Friends should always bring life to you. – AUDIO NSFW
You know, sometimes I figure, if I’m struggling or I’m thinking deeply about a particular subject, then chances are, there’s probably some people out in the 7 billion or so in the world that are probably thinking about this or considering this idea as well.
Now, today I want to talk with you about something that might seem really boring, really basic, but it’s this idea of friendship. You have this near 40-year-old man that I am talking about this idea of friendship. I’ve really been percolating on this for a long time, at least three four months, at least. The reason is because I have experienced friendship tension. I have experienced friendship tension, friendship conflict, friendship changes, friendship transformations, all over the past couple of years or so in really interesting, dynamic, fun, exciting, scary, and moments of friendship changing in ways that I never imagined.
I’ve been percolating on this idea and I’ve really been trying to formulate my ideas around this. I wrote a lot of notes here. I wanted to give you guys some kind of some understanding around what friendship and the categories of friendship and some of the pitfalls.
What I want to talk about most is some of the pitfalls around friendship. How friends can hold us back. How friends can retard our growth. How holding on too long or having the wrong expectations around a friend move us to a place of ruin, move us to a place where it’s not healthy for us. So I really want to dig in with you guys today around this idea of friendship. This will be one of those podcasts as I was beginning to think about and formulate kind of the presentation of this. What came to my mind is like this is one of those podcasts that you should really just sit back, relax, don’t take notes, and just listen. See if you’ve resonate with any of the things that I’m talking about.
Let’s jump right in. I spent a lot of time Googling and spent a lot of time typing in a lot of different wacky phrases around friendships so that I could kind of come to a better grips of some of the ideas that I had in my mind around friendship. What I found is that actually factually, there were Greek philosophers like Aristotle, Greek philosophers who actually spent a lot of time understanding friendship. So let’s go through this.
So the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, identified three types of friendships. I didn’t even know three types existed until today to be quite frank so this is really cool.
3 TYPES OF FRIENDSHIPS
- Friendships of utility.
Now, friendships of utility make absolute sense. You have a mutual benefit for both of you guys. I have a ton and had a ton of what we would call friendships of utility when I was a consultant for the last 12 years. Obviously, friendships of utility, when it comes to mutual benefit are people that are like colleagues, customers, clients. Maybe you’re a member of some type of club. There is a mutual benefit to both of you for being attached at some level. Both of you gained from this. Often, this happens because of circumstance.
- Friendship of pleasure.
This makes a lot of sense. You guys enjoy a shared interest whether it be a hobby, maybe you guys love painting together, maybe you enjoy driving together, maybe you enjoy working out together, maybe you enjoy these types of things. So friendships of pleasure are people who enjoy a shared interest whether it’s a hobby. I’ve met a lot through travel. I have friends all over the world, in Europe, Asia, all over the world. These are friends really of travel.
We met, we had a great experience together, we promised we would keep in touch, and we have. In the moments because I am a world traveller, when I’m back over in Japan or Korea or UK, Europe, Germany, Switzerland, Amsterdam, I can name all the places where I’ve met people that I know that if I contact them and say hey, I’m going to Amsterdam or say hey, I’m going to Japan. I will have great people to hang out with, great people to eat with and just enjoy life.
Friendships of pleasure are people of pastimes. If you have a particular pastime that you have enjoyed, similar to a hobby, maybe you just keep going to the same Red Sox game or the same Atlanta Hawks game and you’re always kind of sitting next to the same person. You’re always finding yourself engaging with this individual. These are friendships a pleasure.
- Friendships of virtue.
Friendships of virtue and he is quoted as saying that the friendships of virtue are built out of mutual respect and admiration for each other. The friendship of virtue take a lot longer to grow, a lot longer to trust each other, a lot longer to understand each other. Guys, don’t miss this. You guys have similar values. This is crucial. Similar principles, similar values in life, similar life goals. You see the world similarly. You guys have a similar worldview. You have an understanding of how life should be and how the world should be ordered of sorts.
These friendships of virtue are often formed when you’re younger. Aristotle clearly was wise enough to know that this circle of friendship, the friendship of virtue is really small and it takes a lot of time to form these types of relationships. I’m sure you guys can harken back to some of your friends, maybe within your inner circle that really formed around elementary, middle, high school, or maybe even college days or just post-college days.
I’m gonna tell you guys from my perspective. I have found it to be exceptionally and exceedingly hard to find friends post-college and decades past post-college to really form friendships of virtue. This was a little bit of a tension of mine as I came into the subject writing about it because I truly believe that we as humans are meant to connect. Not only are we humans and creatures that are meant to connect, but in many ways, we are creatures that are meant to connect deeply with each other, with other people.
What happens when you don’t have a circle of friends, a small circle of friendships of virtue? How do you grow these things? Is that a requirement for a fulfilled and happy life? These are questions that I wrestled with. I don’t know if I’ve exactly landed on whether it’s required or not, but certainly you can move through the friendships of utility, the friendships of pleasure, into the friendships are virtue over time.
Now, here’s one of the things that we have to take note of and we have to just be real honest about. When circumstances change in life, we often find that the friendships of utility and the friendships of pleasure, they go away. They usually end. The reason is this very simple. Circumstances have changed.
My neighbor over here, this is a friendship of utility. I love being able to borrow tools from them. He enjoys listening to my cars and all sorts of things that we do. We share a fence so we share the responsibility to keep it painted and keep it nice-looking. We share the responsibility of the tree branches and making sure that they’re not over growing everywhere. But if he moves or if I move, the circumstances has changed and the friendship of utility of my neighbor is no longer.
Another example is hobbies change, your interest change. You used to go to that basketball game every season for the last ten years and you know what, now you don’t. Life has changed. You’re no longer interested in that. You’re moving on to bowling. Are you moving on to something else? Circumstances in life are always changing whether it be for you or whether it be for the other individual.
Certainly another idea around circumstances changing is that you might get married, you have kids, you get a new job and you have to move for that job. I can’t tell you how many and this is just being abundantly honest here, I can’t tell you how many friendships of utility and friendships of pleasure changed really quickly once I got married.
I mean once I got married, I moved into a different tier of understanding life. I knew what love and suffering was at a deeper level once I got married. And the friends of utility and some of the friends of pleasure certainly moved out of my circle. They just they could not resonate. They’re still single, still trying to play the game. Oh dear Jesus, thank you Lord for getting me out of that dating game. The dating game sucks, by the way. Small side bar.
What happens when you have kids? Man, I can tell you, lots of my friends have changed once I had one kid, once I had two kids, once your priorities change. This is all natural and good that your circle of friends change. They oscillate in and out. Mostly, the friends of utility and the friends of pleasure are the ones that are on a rolling scale. They change, they move. But the friends of virtue, I’m hoping for you and for me, are the individuals that you have grown mutual respect, mutual admiration, and you share similar values with.
There’s another thing that I thought of when it came to friendship. It’s Dunbar’s number. Now, you might not have heard of Dr. Dunbar, but Dunbar was a scientist who understood organizational systems and people systems. Dunbar’s number basically says and I’ll define it here. You pretty much only really have a 150 people in your relational network.
Now, as a consultant, I used to use this as a joke with large organizations. I used to tell them, #1, hey, Dr. Dunbar told us that it is only really possible to have relationships with about a 100-150 people or so. So if you have more than 150 friends on Facebook, you really don’t have that many friends. #2, if your organization, let’s say your IT organization is over 150, it’s gonna be really hard to have enough relational equity to make impact within that entire organization. So there should be opportunities to slim down on a trimmed down or create relational bridges so that a large organization can have better relational network, better relational connectivity, better conversation, all this fun stuff.
It’s all organizational design stuff, but here’s the point, guys, you really don’t have a capacity as a human to really manage that many friends. Now, Dr. Dunbar was great. He broke this down for us so I’m gonna break it down for you guys and then we’re gonna get into the thing that I really want to talk about.
With 150 friends, these are what he would call casual friends. You met through work, through leisure, through interest or through location. Often 150 or so of the friends that you “manage” mentally are drawn to you by circumstance—work, leisure, interest, hobbies, these types of things.
They’re 50 friends or so. They’re just called friends. You see them often, often through circumstance. Then there’s 15, maybe the inner ring here, 15 friends that are friends of support. Friends of support that you can call on, that you can be present with, and be active with. Then we go down to the closest circle of friendship, about five or so, we could call a close support group. This can include family as well. So in Dr. Dunbar’s breakdown, 150 casual friends, 50 friends, 15 supports, and then 5 really close supporting people.
What happens in life and this is what really kind of the genesis of this idea for me as I was writing down ideas down are the traps of friendship. Remember, the context here, this is on my mind because over the last couple years, especially the last you know four, five, six months or so, I’ve had friends oscillate in and out of my life. This is not a problem. Circumstances have changed. Direction has changed. Priorities have changed. Projects have changed. Focused has changed.
I wrote down—and this is really the beginning of my notes—two traps of the friendship cycle. The issues of friendship. I want to start with a really important foundational idea. It’s a really important foundational idea. Friends, whether they’re your 150, your 50, your 15, or your 5 friends, whether you they’re utility, virtue, pleasure, friends should always bring life to you. Friends should always bring life to you.
Now, are there going to be oscillations of emotions with friends? Of course. Are you gonna have a great day and he’s gonna have a shitty day? Absolutely! Is she gonna have a great day and you’re gonna have a shitty day? Absolutely! There are obviously going to be ups and downs with any type of friendship, whether it’s a utility friendship, whether it’s a pleasure friendship, or whether it’s a virtue friendship. But at the end of the day, if there’s a prolonged time in which that individual, that friend of yours does not bring life, you need to axe that shit.
TWO TRAPS OF THE FRIENDSHIP CYCLE
- Holding on to utility and pleasure friendships as if they’re virtue.
The number one trap that I wrote down is people holding on to utility and pleasure friendships as if they’re virtue. Let me say that again. One of the biggest traps is holding on to utility and pleasure friendships as virtue when they’re really not and you’re holding on to them. Life has its ups and downs and why do we end up holding on to these friendships?
I can tell you a couple of reasons why. Maybe you can fill in some others. But one reason why that we hold on to these friendships of utility and pleasure even when they’re no longer bringing the life to us is we are often driven by duty. I should spend time with them because I’ve spent so much time with them. Why is this a causal issue? Why does this create the tension? I’m gonna save you guys the mental anguish.
Just because you spent a fuck ton of time with them hanging out doing that hobby or hanging out as a client—those are my best two examples—a friendship of utility would be a client, a friendship of pleasure would be a hobby. Just because you spent two years, three years with their client, you are not driven by duty! You don’t have to still be their friend just because you changed clients and you got a new contract and you moved on.
What about what about friendships of pleasure? Just because just because you drove cars with that guy, just because you play basketball with him for the last seven years, no longer requires you to be his friend when circumstances change. We’re often driven by duty here because we spent time. That’s bullshit. If they’re not bringing life to you, if they’re not bringing life to you, then you don’t got to worry about it. Cut it off or let it just disintegrate into its own.
What about driven by regret? Driven by regret to hold on to a relationship. Oh man, what happens if I mean that client again or meet that colleague or meet that customer? What happens if I re-involve myself in that hobby or go back to that country and I don’t contact them or I go back to an old past time I used to enjoy and I know that they’re gonna be there? That we are driven by some sort of regret that that we didn’t please them. What expectations did you have? What expectations did I have?
So what happens—and this is so crucial—is that when we hold on to friendships that are not providing life and they’re friendships of utility and they’re friendships a pleasure and they’re no longer providing value, what happens is it slows down our growth individually. It makes us live in the past. Don’t do it, guys. Go back to one of my podcasts about living in the past. Search for it guys. Don’t let your future be a prisoner of the past. Don’t let friendships be driven by duty or friendships driven by regret to hold you in the past.
They’re moving on. Go back to my other podcast talking about no one’s thinking about you. Trust me. They’re not thinking about you because you’re no longer involved in that pastime, that hobby, that going to that place, that colleague or customer or client or member of a club. You’re no longer a member of the club. Trust me, they ain’t thinking about you.
Let those friendships cycle in and out, leave spaces for more opportunities for people to come in to your world, and give you and bring you life. That’s the first trap. It’s holding on to friendships of utility and pleasure based on regret or duty that makes us live in the past.
- Moving a friend to a different tier too quickly.
I’ll tell you the second trap. This is intensely personal for me. The second trap is moving a friend too quickly to a different tier especially as an adult and not taking the time to really understand their values. I will be the first to admit when it comes to friendships of utility, friendships of pleasure, I tend to go deep quickly because I enjoy engaging. I enjoy sharing. I know that life change happens when you share intimately, when you share deeply, and you and you reveal yourself to an individual.
I totally understand this and I enjoy that because that’s where life change happens. That’s where input to my system, input to my world happens, and I could become a better person, ideally, because I know them. But here’s what I’ve learned. Please, guys, don’t miss this. That when you have friends of utility and friends of pleasure, you have to take the time to understand their values, understand their worldview understand, their goals. They are not allowed to enter into the inner sanctum of friendship quickly. It should not happen. I have learned this way.
There’s a saying that my father used to say. He didn’t say it that often, but he said it enough that it stuck with me. I wrote it down here. It’s not exactly true, but it brings I think a focus on some of the truths of the statement. Let me just say the statement here.
“Your friends should always stay in the position that they began in.” Let that sink in. “Your friends should always stay in the position that they began in.” Let’s unpack this idea just a little bit. What did my father mean when he said “Your friend should always stay in the position in which you began” or you found them? Well, if we look at it through the lens of Aristotle, if you have friends of utility—a colleague, a customer, a client, or you’re a member of something—they should always stay that way. They should always stay that way.
Allow them to be a great client. Allow them to be a great customer, allow them to be a great colleague or member or someone that you enjoy being with because there’s mutual benefit there. Leave it there and enjoy it for the time that it’s there. When it’s done and the circumstances have changed, move on.
When it comes to friendships of pleasure? Yeah! My dad will say, yep, enjoy that hobby with them. The circumstances allowed you and your hobbies and your interest to meet this individual, enjoy and be present in that position with that individual. And when circumstances change, your hobbies change, your interest change, you got married, got kids, you got a new job, you got new priorities, when it changes, then keep it there.
If you find that you travel back to a place and you have a friendship of pleasure that’s out in that place, go hang out with them. But don’t try to invite them closer, keep them where they are. Now, you might say well, Peter, that seems counterintuitive because if your past is your post-college age and you’re trying to find friends of virtue, then what your dad would say is that if you don’t have any friends of virtue, then I guess you’re always gonna stay that way. Come on, let’s between the lines. I think some real truth to what my father was talking about. The friends that you have should always stay within the position than which you formed them, which you found them.
That makes a lot of sense because there’s no need to go deeper, there’s no need to go crazy, there’s no need to invite in a client to your house. Just leave them where they are. I think here’s the undercurrent in the context that’s maybe missing from my father’s statement. That if their friendship naturally evolves over a good amount of time and they move into the inner sanctum, to the inner circle, maybe because you’ve found out over time that your colleague, your client, your customer, the person that you have a great hobby with or an interest with or pastime with, they share the same values. Interestingly enough, they might share the same goals. Interestingly enough, they might share the same worldviews. That will allow you to grow that relationship slowly with time, feeling them out, understanding who they are.
Going back to my problem. My problems in the past have been that I go too deep too fast and I did not heed the wisdom of my father. I let friends of utility, friends of pleasure move into the inner sanctum and they got burnt. I got burnt. The reason is because whoa, our values are completely different. Our worldviews are completely different. The way that we see the world is completely different. Visions for my life, visions from my family, and the visions for their life are completely different.
My advice to you guys, if you’re out there listening is that don’t move too quickly to a different tier of friendship. Don’t move too quickly, especially as an adult because adults are fucking sheisty. Adults have agendas. Kids don’t have agendas! Adults have agendas! Adults have hurts. Adults have baggage. Remember, I’ve talked about this before? I’d say a 100% of all adults out there, post-college, ten years past college, in your 30s, 100% of adults are communicating through their pain. They’re talking through their tragedy.
Be careful with who you form friendships with. Understand that there are tiers, utility, pleasure, virtue. Keep them there. Enjoy them. Don’t hold on too long because of duty or of regret. Don’t move people through the tiers too fast or someone’s gonna get burnt because of mismatched values and misalignment around worldviews and visions and goals. This is really, really important.
So guys, I want to encourage you, if you have great friends or virtue, awesome! I got a couple. That’s about it. And you know what? I’m really blessed and lucky just to have those couple. Here’s the question that I want to ask you guys today. I want you to think about it today. Do you have friendships that you’ve been holding on too long maybe through duty and time or regret? Are they slowing you down? Are they retarding your growth and are they creating situations where you just live in the past? If so, maybe it’s time to let them go.
Guys, I hope you enjoyed this episode. It came from my heart and I hope I did a good job explaining it. Subscribe, share this with other people in your network. Have a great one, guys!