If you were Teddy’s friend, you knew it each and every day

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Frank’s asked a couple of times when I’m going to write an "Ode to Teddy."  I haven’t been able to write it because I miss her so much.  And I’m not sure I could do her justice.

But if there’s one thing about Teddy that should not be forgotten, it’s her greetings.  She said hello with her whole body.  She barked at everybody that came to the door.  But once she identified you as a friend – and that might happen when your car pulled up or it might happen once you stepped into the house – she would go into full greeting mode.  She’d squeal with delight, spin in circles, dive between your legs, roll over onto her back and wiggle, and then jump up to give you kisses.  It didn’t matter whether you’d been gone for five minutes or five months – you got the same elaborate greeting.   If we happened to be waiting for someone somewhere, she would watch for them.  (She knew most of our friends by name and I could tell her they were coming.)  When she spotted them, she’d immediately start a high pitch squeal/whine and start crouching down on her front legs and spinning.  If I let her off leash, she’d beeline to our friends in an all out sprint, miss them by an inch, turn around and do the Teddy greet – see above. 

One of my friends nicknamed her Twirly Girl and I thought that name was particularly accurate.

If you were Teddy’s friend, you knew it each and every day.  Friends of Teddy, feel free to describe it in your own words!

Which would you prefer, more money or more friends?

I just read a very thought provoking article, Why Having More No Longer Makes Us Happy by Bill McKibben.  The author argues that pursuing more wealth worked well in the past when we didn’t have much material wealth but now that we are a relatively wealthy nation, pursuing more and more wealth is making us less happy not happier.   His main points are:

  1. We are pursuing more and more wealth because it worked in the past,
  2. We are spending less and less time with family and friends,
  3. We are busier and more isolated,
  4. And it isn’t working anymore.

He points out that if you are rich in relationships and poor, more money might make you happy, but if you are poor in relationships and have plenty of money, a new friend will make you much happier than more money.  If you are a peasant in China with lots of relationships and no money, a little money can go a long way towards making you happier but a sixth person living in your house won’t.  On the flip side, if you are an American living in a 2000 square foot house, another friend might make you a lot happier than the money for another coffee maker.

He argues that in the pursuit of wealth, we’ve lost our community.  We spend less and less time with family and friends and more and more time isolated: commuting, working, watching tv, surfing the internet.  And yet studies show that it’s social networks (the real ones, not the virtual ones) that keep us happy and even healthy.  Robert E. Lane, a Yale political
science professor writes that "evidence shows that companionship … contributes more to
well-being than does income."

One point he made that really struck me because I can’t tell you how many people told me that college was going to be the best years of my life and I kept asking, "Why?  Does it go downhill from there?"  Apparently it does if you look at the quality of your relationships.

Why do people so often look back on their college days as the best
years of their lives? Because their classes were so fascinating? Or
because in college, we live more closely and intensely with a community
than most of us ever do before or after?

Something I read recently said that the number of friends we have drops off dramatically after our 20s.  Recently, I’ve realized that I really miss the number of friends I had in my teens and 20s.  I did things with large groups of friends several times a week if not every day.  Now we are lucky if we squeeze something in once a week.  And even when you have time (like when I was on maternity leave), your friends likely won’t have time!

So think about it.  Increasing the time you spend with your friends and extended family will do more to make you happy than a raise at work.  And I’d even argue it’d make you happier than winning the lottery!

Do rich people make you uncomfortable?

Do rich people make you uncomfortable? 

I’ve been surprised lately at how many people say they don’t like rich people.   For example, I have massage therapist friends who won’t work on wealthy people  (How’s that for a business plan!) because they find rich people’s concerns and troubles just too far removed from what they consider reality.  Another example.  I have a group of friends that raise guide dog puppies and they are great people.  I never realized that they were all  pretty wealthy until I invited a friend to a guide dog puppy party and he said he had nothing in common with them.  I tried pointing out all the things they had in common (dogs, kids, houses, location, hobbies) and he just couldn’t get over that they were in a different socio-economic group therefore they must not have anything in common!

I wasn’t raised in a rich family but it was rich in experience.  Every year I become more aware of how diverse my experience was.  I have a friend who also grew up overseas – she’s lived in several different countries and met lots of people and she’s very outgoing.  I thought that meant she’d be comfortable in any social situation.  So I was surprised when I took her to a country western bar and she was extremely uncomfortable – it was a culture she had never experienced before.  She didn’t dance (even though she loves dancing) and she won’t go back. 

Growing up not only did I meet farmers as well as city people, I also met rich people as well as poor people.  (And for the record, despite the stereotype some farmers are very wealthy.)  I have friends who have more family money than I’ll ever have unless I win the lottery and I have friends that barely make it paycheck to paycheck.  My dad even used to invite this homeless woman to a cup of coffee every day.  So I never knew that people in different socio-economic groups make people uncomfortable.   I never considered them different than me – they might have different problems or different priorities because life has dealt them a different deck of cards but they were still people very much like me!  It also helps that I know millionaires that wear jeans and drive old pickup trucks and people driving brand new cars that live paycheck to paycheck.

I think people are uncomfortable with rich people because they believe that money will solve all their problems.  And if money will solve all their problems then rich people must not have any real problems. Neither is true.  Money might enable you to buy clothes and activities for your kids but it won’t teach you how to be a good parent.  Money might buy you the right clothes and entrance to clubs but it won’t buy you good friends.  Money might give you time to spend with your spouse but it won’t make you a good partner.  Money might enable you to go to med school but it won’t make you a doctor.  Money can’t live your life for you and while it may make some things easier it won’t solve all your problems.  If you were rich, you would still have problems and they would not be trivial.

Rich people are just people too.  When you consider what money can do to someone, you might even consider that the rich are people with more problems than average.  They can’t blame lack of money for not accomplishing something in life.

Book review: Vital Friends

In Vital Friends, Tom Rath makes two main points. 
  • One is that having friends at work is very beneficial to the employer.  With a best friend at work, you are much more likely to be productive.  Without a best friend at work, there’s only a 1 in 12 chance you’ll feel engaged!  With three good friends at work you are 96% more likely to be extremely satisfied with your life.  (All the numbers are from a Gallup poll.) 
  • The second point he makes is that you can’t expect all your friends to be all things to you.  He says different friends fullfill different needs and describes the different types of friends:
    • Builders
      • Motivators and coaches
      • They push you
      • They know our strengths
      • They provide moral support
    • Champions
      • Stand up for you
      • Sing your praises
      • "Thrive on your accomplishments and happiness"
    • Collaborators
      • Share similar interests, ambitions and passions
      • Do a lot with you
    • Companions
      • Always there for you
      • Make sacrifices for you
      • First person you call
    • Connectors
      • Always introduce you to others
      • They seem to "know everybody"
    • Energizers
      • Your "fun friends"
      • Make good days, great
      • People you call to have a good time or to relax with
    • Mind Openers
      • Ask good questions
      • People you share ideas and express yourself outloud with
    • Navigators
      • Give advise
      • Steer you
      • Share dreams and goals

Interestingly, he says that in friendships we don’t play the same role
to each other.  So you might be a mind opener to your friend and your
friend might be a champion for you.

This book was an easy and interesting read.  You can easily read it in
a day. (I read it on a two hour plane ride.)  However, I would have
liked a lot more detail and depth.

What makes people friends?

This isn’t a post about how to make or keep friends.  This is about an article that dives into the pyschology of friendship.  So if you don’t like analyzing things, skip this post!

What makes people friends?  How do we choose who we are friends with?  The bottom line according to Friendship: The Laws of Attraction:

We become best friends with people who boost our self-esteem by
affirming our identities as members of certain groups, and it’s the
same for both genders.

In English, that means that if we think of ourselves first as moms, we will probably either hang out with moms or people that tell us we are good moms.  If we think of ourselves first as engineers, we will probably be best friends with engineers or someone who tells us we are great engineers.

Once you’ve found your best friend, there are four key ingredients to friendship:

  • self-disclosure – we share personal information and wait for the person to disclose equivilent personal information.  For example, I share that I’m having a hard time dealing with my brother and you share that you are having a hard time dealing with your husband.
  • supportiveness – friends listen to those problems and support their friends either by commiserating, offering advise or just listening.
  • interaction – you have to talk, email, write, … it doesn’t have to be in person.
  • positiveness – nobody wants to listen to rants all the time.  People want to feel good so they tend to hang out with people that make them feel good.  (I had a friend who told me she loved hanging out with me because I always made her feel good I was so upbeat.  I had never thought about it but I found myself thinking about all my friends and how upbeat they were or weren’t after that!)

So knowing all that probably won’t help you find or make friends but maybe it will make for an interesting, postive, supportive interaction with your existing friends.