When Billy Lee first asked me to write a little something on friendship, I quickly thought of my many relationships. But then I saw the differences and similarities between the two.
I have many fewer friendships than relationships, and my friendships are deeper and more powerful than my many relationships. But they do have things in common:
Gender is not a factor in either…
Nor is race or nationality…
And the time spent together doesn’t matter…
And both can happily go on and on.
That said, it’s better to have both than neither.
A friendship can have a very simple beginning…a handshake, nod or smile. But over time, and over changing times, it becomes deeper and more meaningful for any number of reasons. In life, stuff happens; over time, a relationship can become a close friendship.
When I think back, my early friendships started at Andover. Of a list of 8 friendships I highlighted there, 4 have died, and one has Alzheimer’s. Those living remain close friends, and those we have lost are meaningful memories
The list of friendships formed at Yale has 10 names, and again, 4 are no longer alive. Some became highly recognized but, surprisingly, the friendship only got deeper. Music was a factor in some of the friendships, and art was a factor in others.
And then to highlight the impact of forming friendships at educational institutions, I recall five at Harvard Business School that made a difference in my life, or I made in theirs. One had something to do with helping me get my first professional job, a profession he also chose. Another became deeply involved in my professional life during a difficult time. One has died.
I also developed friendships with our landscape designer, art dealers, our trainer and our rental house postman. And I have close friends on Martha’s Vineyard and San Juan Island. These friendships were formed “in season” but have deepened over time. The location of the friend is irrelevant.
I had the opportunity to join three others to form our own company. The friendship between the four of us was tested during a very difficult time, but it simply got stronger and the company survived and flourished…and our relationship and friendship did, too.
The ultimate irony is that I developed a friendship with someone that I had to fire from our company. In spite of our friendship, his management style was inconsistent with the company’s culture and he had to be let go. That individual has since died but my memories of our many conversations will never be forgotten.
FOLLOW-UP CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN BILLY AND BOB
Billy: Please tell me more about “The Ultimate Irony”
Bob: See two attachments
Billy: Thanks. I learned the following lessons from you: 1. Be honest, sincere, yet empathetic while sorting out differences. 2. Always appreciate and respect other’s positive qualities. 3. Must reach out deliberately to ignite, embrace, and nurture Relationships and Friendships. 4. Sometimes Friendship deepens after a struggle.