A Little Friendly Research (My Turn)

I asked you a series of questions, and your answers appeared in the last 7 posts. Your answers were vulnerable, honest, funny, serious, and clever. Your answers inspired questions, discussions, and honest conversations about friends, and friendships. Your answers inspired some actions, as friends connected, reached out, answered phone calls, and actions became a little more deliberate and focused.

I wondered about how to end this series, and a few of you suggested that I weigh in on those same 9 questions.

So, it is my turn.

Question 1: What are the best attributes of your good friends?

They are intentional. They reach out. They call me, text me, and email me. They initiate as well as respond. They seem to have this internal counter that knows when too many moments, hours, days, or weeks have passed and the alarm goes off and they remember to connect.

Question 2: Do you think friendship is hard? Why or why not?

Friendship seemed easier in elementary school when you walked with the same person every day to school, then goofed around every weekend together on little adventures in the woods and on the pond. Friendship seemed easier when you were on a ship and saw them everyday for 6 months, and ate, slept, and worked together. Friendship seemed easier in college when you were in that crappy little apartment waiting for your paychecks so you could actually buy meat at the store.

Friendship seemed to get harder in the next stage of life. New jobs, new cities, new neighborhoods, new kids, and new distances between all of them.

Friendship is getting easier and harder at the same time in this current stage. My expectations have grown as the years have passed. What satisfied this need to connect years ago, doesn’t seem like enough. I have more time for friends then a decade ago, but some of them don’t have the same time available to me. The number of friends “goal” has been replaced with a depth of friendship “goal” which I recently realize is a much harder prize to attain.

Question 3: What do you expect from a friend?

Balance and equity in the long-run. I may need something from them for a season, but I want to find a season to give back as well. They shouldn’t be the only one to initiate connection, I want to call them, text them, email them, or reach out as well. I need that same little internal counter in my head that reminds me that too much time, distance, or life has gone by and I need to take action.

This question caused me to wrestle the most. I fear my expectations may be causing interference with some friends because my expectations may be higher, and unspoken.

There is tension expectation. How do we learn to give freely, and not be taken advantage of? When do you give? When do you need? How do you measure balance and equity?

No great answers, yet the wrestling seems like a good thing for me to work on.

Question 4: How much time in a given week do you think about your friendships?

A LOT! Until I read your responses, I thought I was a bit of an outlier (well I may still be). There was comfort to know that I am not the only one who thinks about this pretty often.

My mind wanders towards friends and friendship throughout my entire day. The morning computer/writing time, the commute, at random times each day, lunchtime, afternoon coffee, closing time, the other commute, dinnertime, vegging out time, before I sleep (you get the idea).

Bottom line, if you are my friend, I think about you a lot.

Question 5: What are your best attributes as a friend?

I care about you. I think about you. I connect with you. I am here when you need something (yes that has included the occasional furniture moving). I invest in you. I want you to succeed. I have hope for you. I find time for you. I love you.

Question 6: If you could say one thing to your friends that would help explain what you need from them, what would you say?

Be real. Be present. Be available. Be my friend.

Question 7: How many close friends would you say you have?

Nine.

Question 8: Anything else you would like to share?

Yes. This process, this journey has helped me understand friends and friendship in a new way. Your responses have helped shape me and I don’t want this journey to end.

Earlier this week I was teaching a class and we talked about leadership. One participant mentioned that leadership has an expiration date. In other words, if you are not exercising those skills, they expire, go bad, and become rotten.

I think this applies to friendships as well.

Question 9: In 10 words or less, what advice would you give the World about friendships?

Intention. Balance. Mindful. Time. Hope. Connect. Remember. Savor. Initiate. Love.

 

Disqualified

 

Disqualified

You were not good at math. You were easily distracted. You got an F. You got more than one F. You lost your temper. You messed up. You lost the account. You didn’t get into college. You didn’t tell the whole story. You said the wrong thing. You didn’t lose the weight. You were a bad friend. You got fired. You spoiled the party. You quit the team. You stopped calling. You didn’t get science. You made the mistake. You struggled with[insert name here].

Sometimes events make us draw conclusions. We were not good at math therefore we will never be good at math. We spoiled the party, therefore we will always spoil the party, so we should not be invited. We quit the team, therefore we are a quitter. We struggle with a pattern of behavior, therefore we will never overcome.

But worse than giving up, we become disqualified.

Disqualified is when the past is allowed to remove you from future opportunities, growth, or development.

Disqualified is a limitation on our potential.

Disqualified is keeping us from making a difference.

Disqualified is when struggles keep you from helping others.

Disqualified is a lifetime ban.

But, maybe there is no Disqualified status.

Maybe we misunderstood the value of the journey, the struggle, and the failure.

Maybe the fact that we struggle, fail, quit, mess up, and lose are the very things that qualify us to make an impact.

Maybe others need to know that we struggle as well.

Maybe we can learn, grow, develop, and be.

Maybe the future is wide open.

Maybe we are qualified.

Sung Heroes

It was a simple label on that bottle.

Just two words.

Unsung Heroes.

A spark of an idea.

Why do heroes go unsung?

Heroes make a difference.

Heroes make an impact.

Yet we do not sing.

Heroes reach out in our time of need.

Heroes care about us.

Yet we do not sing.

Heroes influence and change our world.

Heroes take the time to reach out.

Yet we do not…

Maybe we can change.

Maybe we can open our voices.

We can sing.

We can express gratitude and appreciation.

How about a new category: Sung Heroes.

Sung Heroes know the impact and influence in our lives.

Sung Heroes know how much we appreciate them.

Sung Heroes are encouraged to continue their journey as Heroes.

Here is my first attempt:

“Thank you for the time you spend. Thank you for the time you lend. You have been strong for me, unwavering like the branches of a strong tree. You have helped change the world for good, sometimes with something as simple as leaving me feeling understood. You are my sung hero. Yes, my sung hero.”

 

Wired for Problems

How you see the world

Understanding our own behavioral styles is essential to our long-term success. Knowing that you have a tendency to follow the rules, or that you can connect with others helps you leverage those strengths in your style (maybe you have a passion for finance or you are great at sales).

Knowing how you are wired also helps you know when your style needs to be modified (maybe you are too strict at enforcing rules or you connect so often with others that you are not getting your own work done).

The other day I was having a somewhat difficult interaction and an overreaction. When I react this way, I revisit my own style (often with other people) to help determine the cause and see if this insight provides some solution or an easier way to modify my style in the future.

As I described the situation to someone close, they provided some much-needed insight.

I am wired for problems.

How you see the world (1)

 

My natural tendency is to see things in an unfavorable light. Combine that with the perception that I am in control or have power over a situation, and things get interesting.

What I see as a problem, others may not even notice.

When I want to fix things, others may not be ready or aware that the problem even exists.

Sometimes this style works well.

If organizations, teams, or individuals need to change or improve.

Sometimes this style doesn’t work out as well.

If we are just having a casual conversation, or interaction.

This greater self-awareness helps me understand that although I would like to fix a lot of things, not everything is broken or a problem that needs fixing.

What is the old saying? “If you are a hammer, after a while everything begins to look like a nail.”

How are you wired?

If you know your own style, take a few moments to revisit your results.

Ask yourself the following questions:

1. What are the best 3 things about my style that really work for me in my role, job, career, or life.

2. What are the 3 things about my style that seem to get in the way the most, or if modified would lead to greater success.

Put that list somewhere where you can see it each day, and leverage what works, and begin to modify what doesn’t work.

If you don’t know your style, drop me a line or connect with someone who can help you identify your style.

More Flexible, Less Fear

The other day someone asked me to describe my two biggest goals in life. Once I got over the “Hey, I thought this was going to be a casual conversation!” I spent some time thinking about my response.

The reply didn’t come right away, as my mind raced between what I wanted to do and/or achieve and what I wanted to leave behind or be remembered for…then it hit me.

Two simple goals:

1. Be more flexible.

2. Have less fear.

More Flexible. I have noticed something as we progress through life. We tend to become stiff and rigid. This can be physically, mentally, or emotionally. We don’t stretch as often. We stop trying new things. We want things a certain way. We believe certain things. We know we are right and are not afraid to express that view. We have history with others. We hold grudges.

This goal provides a simple reminder. Am I getting stuck? Am I getting stiff? Am I responding and being closed off to new ideas, new activities, or new adventures? Recently I have been trying Yoga as a way to become more flexible physically, and starting to read a variety of books, or articles that may challenge my strongly held opinions. I initially felt resistance to both, but in time, both are becoming more natural.

Less FearLife is pretty ironic. When I was younger with less resources, less experience, and less opportunity, there was little fear. As resources, experience, and opportunity have grown, so has a corresponding fear.

This goal is the other important reminder. What am I afraid of? What is the worst that could happen? What is the cost of not trying these new things? Having this conversation with myself or others helps move me from inaction to action.

I am glad they asked me about my two biggest goals.

Two simple goals.

More Flexible.

Less Fear.

These two goals have become a kind of mantra for me.

Simple enough to remember, yet effective enough to keep me moving.

Now the question is passed to you.

What are your two biggest goals in life?

We all look forward to your answer.

Rusty Connections

RustyOldHinges

(Image Courtesy of http://www.angiesroost.com)

A friend recently reached out to make sure we were okay. Nothing specific happened, just a little time passed since we last connected.

“Are we okay?”

“Yes. Why, do you think something is wrong?”

“No, just sometimes when time passes our connections get a little rusty.”

Rusty Connections. As time passes things don’t move with the same fluidity. There can be resistance or breakdown. Sometimes, things just stop working.

Our relationships and our connections with others can get rusty. They may have become stiff and lack the flexibility they once had. The passage of time may have caused them to stop working the same way they did years ago.

There is good news. With effort, many of these Rusty Connections can move again. That effort may take the form of a phone call, a text or email, or even a letter (see below). But remember, a rusty hinge doesn’t return to its original state. Time has passed, and it will move again but in a slightly different way. Perhaps with a little more effort.

(I have a good friend who is single-handedly attempting to bring back the written correspondence approach, and I applaud and am participating in this effort. Why not give it a try?)

Is it Dan?

 

man-silhouette-question-mark1

(Image Courtesy of http://www.comedybunker.co.uk)

I got together with some friends I met during a regional leadership program to serve a local non-profit a few months ago. The day was spent mostly covering ourselves (and some of the walls) with paint, and catching up with each other.

While painting one particularly difficult area, we had four of us cramped in a small stairwell. Having resigned to have paint all over, my new quest became just to simply not step in the tray filled with paint.

The small space was a great time to talk, laugh, and catch up. Somehow we got on the topic of servicing our cars. I started to share a story.

Oh, you should go where we go. The same guy has been servicing our cars for over a decade.

Ok, but why should I go there?

No, you don’t get it. This is service like I have never experienced. I can call and get my cars right in. He always calls when the car is ready, and if there is going to be a delay. The price is always good, and if there is a way to save a little, he makes good recommendations as well.

There was a pause.

Is it Dan?

Yes, yes it is.

I figure it had to be. I have been going to him as well and feel the same way. Amazing service.

About seven years ago, I was having a conversation with a friend. We started talking about our cars. The conversation moved to service. I started to share my story.

We have been going to this one place for about three years now. They really take care of our cars, but there is this one guy who really seems to take an interest in making sure our cars are well cared for and safe.

Is it Dan?

This was the first time it happened. Seven years later it is still happening. People from different cities and different circles, all ask the same question: Is it Dan?

Every time I teach a class on customer service, I tell this story. Many ask me where Dan is, and if he really exists.

The story is true, he does exist. Maybe I changed his name, but that is not what matters. Something else matters.  Are we providing a level of service that is memorable in our roles, our jobs, and our lives?

Are we providing service that is memorable enough that when someone tells someone else about it (and they will tell others), they cannot help but ask one question:

Is it [insert your name here]?