A reader emailed me recently and asked how I’m able to have such a great group of friends who are so adventurous and into crazy ideas like buying an island and other properties around the world. I certainly don’t take my friends for granted, but because I’m surrounded by them constantly I do sometimes forget just how unusual those types of people are.
I’ve said it a million times, but I do feel as though my greatest assets in life are my friends and family. This is, or at least should be, true for almost everyone because no other part of your life has the potential to bring as much joy as other people.
And yet… people don’t really think much about friendships or put all that much effort into them. Think about how much proactive time and effort people spend on their careers compared to the people around them. Career is important, but not as important as people, and yet most people are far more eager to work on their career.
If you want to have an excellent group of friends, you must commit to that goal and be willing to work towards it, not just hope it happens (spoiler: it probably won’t).
I’ve written a whole book on the topic, as well as many other blog posts, so I won’t get too into the mechanics of what that work looks like, but the key points are that you decide to take responsibility for your social life, work on it consciously, and make sure that you are improving your friends’ lives in a tangible way as often as possible.
That’s how you make friends… but how do you make excellent friends?
First, in the words of Bill and Tedd: be excellent. If you aren’t the type of person that excellent people would want to be friends with, then you need to work on that first. This requires the ability and willingness to self-assess honestly. What do you bring to the table? If you don’t know, then that’s a problem. Would someone be lucky to have you as a friend? That answer must be a clear yes, and getting there is a combination of working on yourself and also having the self-esteem to see your own worth.
I understand that this sentiment may not sit well with everyone, as it’s not entirely politically correct. Yes everyone has value, yes everyone deserves to have good friends, etc. But still… let’s not pretend that some people haven’t developed their character and social skills to higher levels than others.
So… be excellent.
Next, understand what it is you actually want in friends and screen heavily for those traits. You can be kind to everyone and respect everyone, but you cannot be a great friend to everyone. Being a good friend is an active process which requires time and effort, and we each have those in finite supply. Any friend who is taking up a slot in your roster is precluding other people from taking that spot.
Be intentional about how you spend your time. If you find that most of the time you spend is with people who aren’t the types of people with whom you want to be friends, you are making a mistake. If you aren’t seeking out the types of people with whom you want to be friends, you are making a mistake.
It is better to be alone than to be around the wrong people. In the same way that boredom spurs creativity, some degree of loneliness can fuel the process of building a great friend group. You don’t have to totally cut everyone off and be a hermit, but don’t fill your social calendar with the wrong people.
This process, by necessity, is a slow one. It is much easier to find the wrong people than the right ones. When I went through this process I remember feeling like I had a few great friends floating around the world, not a rock-solid friend group. But as I added people and introduced them to each other, that slowly congealed to feeling like I have an amazing worldwide network of incredible friends. Be patient, because the results will be worth it.
Your time and focus is an extremely valuable resource. If you don’t feel that that is true, then you should look inwards and maybe use your time and focus better. When you’re around people, be excellent to them no matter who they are, but also treat your time like the valuable commodity it is, and spend it with those people with whom you’d like to grow closer.
Photo is Lake Mead at sunset. Did you know Vegas could be so beautiful?