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Recently I've had a lot of friends going through hard times. Not terrible times like great illness or financial loss, but times of growth like going through big life changes or breaking up with a significant other who you know isn't the right one.
It's nice to be able to provide some comfort or advice for a friend going through these sorts of things. If you don't know how, or aren't sure that you're particularly great at it, here are some ideas on how to improve.
Listen to your friend. Most people have the need to be heard, and it tends to be very important. Most people know the answers to their problems, if there's even a question at stake at all, and they just want to be heard. In other words, one of the greatest skills needed for supporting your friends is just shutting up and letting them talk.
This conveys to them that they're important and that their concern is valid.
If you listen to them thoroughly and you feel that their concern isn't valid, you should tell them. Being a friend means that it's your job to give honest feedback to friends when it will help them. Most of the time their concern is valid, though, and having it reach friendly ears will give them a lot of comfort.
Beyond listening, your next biggest opportunity to help them is to give them perspective that they may not have. Even the most rational and self-aware people have the ability to delude themselves when they're too close to a situation. If they're focused on the little picture, your job is to think about the bigger picture.
Sometimes you'll come to a situation where you can see the big picture and it is blantantly obvious what they should do. This seems to happen most in relationships, because people tend to make very emotional decisions where a more logical decision could serve them better.
If you share your opinion, make a good case for it, and they're still determined to do something you think is a bad idea, you may as well help them do it in the best way possible. For example, I have a friend who is pursuing someone that I think he shouldn't pursue. I tried to be a voice of reason and help him think about it a few different ways, but it became clear in the end that he was going to go after her no matter what.
So now I just support him and try to give him the best advice possible within the constraints that any advice telling him not to go after her will fall on deaf ears. It's better to give 70% good advice that he will take rather than 100% good advice that he will ignore.
After listening to your friend and offering perspective and support, you can also ask what they're looking for from you. You can say something like, "How can I help? Do you just need someone to listen to, do you want me to help you figure out a solution? Something else?"
Don't interject your own problems or concerns. Sometimes conversations are two-way dialogues, but if someone comes to you with a struggle they're working through, you can save your own stuff for later. Give them the gift of being fully present and focused on them. Often they're not in the best emotional state, so that level of attention can make them feel better.
Like so many other things, supporting friends is a skill that people don't actually think of an improvable skill. A little bit of thought on how you can best do it can make a big difference, especially to your friends who come to you for support.
Photo is a random little park near the palace in Tokyo. I had an hour to kill there while waiting for a friend so I worked from one of the benches while a guy practiced clarinet a couple benches down.
I've now been coaching many people one on one for over 2 years. In that time all of them have had major positive life changes and a huge portion have already achieved goals that they had set for much longer time horizons. In some ways each person is totally different, but I've noticed some very strong trends in what causes people to have success.
The first thing I always try to find is the person's real goal. People usually know what their top goals are, but sometimes it takes a little bit of refining to get to the core of what's going on.
But the most important thing about their goal is that they have to really want it. This sounds obvious, but sometimes people have goals that they think they should want rather than goals they actually want. Thinking about why a goal is important and why you really want it is an important part of the process. Writing down a goal isn't enough.
Once a good important goal is set, I design a habit or process which will all but ensure success if they follow it. In designing these habits, I've found that by far the most important factor is that it is easy enough that they will follow it consistently. As long as the habit is on the path towards the goal, there is no difficulty level that is too easy. Start very easy and focus on perfect consistency, increasing difficulty only once perfect consistency is reached. As soon as someone is consistently following the habit or process for a couple months, I know that they are probably going to reach their goal faster than they think.
Since a few years ago, when I realized that I vastly preferred traveling with my friends versus traveling solo, almost all of my travel has been with other people. I'm fortunate to have a group of friends who are really good travelers, but that's not always the case.
If you aren't sure whether you're good at traveling with others or not, here are some guidelines that you can use.
Make sure that your goals for the trip are the same as the other person's. One of the times I felt I wasn't a great travel companion was when I went to Morocco with a good friend of mine. He had a normal job and was taking vacation, but for me it was part of my normal life. So when we got there he wanted to go out and do fun things, but I wanted to spend half the time working.
I felt bad because I knew I was putting a damper on his trip. We had a good trip overall, but in retrospect I think I should have set expecations before agreeing to the trip or cleared my schedule.
I have to admit, I was a little bit nervous about hosting the Budapest event, moreso even than when I hosted the very first event in Vegas. Vegas events are simple by design. I rent a really nice space, bring together some great people who are motivated to make their lives even better, and we work. A trip in a foreign city that involves walking, training, and even boating across the city has a lot more moving parts with a lot more things that can go wrong.
Luckily everything went off with out a hitch (ok, maybe we did lose a wheel briefly on a pedal-cart that we rented, but through the power of teamwork we fixed it with no tools).
First, I want to extend a huge public thank you to the seven people who came to Budapest 1. It's a long way to travel for an event with a very vague description and promise, but everyone showed up ready and participated fully. Like the other events I've done, our group spanned a large age range and scope of professions and life-situations, but each person was a genuinely good human being who was authentic, open to the process, and contributed to a group that was greater than the sum of its parts.
We went to my favorite tea place twice, went to four of my favorite restaurants, saw some of my very favorite sights, went to two bath houses, and failed to find the elusive bat-house at the zoo. During tea, meals, and even in the baths I worked one-on-one with people to help them figure out how to excel at the next phases of their lives.
In the year before I met the woman who is now my wife, I was dating with purpose. I didn't necessarily aim to find a wife, but I was pretty intentional about what I was doing. And since I ended up finding an amazing woman and marrying her, I figured I'd share what I learned from it to help men and women looking for something similar.
The biggest mistake I made by far was traveling so much. I wouldn't do it any differently, but huge gaps between the first few dates torpedoed a lot of relationships that may have otherwise worked. In fact, if it weren't for my friend Todd pushing me to fly to visit, I probably wouldn't be married. ("You never like a girl this much. You are an idiot if you don't see her before your next trip")
Despite your best efforts, a lot of it will come down to random chance. My wife told me that she only swiped right on me because I mentioned cruises in my profile and she figured we'd have something to talk about since she liked cruising too. There was another girl I was dating earlier with whom it may have worked out if her ex-boyfriend didn't show up in her life between our first few dates. You just never know.
That said, the key is just maximizing surface area. Figure out what it is you want and spend as much time as possible with potential partners. That also means spending as little time as possible with those who don't fit. One thing I think I did really well was stop seeing girls once incompatibilities surfaced, even if it was going really well.
I used to be neutral, or maybe slightly negative on museums. There was something pleasant about being in them, but I didn't really know what I was supposed to do there, and always felt like I was doing it wrong.
And it turned out I was doing them wrong. I was introduced to a guy who is now one of my close friends, Nick Gray, who hosted guided tours of the Met. I actually delayed meeting him for a while, because a tour of the museum sounded very boring to me.
When I did, though, I saw the museum through a different lens. It didn't matter what I was supposed to do at a museum. It was a public resource that I could use in any way I wanted. Nick's Museum Hack tours were irreverent and fun, and focused on the less famous pieces of art in the museum, but gave a lot more context on them.
Now I have my own way to enjoy museums, which is heavily influenced from what I've learned through Nick (I thought it was exactly the same, but now I find that when we go to museums we do it differently).
To be honest, I don't read a ton anymore. I had a couple years where I read 50-100 books per year and that had the effect of exposing me to just about every book anyone had ever recommended to me and burning me out a little bit. I still read a bit, but not like before.
Of the hundreds of books I've ever read, a few stand out as being so excellent that they're in a league of their own. I recommend them all the time to friends and to coaching clients, and have probably recommended all three somewhere in this blog before, too.
1. Difficult Conversations
There are very few books that I can say really changed me and how I interact with the world, but this one very obviously did. Nearly every person I've recommended it to has told me that they loved it and it had a big effect on them as well. I know of several relationships that it saved directly.
A friend of mine was telling me about how she struggled with regret, specifically around cryptocurrency. Why hadn't she sold at the top? Why hadn't she bought more when it was lower? The questions nagged at her and she would beat herself up about it.
Like her, I didn't sell at the top or buy more at the bottom. It doesn't bother me at all, though. What's the difference?
I think that she and I have different definition of what a mistake is. In any given day there are thousands of publicly traded equities, assets, and commodities. Nearly each one has gone up or down in the past 24 hours, so by her definition, all of us have made thousands of mistakes because we would have been better off buying or shorting them all.
If you are going to count those as mistakes, though, you must count everything else as a triumph. Each breath that kept you alive, each car you passed that you did not accidentally step in front of, each glass of water you drank.
Two years ago CruiseSheet didn't have individual informational pages for each cruise. Cruises are large purchases, though, so I thought that it would be much better if I could have a lot of written information, graphs, and pictures. With around 12,000 cruises on offer at any time, the selection changing every day, writing them individually would be impossible. What would it take to automatically generate an actually useful page for every single cruise? It would be a garguantuan task.
While much of our days is filled with small tasks, emails, course corrections, and tweaks, these sorts of activities merely keep us on track or trend us towards progress. To move forward in big steps, we must give ourselves huge tasks and power through them. How do you do that, feel good about it, and still produce top quality?
There would be no way to incrementally get this feature built. It would require a massive multi-disciplinary overhaul involving weeks of work and a lot of learning. And quality mattered a lot. If the pages were too similar, Google would ding me and people wouldn't want to read them. Each page needed to share a ton of useful information and present it in an inviting way.
When I first approach a task like this, I revel in the possibility of the outcome. I imagined looking at a full sales page for each cruise and how much better that experience would be. I got excited.
Two weeks ago, ten people came to Las Vegas to participate in my event, Superhuman 2. When I did the first one a year earlier I was nervous about how everyone would get along and how I would fill the time in a useful way. This year, even with a much longer format, my only real concern was whether or not the attendees would be as awesome as they were the previous year.
In particular, the first year's group was so open and supportive of each other, that I wasn't sure how possible it was to replicate that. I do everything I can to create that sort of environment, but really most of it is out of my hands. I suspect that even one person could mess up the environment if they really wanted to.
Also, this year three of the attendees were women. Last year it was all male, and I was a little bit worried that having women there might cause men to be more hesitant to be vulnerable.
As you could probably guess, all of those concerns were totally moot. Our group this year was absolutely fantastic. What was most interesting to me was that although no individual from this year reminded me at all of any one individual from last year, the groups felt very similar to me.