This is going to be an odd opening given the title of the post but I’ll bring it around don’t worry. As a man I particularly pride myself on being a man’s man. I’m not that progressive. I think men shouldn’t cry. I think depression in most cases is a farce. I think excess affection or sentiment is a bit pathetic. I realize that puts me squarely on the side of a minority in this day in age (send all hate-mail and rebuttals to firstname.lastname@example.org).
All that being said, I think as men, especially ones who even remotely lean the direction I do on these subjects, we leave a lot on the table when it comes to friendships. We isolate ourselves from connection. Because its expected. Not just because it seems “girly” but because we are expected to focus on success. So many of our labeled friendships are little more than acquaintances. We endeavor to develop them but we don’t.
And to be fair… we give each other a pass. It’s expected. We all know the score. How many of my male readers have a “best friend” that they’ve gone months without speaking to or connecting with? We even re-frame the issue. We say that’s what makes them our best friend; The fact that they can pick up as if we never left off after months of neglect. We are cheating ourselves. Most of us will be “lucky” in that we never scale the precipice required to unveil the disservice we do to ourselves.
I recently asked some of my employees what would motivate them to continue working for my company after they reached their “number”. When they reached a salary that took money off the table. It’s a hard question to answer because most of us have never considered it. We set our sights so high that the likelihood of us ever achieving them is invariably unlikely. Now I ask you as the reader to consider the same question. Assume for a moment you had enough money in the bank that interest would carry you for the rest of your life in fabulous style. What then would be important to you? Family sure – philanthropy even. But what of friendship? Have you cultivated any that can truly be counted on?
One of my favorite television series is Boston Legal. I enjoy law and often joke that I would like to retire into being a lawyer as I feel that litigation would keep my mind sharp. But the real reason I loved that show and miss it is the celebration of the friendship between Denny Crane and Alan Shore. A scotch and a cigar and a daily commitment to sharing your life with a friend.
I think many people in this country attempt to substitute that with marriage. I don’t postulate that this is patently wrong but… let’s face it. Divorce rates in this country are above 50%. As men, and I speak from experience, we become horribly self destructive creatures for a period of years post-divorce when the utter shock of the collapse of companionship provided by that ONE person in our life we share everything with really sets in. We typically don’t have a real backup for such things. We grab our acquaintances and hit the bars and drink our problems away. We swear off women. You know the story. It’s common. But Why? Because we don’t take the time to develop our friendships. To celebrate them and tend to them. We will kill ourselves for success. Many working 60+ hours a week to achieve a modicum of success. But to what purpose? Who do we share it with.
I myself have several people in my life whom with which I should spend more time cultivating friendships. People I know would make excellent friends. I’m going to list a few of them and hopefully they won’t be overly embarrassed for me mentioning them by name. I do so only to encourage you the reader to bring the same thoughts to the forefront of your mind.
Todd freisen. Rock star. Beer drinker. Philosopher and joker. All around great guy. Helped me find my voice in this industry when I was unsure of myself having just switch career paths. This guy has tons of values I admire but even more so he has similarities to me that break generational barriers. I know if I spent an ounce of effort I could take what is currently an occasional beer buddy to a great friendship. But I don’t. And it’s “Ok”.
Jonathan Gibbs. Mentor. Family man. Someone who I can both respect for values I want to have and empathize with for possessing some of the same odd quirks that I carry. Serious best friend material I can’t even begin to cover in this post. Yet I can’t count how many times I’ve turned down an opportunity to play a game of cards or shoot a game of pool with this guy because I “had to work”. And of course… it’s “Ok”.
Rob Adler. Genius. Puzzle solver. Iconic Lech (that’s a compliment coming from me.. hate-mail address above). Like minded entrepreneur. I connect with him – MAYBE once a month for a few sentences in a public forum (the dojo). Why? This guy and I are birds of a feather. I should have gotten on a plane to hang out with him a long ass time ago. I’ve never even bothered to meet this guy in person knowing full well I have the means to do so. But it’s “OK”.
The Critchlows – Will and Tom. Both of them. I respect these men enormously. Individually they each have traits I identify with, admire, and as a pair their sum total adds up undeniably to the type of gentlemen I should endeavor to spend my time with. Yet just this very week I’m guilty of blowing off a standing bar crawl offer with one of them. And I know without even asking he isn’t offended. It’s simply considered “Ok”.
It shouldn’t be. I don’t understand why we as men are so unwilling to prioritize friendship. As a measure of success, it’s hard to imagine a better marker. We’ll kill ourselves to acquire a car, or a title, a pretty woman’s attention, a compliment from an employer. Why do we not celebrate and cultivate friendships? It’s simply not acceptable. Not healthy. I for one am going to stop doing it. I hope you will join me or at least share your thoughts on the matter.