Choose Your Friends Wisely

Do it right and you’ll put powerful business-building relationships to work for you

When you strip away all the extraneous things in life (you know, “wants” versus “needs”), there are precious few vital items we must have. Food, air and water are no-brainers. Perhaps less obvious – but no less important – are relationships. Like the first three needs, we humans simply cannot exist without relationships. They sustain our souls and enrich our lives in ways too numerous to list here.

Fortunately, you don’t need hundreds of friends to reap the full benefits of relationships in your personal or professional development. Some of us have hundreds, perhaps even more than a thousand, “friends” on various social media … and that’s great. Still, if you can’t tell a story about a meaningful shared experience with a person, can you really call them “friend?”

There are layers of friendship; a pecking-0rder, if you will. There are acquaintances, social friends, truly close friends and family members … all of whom serve a purpose in contributing to your life (as you, undoubtedly, reciprocate).

And then there are the twelve extra-ordinary friends (you could also call them “growth partners”). Those who actively help you to become a better person in all aspects of your life; personal, professional, spiritual, financial, etc. You may not have been aware of it, but, if you take a mental inventory of the big contributors to your life, you can probably come up with 12.

Why twelve? Why not twelve? We already group lots of things into dozens. Plus, it just feels like a good number. A “magic” number, containing all the varied expertise you need access to.

Then there’s the ultimate grouping of 12 – Jesus’ apostles. A dozen friends who devoted their lives to the teachings of Jesus and ensured his messages would survive two millennia.

Your twelve will be devoted to you and your mission; that of becoming a better person every day in whatever way you define that improvement. They will pick you up when you need a lift, inspire you and encourage you. Whether directly or indirectly, they will teach you lessons about life and work in mere hours when you would otherwise spend years drifting toward the answers. And, while you may wish to spend lots of time with your twelve, you don’t necessarily have to. You can reap the benefits from time with your twelve even if your encounters are short and spread-out over longer periods of time. Scheduling time with them is like any other commitment we take on in our busy lives; we attend to it as best we can while juggling many demands for our time and attention.

How can you be sure to have such quality individuals in your life? Simple. You choose them. Unlike the family you’re born into or the workplace acquaintances who came with the job, your special twelve are hand-selected by you. They are intentional – not accidental – relationships.

They are also dynamic relationships. You should think about, process and write out all that you hope to achieve and learn with the help of your special twelve friends. From time to time, measure how you’re doing on those goals. If you find one or more of these relationships have gone “flat” – and are no longer significantly contributing to your life- then it’s time to move on and choose another special friend for your dozen. This is not to say you can no longer have a relationship with the person or persons you identified as no longer in the special dozen, it just means those people move on to another layer of friendship in your busy life; probably one more focused on visiting than on personal development.

Now, so far, all of this has been about you and your needs … but having these special relationships work best when they are mutual. That means you need to be willing to invest your time, interest and talent into your twelve equal to what they’ve given you. After all, friends can’t be all about “taking” … there has to be “giving” for balance.

So take stock of the friendships in your life. Find the ones special enough for inclusion in your gang of twelve. If you don’t have a dozen, I suggest it’s time to recruit … you don’t want to miss out on the opportunities good friends give to one another.