The Purpose of Friendship

School of Life Black LogoAs a promotor and proud advocate of meaningful, authentic relationships, one of the most difficult and troubling questions that I often fumble to answer is something along the lines of, “how do you get out of a bad, unproductive professional relationship?”  Or, as I have been known to say, “how do you break up with a bad contact?”

Well, let’s face it, breaking up is hard to do.  None of us likes to hurt anyone or burn a bridge.  In fact, since I began networking intentionally, I have been fortunate to establish thousands of relationships… actively cultivate a sizable subset of them… I don’t even think I could put quantitative values on the volume or value of those contacts.  That said, I can count exactly the number of relationships I have intentionally abandoned:  Three.  Without getting into any specifics, I can assure you, those “break ups,” while few in number, were not easy.  They felt awful and I’m sure I hurt people’s feelings.

With that as the backdrop, I recently became familiar with a wonderful site called The School of Life.  Among other resources, products and services the organization offers, it has an entire library of amazing and beautifully illustrated videos.  One such video is entitled, “The Purpose of Friendship.”  Not only does the piece offer insight into the purpose of friendship in four simple categories (the first of which is Networking.  Hurray!), but it also implores the viewer to consider getting more clarity on the purpose of every friendship in his/her life in order to determine why the friendship exists and, in some cases, confirming the need to abandon that relationship in order to make room for more meaningful interactions with others.

In the video, the narrator acknowledges that people “are uncomfortable with the idea that friendship could have any declared purpose because we associate purpose with the least attractive and most cynical of motives.”  He goes on to say,

“Purpose does not have to ruin friendship.  In fact, the more we define what a friendship might be for the more we can focus in on what we should be doing with every person in our lives or indeed the more we can helpfully conclude that we should not be with them at all.”

For me, the message made me think about who I am spending time with and why.  As The School of Life calls out, many of us are likely “spending time with people for no truly identifiable good reason; they share none of our professional ambitions or interests….”  The narrator suggests we “dare to be a little ruthless in this area.  Culling acquaintances isn’t a sign that we’ve lost belief in friendship; it’s evidence that we are getting clearer and therefore more demanding about what a friendship could really be.”

Ultimately, the video outlines four reasons for friendship:

  1. Networking
  2. Reassurance
  3. Fun
  4. Clarifying Our Minds

For our purposes today, allow me to hone in only on the Networking aspect of friendship (though I encourage you to watch the video to dig into its juicy details for yourself!).

No surprise, we hear in the video that Networking is often – and unfairly – a maligned idea.  However, it is clear, without strong, supportive networks, we learn that we are ill-equipped to realize the potential of our imaginations; we lack the individual capacity to make it on our own.  So, instead, we must seek “collaborators [and] accomplices who can align their abilities and energies with ours.”  By collecting bands of friends, we are able to accomplish our broader goals.  What a beautiful sentiment and ideal reason to Network!

Could not have said it better myself.  Glad there’s the School of Life to help articulate this important message.

So, to confirm, what I’m not suggesting is that you go out and end a bunch of relationships.  No!  Instead, get very focused on dedicating time to your most valuable relationships so that, together, you can help one another to advance your collective ideas and, ultimately, change the world.  Happy Networking!

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