Friends are, undoubtably, one of the best parts of life. Hands down. There are several categories of friends. Let’s think about life as a baseball game for minute. We have our spectators …. the friends we see on occasion, bumping into them at kids events or the grocery store. The friends we work with who make the day-to-day aspects of a job more enjoyable. Our Facebook friends who are a conglomerate of high school friends, college friends, work friends, friends of friends, and new friends. There might be hundreds of people in all of these categories and they are all sitting on our, hypothetical, bleachers. Is there presence important and appreciated? Yes. But is it critical to your performance in the game? No. When you’re out on the field and the batter takes the plate, are you worried about what the spectators are doing or thinking? No. You’re focused on the game.
But within these hundreds of friends/spectators, there are a very select few who make the team. That small handful of people that you would insist be at your dinner table if you knew it was your last meal. And they would be there without an official invite, because they know their place. They’re not just your friends, they’re your people … the ones you chose for your team. Their presence, their support, and their attitude … all play a critical role in the game. YOUR game of life.
Moving to a rock in the middle of the ocean has really made me reflect on this (and many other things, based on the emotional series of blog posts last year) and learn who was in it for the long haul. For some people it was just too far, and for a few others it was a move that most definitely changed our friendship, but ultimately made it stronger. This was a beautiful and harsh lesson all at once. But even more challenging than this, was being removed from everyone familiar and in a place where no one knew anything about me, and where everything was temporary. And at the same time, my favorite person in the world, was taken captive by medical school. [insert photo of lost puppy here]
So, I knew I would learn a lot of life lessons by living in a developing country, but I didn’t think friendship would be at the top of the list. Needless to say my team has been in a 2 year draft. I’ve realized the critical importance of having the right players in the right position. Friends are a HUGE part of life and they should, most definitely, meet certain criteria. If they don’t, maybe you should consider the position the play, or if they should remain on your team at all. I believe friends should meet 3 important criteria.
1. Do they support your goals? I don’t mean they have to share your goals, but they need to support them. If your goal as short stop is to throw to the first baseman every time you get the ball and the first baseman doesn’t support this goal … you can see how ultimately this isn’t going to work and is going to hurt the outcome of the game. Same thing in life. For example, if a healthy lifestyle is important to you and you’ve set goals focused on this, the support of the people closest to you will play a huge part in whether or not you’re successful. This applies to all areas, you need to have the support of your team. As much as you may like someone, and as good of a person as they might be, if they aren’t in support of your goals and the things that are important to you, you need to get them off the field. I realize this is much easier for me to type than it is to implement.
This makes me think back to a story. After working at the same place for 7 years, I woke up one morning with the strong desire to leave my job and work for myself. With a very young family, this was a risky move. I told 5 people that I wanted to leave my job before my birthday, which was just a few months later. How did I choose those 5 people? I chose them because I knew they would support my choice, and they wouldn’t let me lose sight of my goal. And, they didn’t. They pushed me and they helped me to get the things done I needed to do to make my goal a reality. One of them took me to lunch and made me make my goal official by putting it on a piece of paper (I still have the piece of paper). The fact that my 5 supporters knew my goal, and supported my progress, was most definitely the fuel that pushed me to reach this goal. By choosing the right people to be on my team, I hit a home run!
But, just think. What if I had mistakenly chosen a bad teammate in this scenario? What if one of the people I chose repeatedly told me I was making an irresponsible choice and hadn’t supported the goal? Given that it was a very risky move, constantly hearing that I was making a bad choice could have very easily swayed my decision and made me back down! Have you ever heard that if you put two crabs in a bucket, neither of them will ever get out because they will constantly pull each other down? The strong crab will continue to try to get out, but the weaker crab will always be at the bottom of the bucket trying to pull him back down. Don’t get yourself into that bucket. If you do, fight like hell to get out and then find a new bucket!
2. Do they share your attitude and zest toward life? This one is huge, we’ve all heard that attitude is everything. A positive attitude is contagious, but guess what, so is a negative one. You can be a very positive person, but if day after day you’re surrounded by someone with a negative attitude (or an energy sucker, as I like to call them) eventually it’s going to take its toll. I think often times positive people think they can fix a bad attitude, so they take people like this under their wing with the hope to teach them that the grass really is greener on the other side. I know I’m guilty of this. Sometimes you can show them the light and you both come out better for it. But often times the negativity just hovers and they’re is nothing more you can do. You can guess what’s next … time to move them out to the spectators section. I am not trying to sound heartless, I am actually guilty of keeping people like this around far too long for fear of what life will do to them if I let them go. But, there is a quote … “A bad attitude is like a flat tire, if you don’t change it you won’t go anywhere.” Move them off of the team before they flatten your tire too!
3. Do they make you strive to be better? When you’re surrounded by like minded, positive people, chances are just being around them and supporting their successes will make you strive even harder for your own. Watching people achieve their goals, and being part of their support team along the way, is very inspiring.
I have this friend, we don’t talk too frequently, but when we do get together the energy is amazing. I have watched her build a very successful fitness business, and adapt to change. At one point the seasons started to change, and without even thinking, as the new door opened she busted right through it and gently closed the other. I got to have a very front row seat while all of this was happening, and I did everything I could to support her along the way. Watching someone with a ton of energy and passion for what they do, work their tail off, and be rewarded is a beautiful thing. Watching her continue to be a success is an inspiration and motivation for me in every aspect of my life. You might also guess that this same friend was one of my 5 team members when I made the decision to start my own business.
Friendship is a two way street. Of course it’s great to be at the receiving end of these criteria, but you also need to offer the same in return.
My intention is not to make friendship seem like a business deal. I can assure you that I don’t immediately meet someone and start assessing these things. In time, they speak for themselves. You might think you’ve found a fit and move a someone onto the team quickly and they might stay there forever. Or, as more time passes, you’ll realize maybe you didn’t make the right choice and it’s time to put them in the dugout, and maybe eventually out to the bleachers. Either way, you’ll know what to do, the important thing is to follow your instinct. This will be a really difficult choice that you’ll probably lose sleep over. But don’t sacrifice yourself or let someone drag you down. There are only so many spots on the team. Life is short. Find great people, fight to keep them around, and together enjoy the game!