of your own desires in the service of others, but rather enjoy helping others to succeed in their life and they will help you in yours. Don’t demand or even always expect a quid pro quo in return for your friendship. In the best relationships, this comes naturally. If you expect a 1 for 1 reward for every action you take, you will be disappointed. Friendship ebbs and flows. Expect this when you begin.
Friendship is an essential part of any life and career. If you deny your friendship to others, you are cutting yourself off from a substantial part of life. Engage in life, even though it may have its disappointments and difficulties. Embrace friends in your life and be embraced in theirs. Life is too short to go it alone.