Who Are Your Friends?

friends

There’s a good chance I will talk to nobody at all today. Claudia is unfortunately still sick with lyme disease . Which means she might sleep from now until tonight. I have some meetings lined up for tomorrow in the city so I will be talking to people then. But nothing for today.

Dan, my business partner, and I are in waiting mode. We have things going on but nothing is happening today. And he has a new baby and a new house coming so he’s busy.

My kids are in school all day and then off to their mom’s. Nobody else in my family speaks to me. At least not on a regular basis.

(I always wanted a set of Friends like this)

I have no other friends that I talk to on the phone.  I have a hard time talking on the phone anyway. And I don’t always promptly respond to emails. My best friend from childhood is probably dead. I haven’t spoken to him in fifteen years. I wasn’t a very good friend. I skipped the wedding of my best friend from college. I wasn’t a very good friend. He doesn’t speak to me anymore. I had to learn to be a better friend.

But I want to talk to friends. So I’m going to broaden my definition a bit.

First off, I only want friends that inspire me and lift me up. That doesn’t mean friends can’t have problems. I like when my friends come to me with problems. I come to them with problems. i.e. we then inspire each other (ideally, and with sincerity) and attempt to lift each other up. It doesn’t have to be at the same time. It might be years apart.

Friends teach me new things. They challenge my beliefs in a constructive way. A few weeks ago a friend that I had known for 20 years (we were even housemates for awhile in college) kept commenting on my facebook in a destructive way. I couldn’t understand his criticisms and he even admitted he didn’t know what was going on. So I un-friended him and blocked him. Friend or not, I don’t deal with people who turn on the crappy person gene.

I also know someone is a friend when I can go long stretches without talking to him or her and then we talk and its right where we left off. I have a lot of friends like that.

So who are my friends today?

For one thing: BOXES.

(it's ok if friends are on the computer)

I have boxes called computers or TVs or books. And through my computers I’m sure I’ll associate with many people. I’ll respond to emails, I’ll look at facebook and interact with people on twitter and in comments . But even with these people I have to make sure I apply the same checklist:

–          Am I only responding to people who like me and uplift me? Again, it doesn’t mean they have to be in a good mood. Just that it’s someone who I can be supportive of and is supportive of me. Even if it’s a new friend and we are still feeling each other out.

–          Am I only responding to people who are constructive? And conversely, is it a friend I can be constructive with and I have no hidden agendas (e.g. I’m angry or I want money from that person or I’m intimidated by that person, etc).

–          Am I only responding to people who are teaching me something? Or, if they are asking me to teach them something that’s fine also. Friendships go in both directions.

–          Am I only responding to people who understand the occasional absence. I have to understand it from them also. This reminds me of the story of Chet and how he saved my business, Stockpickr, on a day we spoke after we hadn’t spoken in maybe 5 or 6 years or more.

That’s sad, one might say, that you only have friends through computers. “That’s not real,” one woman said to me yesterday in a thick Russian accent, “it’s not real if you can’t touch them.”.

But I don’t care. Isn’t that what social networking is about? To find new ways of being social? To not be trapped in the inflexibility of only being friends with people you can physically face. I’ve developed good friendships online. People who I might never meet.

(I've lost 3 friendships because I didn't show up at their weddings)

The last time I spoke to Chet, for instance, he told me he’s never going on a plane again. I might never see him again in person although I know I will be friends with him for life. Why won’t he go on a plane? Chet is a genius. And most geniuses I know are slightly paranoid because they know the non-geniuses that run the world often make mistakes.

So he doesn’t ever want to walk through a radiation scanner at an airport. “Those things leak, man,” he said, “if you walk through one of those things on a bad day, the next day you could be destined for leukemia.” I have 14 airplane trips coming up in the next few months.

But not all of my friends are through social networking. Some of my friends don’t know me at all. I might watch a TV show starring an actor I like that inspires me and uplifts me. So that show is my friend. Or I might read a book by an author that inspires me and uplifts me. Today I’m reading  Tim O’Brien’s latest collection of stories about Vietnam. I’ve never read fiction about Vietnam before. I like how he mixes the past, the present, fiction, non-fiction. How he puts “Tim O’Brien” in some of the stories and yet some of the stories are from the point of view of the other characters. It’s structurally challenging, it’s teaching me about writing, it’s teaching me about Vietnam, and I feel like he’s sharing of himself. I like him. Even though he has no idea who I am. So that author is my friend.

(Tim O'Brien in Vietnam. btw, if you can't see these images, check out original article at jamesaltucher.com)

By the end of the day I will have responded to about 30 or so emails. I will have responded to about 30 or so comments on my blog or others (my biggest challenge: never responding to the haters). I will interact with another 20-30 people or so on Twitter or Facebook. I will read pieces of two or three books and watch at least one or two shows (but not shows that bring me down – like news shows that have the specific agenda of scaring people. Those are NOT good friends to anyone). Everyone I interact with will have the qualities of a friend. They might not show up at my funeral but I’m dead at that point anyway . I’ll find (or give) pleasure from these people today. For me, that’s what friendship is about.

So I might interact with over a hundred friends today. I’ll continue to avoid the people who put me down. I’ll continue to interact with the people who uplift me. And, by the end of the day, I might not have said a single word.

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  • greentina

    Hola amigo, diste en el clavo de nuevo James! This is full of truths, I can ID with you so much reading this, thus, you are my good friend…
    btw, I disagree with some of your other pieces… and I still think you’re my friend…
    Besos a Clau,

  • greentina

    Hola amigo, diste en el clavo de nuevo James! This is full of truths, I can ID with you so much reading this, thus, you are my good friend…
    btw, I disagree with some of your other pieces… and I still think you’re my friend…
    Besos a Clau,

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=572545922 Claudia Azula Altucher

      :-)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=572545922 Claudia Azula Altucher

      :-)

  • Lori

    I don’t think I’ve commented on your blog before, James, but I read it all the time, and I love it. Thank you!

    I had to tell you, I’ve also imploded friendships because of weddings. I lost two good friends because I didn’t go to their weddings. I just hate weddings. They knew this, but they thought it would be different with them. They were wrong.

  • Lori

    I don’t think I’ve commented on your blog before, James, but I read it all the time, and I love it. Thank you!

    I had to tell you, I’ve also imploded friendships because of weddings. I lost two good friends because I didn’t go to their weddings. I just hate weddings. They knew this, but they thought it would be different with them. They were wrong.

    • Alfie

      Totally agree,  and yet having this attitude makes me feel like a Ms. Grinch…. my stepdaughter has gone to over 20 destination weddings in the past 5 years. And I realize that there is a certain social currency in being able to post pics of yourself dressed up //having a wonderful time.

  • http://www.fangmarks.com Matt Fangman

    Great post. I think about this very topic often. Being an introvert who is self-employed and works from home, my amount of daily human interaction is often sparse. A decent amount of my social needs are met through online interaction(I HATE the phone. I’m probably a “phoneaphobe”). Media—stories—film—etc. are food for my soul and sometimes a substitute for intelligent interaction with “real” people. I think that’s OK. Often, real people don’t want to have substantive, deep conversations. They don’t want to think. They want to just feel good and not be alone. 

    The concern I have, is that we use these relatively new ways to interact as a substitute for natural human interaction. It can keep us from being around others. It can enable a potential phobia. Human beings are meant to be around each other. We are meant to interact in shared space. We have to, in order to survive and to thrive.

    You are absolutely right about one thing: Cut out those that are constantly negative. Best life lesson I’ve ever learned about relationships.

    • Tiff

      What if they are constantly negative because they are suffering from depression? Would you cut them out then, just so they can go off and kill themselves? Or would you stick around and try to help them, like a true friend would?

      • http://www.fangmarks.com Matt Fangman

        Hey Tiff, 

        I’ve had friends and girlfriends who have dealt with depression. At times, I get in my own psychological ruts and need people to turn to. But to put the responsibility of whether or not someone kills themselves on me because I did or did not keep them in my life is not a fair question. People are responsible for themselves. And for their own happiness. I give a helping hand often to those around me, but eventually noticed those who no matter what I did would be unhappy with me, with life, and in a lot of ways would bring me down with them. True friendship is not only sticking with someone when they are down, but sometimes also walking away from being their crutch.

  • http://www.fangmarks.com Matt Fangman

    Great post. I think about this very topic often. Being an introvert who is self-employed and works from home, my amount of daily human interaction is often sparse. A decent amount of my social needs are met through online interaction(I HATE the phone. I’m probably a “phoneaphobe”). Media—stories—film—etc. are food for my soul and sometimes a substitute for intelligent interaction with “real” people. I think that’s OK. Often, real people don’t want to have substantive, deep conversations. They don’t want to think. They want to just feel good and not be alone. 

    The concern I have, is that we use these relatively new ways to interact as a substitute for natural human interaction. It can keep us from being around others. It can enable a potential phobia. Human beings are meant to be around each other. We are meant to interact in shared space. We have to, in order to survive and to thrive.

    You are absolutely right about one thing: Cut out those that are constantly negative. Best life lesson I’ve ever learned about relationships.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=572545922 Claudia Azula Altucher

    Thank you for all the best wishesvyou guys!! And James, you are right, I have a bunch of solid friends I never met in person, just throughbthe blog, solid friends that give me encouragement, precise asana advise, book reviews, and just plain good vibes. The Internet has made a world a lot smaller that way, and who needs to fly anyway?

    As per weddings…. I think all expensive, remote, weddings should, have a Skype table, for people to check in once in a while, if the so desire… It is the least the bride and broom can do for old times sake and if they really mean they want everyone to come.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=572545922 Claudia Azula Altucher

    Thank you for all the best wishesvyou guys!! And James, you are right, I have a bunch of solid friends I never met in person, just throughbthe blog, solid friends that give me encouragement, precise asana advise, book reviews, and just plain good vibes. The Internet has made a world a lot smaller that way, and who needs to fly anyway?

    As per weddings…. I think all expensive, remote, weddings should, have a Skype table, for people to check in once in a while, if the so desire… It is the least the bride and broom can do for old times sake and if they really mean they want everyone to come.

    • http://www.writervixen.com Deborah Hymes

      Claudia, I love your Skype-wedding idea! I think most people would hate it, probably — many people seem to view their wedding day mainly as an opp to be the center of attention. 

      James, when I first got out of college, I was a bridesmaid in my brother’s wedding & I hated it so much that I swore I’d never do it again. I’ve stuck to that and it has, indeed, cost me some “friends.” People whom I felt I could afford to lose, frankly! Even though I offered to help or participate in their weddings in other ways (e.g., photography, wedding planning, running errands for them, ferrying people to/from the airport), they routinely rejected my offers, disinvited me, and never spoke to me again. This happened to me FOUR TIMES. Four!

      And every single time I wondered why, if they valued my friendship so little, did they even invite me to be in their wedding in the first place? I think of this as a “litmus” friendship — where everything ultimately hinges on a single action, rather than on the overall quality of the relationship through time.

      I love this post! I have the same standards and the same perspective, and always have had. You inspire me constantly and I add your friendship to the list of many things for which I thank Penelope Trunk, whose blog introduced me to you. =)

  • http://twitter.com/ArtGow Art Gow

    Check your direct messages on twitter… though we’re not friends, the messages were an act of one, and I think you and Claudia will find it very helpful… happy to help as need be…

  • http://twitter.com/bclund bclund

    Since it’s a slow day James, perhaps you will check out my new post.  

    “How To Bring A Love One Back From The Dead”

    It’s the latest of writing I have been doing inspired from reading your blog.

  • Sooz

    ;))
    glad to have both of you as my brilliant friends.
    thanks

  • http://twitter.com/caitlinmc caitlinmc

    This is a great post James,
    To include the people that you can immediately take back up with after a time lapse really struck a nerve for me.  ‘Friends’ that get angry if you don’t call 3x a week or forget a birthday here and there stress me out. 

  • cindyluwho

    I think about this quite a bit as I have not seen any of my friends in years. I have moved so much that I have lost touch. Besides, several of my so called friends stopped returning my e-mails/calls when I no longer had money to go to dinner, take weekend trips or go shopping. I really don’t have any traditional friends anymore, I am ok with that. Mostly. 

    Everyday I come to your blog anxious for words that are going to help me with my today. You always hold up your end. I’m always inspired and a bit smarter for having read your writings. Thanks for being my friend.

    Lots of good energy to Claudia for a speedy recovery:)

  • Gina

    Love that you put in words what I’ve felt for a long while now! Most people in my life consider me a great friend but the sad part is that they don’t realize they haven’t really been one to me! My co-worker has been a better friend than the people surround me so I’m grateful! Your blog is uplifting, direct and honest. Those are the type of friends I want in my life, thanks for being a great friend.

  • Quentinhardage

    You do not know how many friends you have until you own a condo on the beach.

    • Syren

      Or have a truck.  

    • JonConnors

      …or, live in Las Vegas! 

    • JonConnors

      …or, live in Las Vegas! 

  • John J Smith

    Is Savio Tung your friend?

  • Morgan

    James, I’m not sure if you lost friends because you didn’t go to their wedding, or if you lost friends because they got married. No reason to take these things so personally – I am constantly losing friends to their significant others.

    The true friends are, as you said, the ones with whom you pick up right where you left off. Another test is if you have anything to talk about beyond what the day-to-day news of your life.

    Have you read Tim O’Brien’s “In the Lake of the Woods?” It was haunting, if I’m remembering it correctly.

  • modernmind

    Tried to friend request you on Facebook. After I clicked on the button, this big hand from Facebook was put into my face and said, “James Altucher (TheStreet.com) will have to confirm your request. Please only send this request if you know him personally.”
    Now I’m confused. Please define, “know him personally”. I thought I was your friend.

  • Suzy

    Hi J, I saw you speak at a Fidelity meeting a few years ago and I thought you were entertaining and insightful. I read your postings on stocktwits and they always make me smile…You say the things other people think but are afraid to verbalize, so kudos to you!

  • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

    You don’t know who your friends are until you become financially poor.

    I swear to god, losing your house isn’t contagious.

  • Anonymous

    Ha, the year 2000 when I was just out of school and new to nyc, I was interviewing at a company and they had me talk with a potential future coworker and he was telling me how he lived in a 12 unit building on the upper east side and they were all friends and it was just like the show friends and I was thinking I couldn’t believe he said something so lame out loud but was also wishing I was from new york and had a post college set up like his. My life never would resemble the show friends. tough break.

  • Tiff

    Hi James,
    You said, “I also know someone is a friend when I can go long stretches without talking to him or her and then we talk and its right where we left off. I have a lot of friends like that.”

    I am having a little problem with that statement. Not that it isn’t valid or anything. I think my problem lies with the “long stretches.” That hits a soft spot with me because I have too many friends who I haven’t seen or hung out with in a long time. I have grown to resent that. Call it insecurity or paranoia but let me explain further.

    When I was younger, I was very popular. Smart, beautiful, bright eyes, bright future were some of the compliments that I would get. Strangers on the street often stopped me to compliment on my smile or my eyes or anything at all. And of course I got lots of attention from guys. I had lots of friends. Lost lots too but always gained back double the amount. However, this was when I feel like I reached my peak.

    Now, if I can get someone other than family or one of my best friends to hang out with me it’s a blessing. Those who I haven’t alienated because of my depression(I was diagnosed 5 years ago) have ran away from me as fast as they could. And those who are still in my life hardly have time to hang out with me. Sometimes I feel like they are avoiding me. But I chalk this up to paranoia. In April, I broke up with my boyfriend, then lost my job two weeks later. After that was when the phone calls and invites to parties stopped coming. As I sunk in my depression over my losses, my friends seemed to disappear into the night.

    A few of my friends who knew about the situation were good though. I had one who would ask to see me for lunch every week. But this only happened at the height of the summer, and at that time, he and his girlfriend were having problems so I think he just needed someone to talk to. We haven’t had lunch together in 3 weeks now. I have another who to this day we are still trying to set a date to see each other for dinner. Our schedules never match though, since he works and also has a girlfriend. And whenever he invites me somewhere I always coincidentally have other plans. I have another friend who over the years would ask to see me. But I was always busy. Even when I wasn’t. I noticed just the other day that he’s stopped asking me, so last night I saw him online and decided to say hi. The last part of the conversation went like this:

    M: everything work out with your car?me: yup, she’s still running :)  thanks for asking M: no prob…..it’s been years buddy…. me: I know, but you’re always so busy now! I do have some time during this week though, so if u wanna meet up for lunch one day I can do that. or even dinner
    I never received a response after that. Maybe he’s tired of my empty promises to see him? Alienation 101.

    I watch that show Friends all the time and it is one of my favorites. But every-time I watch I get this longing for a social situation like one similar to what is on the show. I want my own group of friends who we hang out with each other every week. We either have our favorite local hangout, or we hang out at one of our houses and have game night, or some other get together idea we put together. And while we are there we catch up on each other’s lives, solve each other’s problems, make fun of each other and all the like. I want that so badly that I have tried to create this scenario so many times among my friends. But it never works out for me. Maybe I am not supposed to have that?

    I crave connection. Good communication. Companionship. Shared experiences. Laughs. And fun. I do not get this a lot and because of that, I have this negative view of the world. I am like a dog who does not get enough hugs or kibbles n bits. A treat for every good deed that I do. I have lots of hobbies and things that I am interested in, but sometimes, those things would be a lot more fun if I had more people to do them with. I feel like I am always alone. And didn’t someone once say that life experiences are nothing if not shared with the ones you love?

    I have tried reaching out to my friends about this. But no one seems to understand. No one seems to understand that I need more support than they are giving me right now. Or maybe I just don’t know how to ask for it properly? I have other hobbies and interests, but once in a while I would love to spend time doing some of these with people I know very well who have the same interests. Didn’t someone once say, life experiences are nothing if not shared with those that we love?

    I would appreciate your feedback on this James. And thank you for posting this. It definitely answered a lot of questions I had about what could be construed as a good friendship :)

    • Sarah

      Hey Tiff,

      Sorry to hear of your struggles. Try having a look at this site: http://www.thework.com/index.php

      I have found her to be amazingly helpful through the toughest of adversities. 

      Who would you be without your story?

      • Tiff

        Thanks Sarah! I really appreciate it :)

  • Enlightened Caveman

    I get what you’re saying here, and as an entrepreneur who works from home, I can relate…sometimes.  However, one thing worries me.  It’s the tendency for people who are not extroverts by nature to use social media as a substitute for real human interaction.  That’s fine if you don’t or won’t have a need for acceptance and ongoing face to face relationships – someone like yourself, who has pre-established methods for getting what you want/need.  But what about the kids – boys mainly – who are suffering from their preference for asynchronous and often virtual human interaction (texting, video games, etc.)?  When it comes time to get a job, find a romantic partner, etc., they’re massively handicapped.  More males in their 20s are living at home than ever before.  More have social anxiety issues.  The list goes on.

    I know this is ancillary to your point, but I have two little boys (5 and 7) and it frightens the crap out of me that the world they’re coming into is like this.  Check out this quick TED talk by the originator of the Stanford Prison experiment from the 70s.  He’s worried, too.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/zimchallenge.html

  • http://waqasaday.wordpress.com Waqas Ali

    Hey James, great to know you think the same about us, they way we do. Living in Pakistan, telling me mom about your blog, she asked me, “Is James your friend?” I replied I think about him this way, may be he thinks the same.

    Your blog has brought lot of lifting in my life, being 23 I can learn a lot from you, and I’m already learning.

    Wish speed recovery to Claudia too.

    • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

      I enjoyed your post about 9/11 a decade later. Peace to you.

      • http://waqasaday.wordpress.com Waqas Ali

        So glad, you liked that post. Thank you for visiting me.

      • http://waqasaday.wordpress.com Waqas Ali

        So glad, you liked that post. Thank you for visiting me.

  • Anonymous

    There are really only two types of “friends” . And you won’t know for sure which type a person is until the “friendship” is tested by time and trial. I had an experience in which I had six “friends”, 2 I had known for a couple of years and 4 I had known for several years. I am a RE developer and all five of my “friends” became involved in various RE projects at different times and capacities. In the first instance around 2001 one the ” friends” wanted to join a project unsolicited. So I brought him in. He became nervous regarding the project and immediately retained an attorney and threatened me with financial ruin if I didn’t do what he wanted. Long story short, I jumped through many hoops to return his full investment ( even though the project just started). As soon as I gave a certified check, his demeanor immediately changed and wanted to know when we were going to hang out next…WTF!!! Bad deal on his part, the project finished and had he stayed in it he would have doubled his money.
    The other five ” friends” also joined other projects at various times mostly unsolicited. Things were going great I made these people a bunch of money over a 5 year period, everyone was happy telling me how much they loved me. But when 2007 rolled around things started to get ugly and that’s when the “friends” and REAL FRIENDS” became apparent. I started to lose big money MM’s. That’s when the wheels came off. Two of the “friends” brought in attorneys and were ready to go to war. Once they were able to get what they wanted they bailed and I haven’t talk to them since. The remaining 3 turned out to be REAL FRIENDS
    we all lost money but not a cross word was exchanged, not even in jest. The relationships actually became stronger then ever.

    So the two types of friends are those that “Shoot Bullets at you” and those that “TAKE BULLETS FOR YOU”

    It’s much better to have only a few friends that will TAKE BULLETS FOR YOU” and you for them.

    than to have a lot of “friends that will Shoot Bullets at You when times are bad.

  • http://diamondkt.blogspot.com David Stehle

    I love the honesty in this post!

    I found you via Julien Smith and I think we should be box friends.

    And I promise to never get mad at you if you skip out on my wedding.

  • pjc

    I think some of these people who “aren’t talking to you”, probably would be totally happy to chat with you if you looked them up.

    I think you are a little confused about how long term friendships work. That guy you were best friends with in college – he has literally thousands of hours of memories of how much he enjoyed your company. He has just one memory of when you skipped his wedding. You were perhaps his biggest “no show” disappointment for the wedding, but trust me, you weren’t the only one. I’m sure he had lots of “WTF – that guy didn’t show!?” invites.

    Look some of those old friends up. Give them a day. If they burn you – i.e. act mean, bring up old feuds and rivalries, laugh at you, then put them on the “no more” shelf. But if they’re gentle and solicitous, and are interested in your story in a non-judgemental way, I bet you can put past problems behind you and resume those friendships.

  • Joe

    JA, what happened?  This sounds like you paid someone to ghostwrite it for you.  I hope you get back to your old writing style quickly, this isn’t going to cut it.  A Friend

  • Anthony

    No offence and I am not a hater but people you have never meet are not your friends. People who may hang out on this blog, Facebook etc could be anyone as far as you know. The Chinese government may have set up a warehouse full of computers and guys who post here all day trying to extract information from your mind Altucher! A bit of jest contained within resides the truth.
     
    So on top of being a hater I am going to sound condescending too. I actually pity anyone who thinks that interaction via a PC constitutes the basis of a true friendship. The really sad thing is more and more people actually believe this, this could actually have ramifications on peoples ability to feel empathy in the future if this takes hold.
     
    As other people have said when you are at your low point you find out who your friends are. The thing is if you’ve reached that point, looked around and don’t see anyone that’s a reflection of how you have acted in the past and not how your friends were acting at the time.
     
    Right I am on a roll now – For the mentally hampered people here that enjoyed watching Friends just so you re aware it was the worst programme on TV. It was so bad it makes reality TV seem good, had it not been for the Sopranos being on during the years that Friends aired the whole of TV would have jumped the shark and we would be all gathering round pianos in the evening for our entertainment.
     
    BTW – This is the greatest blog on the net, by a mile.

    • Tiff

      “As other people have said when you are at your low point you find out who your friends are. The thing is if you’ve reached that point, looked around and don’t see anyone that’s a reflection of how you have acted in the past and not how your friends were acting at the time.”-Gonna have to disagree with you on this one. That isn’t always the case. Sometimes when you are at a low point in your life and you look around and don’t see anyone that is because people choose to be fair weather friends.

      • Anthony

        What type of person attracts those around them with no character? Birds of a feather, as I said its a reflection of you and not them. People look to blame all the time when in reality the mirror is the only thing one needs to look in.

        • Tiff

          Just because I have had the misfortune of attracting people with no character that does not mean that I myself have no character. It’s not my fault if people are always changing. Birds change their feathers all the time.

      • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

        Tiff, You don’t have to listen to Anthony.  : )

        “not useful”

        • Tiff

          LOL, his post did sound “haterish”

  • Adams in Oregon

    I don’t know why I started reading your blog, but I am fascinated by it and I never miss a post! Thanks for adding perspective to my daily life…

  • Jake

    From previous posts, I get the feeling that your idea of constructive means very little disagreement. You might want to try befriending some who disagree with you quite a bit and are just as passionate about their POV as you are with yours. It helps in trying to manage your instinct / ego to want to feel like you’re always right and that everyone else around you has to agree with you. These people can actually teach and uplift you more than those that only give you positive feedback

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000485390446 Jessica Mastropasqua

      I disagree that you can gather that sort of information from JA’s previous blogs.  In any post that I’ve ever read by him, it seems like he cuts loose the sort of friends that are petty, rude, mean, sycophants and/or cutthroat opportunists.  Can’t really fault him for that.

       It seems to me, that there is a difference between constructive criticism and downright meanness. Its usually due to a set of little gifts, few have, called common sense and tact.

      For example, you wouldn’t tell your friend, that just started painting, “Don’t quit your day job” after you saw his first painting. But you could say something like “Hmm, I’m not sure I am art savvy enough to evaluate this piece.” or “I don’t really understand this piece’s message.”

      The trick is to take any criticism for another and begin it as an “I” statement. If you start it as a “you” statement, as in “You don’t know what the hell you are doing” or “You are outta your mind” it immediately throws friends on the defensive. If they are truly friends, its worth the extra time restructuring your responses. By the way, “I think that you need some more practice” is still a “you” statement.

      As a fellow genius (ha), I was born without either common sense or tact. I tell it like it is and don’t hold back no matter who you are. I think people should be tougher and just “take it like a man.” However, this has left me with few friends and a family that prefers to live far away. I’ve been working with the above tactic and it works so well. I don’t use it every time I should, but when I use it, it’s never failed.

      For the record, this tactic works with non-friends too. It makes you a more likeable person and your co-workers and/or minions will work harder for someone that doesn’t insult them left and right. Plus it makes it easier to get the responses you want from people instead of the dramatic, defensive responses we are so accustomed to.

      Oh, and proceed with extreme CAUTION when mixing business with friendship. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, usually the friendship goes sour, too.

  • Bob

    You are huge, man. Cheers from Bulgaria. Love your blog.

  • Jeff

    James, you may call a television program or book your friend, but I think the definition of a friend is someone who reciprocates that friendship.  I think you can only cultivate a handful of what I call “good friends.”  People who know your shit, listen to your stories and do likewise.  I know you’re an introvert so it’s not easy to get out there and be with people for very long, but to call a book or object a friend seems to diminish the whole concept and definition of friendship.

    I enjoy your posts.  Thank you for your honesty.

  • Mo

    you are the man, James!!

  • Listsufr

    Jame’s best friend is his left (or right) hand

  • doug graves

    I think Facebook has changed the definition of friendship.  Let’s say I’m riddled with stomach cancer and see a face outside my room:  Do I lay off the self-administered morphine drip, or speed-dial the thumb trigger towards unconsciousness?  The healthy place would be to leave labels and attachments off any description of people and your association with them.  At various times everybody has the capacity to be a friend, or a raving lunatic.  The real question, is why what people think would be of any import. 

    • Minimalmamal

      If you genuinely care about someone, believe it or not, you care about their thoughts and/or feelings because you don’t want them to be hurt or to be in pain.

      –maybe I am not following your point……explain further if you care to

  • http://twitter.com/sandman_va Dave Sandrowitz

    Here I am again, Mr. Loss.  Other than family, friends are the most important thing in the world to me.  I agree with everything above and second the comments about friendship and money.  What I can also tell you is that you quickly realize who your real friends are, real as in the people who love you and accept you in a very familial way despite the lack of blood relation, when you experience hard times or tragedy.  When you hit that moment in your life, your real friends are the ones who are there for you, who anticipate what you need, who offer to help without any inkling of strings attached, who let you express yourself in whatever way you need to without judgement, and who can balance out the necessity of a shoulder to cry on and lots of space and solitude.  It is a hard thing being a good friend and having good friends, but it is one of the few things that keeps us going when everything else has gone to hell.

    I will never forget all of the people, people whom I did not call or email, people whom I had not seen in years, that showed up to my daughter’s memorial service.  All I knew that I wanted that day was to have my house filled with all of the people that I care about and, without asking, that is what happened.  It was strange – the almost unfathomable pain that we were experiencing being temporarily held at bay by the hugs and tears and laughter and warmth.  Watching our friends laugh as our 3 year old tried to sing “Your Love” by The Outfield, over and over and over again…it made us feel normal for an hour or two and I will always be grateful for it.

  • Myangan

    James,
    It’s off topic, but have you ever had to talk to a foreigner whose English is not that great? It’s really frustrating because I’m that foreigner. I go to a college in the states, but my spoken English is horrible. Most of the time, I say something that either doesn’t make sense or is stupid, and I know it. It’s embarrassing. I don’t know what is wrong with me. I lived in the states for over 4.5 years now. My GPA is currently 3.9 (I’m a junior). I’m good at math, and I guess this is the only ability that is taking me through college. My pronunciation is bad also. And here is my future plan:After I graduate from college (hopefully), I want to work in the states for at least 1 year. Also I want to start and do my own business in the states (I have several ideas). However, it seems to me that everything in real life requires good communication skills (It is even difficult for me to talk on the phone with someone about my credit card charges). How can I do all this if I can’t even speak English like a 6-year old kid?I don’t know If you are the kind of person who can give me some advice on how to speak English well, but I read your blog everyday (since there was an article on yahoo why we shouldn’t go to a college), and I know that you know a lot about a lot of things like building businesses, creating good websites, stocks, etc. What should I do? What would you suggest? I just want to speak English like a native so bad! To me, the whole point of going to a college in the states was to learn to speak English well. But I’m a junior already, and my English is still bad! If I could speak English like a native, I wouldn’t even consider going to a college in the states! 

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/derekdodds Derek Dodds

    Thanks for the post James. You are the first person that I have never met or spoke to that I feel is a friend. It’s been a real gift getting to know you through this blog and I look forward to supporting and inspiring you in the journey ahead.

  • Adam

    A friend who is far away is sometimes much nearer than one who is at hand. Is not the mountain far more awe-inspiring and more clearly visible to one passing through the valley than to those who inhabit the mountain?
    Khalil Gibran

    Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.
    Khalil Gibran

    Your friend is your needs answered.
    Khalil Gibran

    He says a lot on firendship beyond this.

    I sense that when you tell someone something you feel like you should be judged for, and they don’t judge, and they do the same and you respond in kind, it’s like a transaction where both agree to not judge each other, and they feel mutual validation of their feelings (and as we age, the feeling is guilt).  For some, a friend is someone who wants you to succeed in your goals (as opposed to the putative opposite, the enemy, who wants you to fail). 

    For me, there are all kinds of friends;  but my closest friends make me better.  :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/patty.denny1 Patty Denny

    James,  I am your friend.  I have all the criteria.  I also live in Telluride, Colorado.  Which may even be better than having a friend who lives on the beach.  So – geez – isn’t it time that you and Claudia came by for a visit (as soon as she feels better)?  It’s been ages since I’ve seen you!  …. if you need further motivation … I own the local chocolate shop :o)

  • http://www.pointsandfigures.com pointsnfigures

    Interesting.  I have the same type of life now.  I always thought I would grow up and have lots of friends, lots of invitations for golf etc.  But you have to join a club for all that.  

    Sometimes I feel phony hanging out-like something amazing should happen.  But sometimes when I go to an organized hang out I do meet some cool people.  So, I continue to do it.  Most of the time, people are just after you for something.

    It’s harder to develop friendships when you are older.  You don’t have the time.  I am still best buds with a guy I met the first day of kindergarten.  Both of us collected a group of friends over our middle school and high school years.  There are six of us, and we get together once or twice a year.  We pick up where we left off and it’s fun.

    Computers and tv shows can be your ‘friend”, but at some point you need some human interaction of someone who truly cares about you to pick you up.  Thank goodness for me I have a few of those.  Otherwise I might be dead.

  • Caromusa

    Claudia, que te mejores pronto! de corazón.
    James, I agree to that “friend feeling”, I kind of think of you as a friend even though you have no idead who I am… but you are so helpful. Sometimes when I’m in certain situations (like dealing with crappy people) I think “what would James do?” (or want me to do). And that’s helpful, so, thank you very much for sharing.

  • Meatbone9

    Tim O’Brien wrote one of the funniest books I have ever read “Tomcat in Love”.  To be able to go from “The Things They Carried” to a hysterical novel truly is talent. 

  • Kevin M

    I completely get this…I’ve been interacting with a group of fellow young CPAs online that uplift, inspire and teach me….but I’ve never met a single one in person. They are probably more valuable to my career than anyone I actually share an office with. How is that anything other than a “real” relationship?

  • http://Www.brookefarmer.com Brooke Farmer

    Online friendships can absolutely be real. I consider you to be a friend. Every time I get an email or comment response from you, it uplifts me.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OTAZAD4MZMGPRHWPEMAVGJULV4 Q

    What if a depressed friends brings you down so you cut him out of your life and he kills himself, then you get depressed and people cut you off because you bring them down with your depressed state? Suddenly you realize you’re the same as those people.

  • Brian Balk

    You have friends (or, at least, people who feel friendly toward you; not the same) you haven’t even met or interacted with.  Fans of your writing.  It’s likely that, if you got to know them and they got to know you better, it would turn out that some of them really aren’t friends after all.  Familiarity breeds contempt.  But some would turn out to be friends.

    I have a very good friend that I’ve known for over 30 years and yet have only seen in person maybe half a dozen times, if that.  We met in high school; all-county orchestra.  We went to different schools, miles away.  After it was over, I didn’t know how to contact them, so I wrote a letter to my friend, care of the other school.  We wrote letters for years – who does that any more?  These days it’s e-mail and phone calls.  But we still are close friends – and, like you said, it picks up right where we left off, no matter how long the pause, and the love is still there.

    It really is love, and being loving.

    Anyhow, I don’t know if I’m really your friend, or if you’d really be my friend if you got to know me.  But I feel friendly toward you.  Here’s something (relevant) that I like, and I hope you’ll like it too.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXARdPb4YBs&feature=related

  • Brian Balk

    You have friends (or, at least, people who feel friendly toward you; not the same) you haven’t even met or interacted with.  Fans of your writing.  It’s likely that, if you got to know them and they got to know you better, it would turn out that some of them really aren’t friends after all.  Familiarity breeds contempt.  But some would turn out to be friends.

    I have a very good friend that I’ve known for over 30 years and yet have only seen in person maybe half a dozen times, if that.  We met in high school; all-county orchestra.  We went to different schools, miles away.  After it was over, I didn’t know how to contact them, so I wrote a letter to my friend, care of the other school.  We wrote letters for years – who does that any more?  These days it’s e-mail and phone calls.  But we still are close friends – and, like you said, it picks up right where we left off, no matter how long the pause, and the love is still there.

    It really is love, and being loving.

    Anyhow, I don’t know if I’m really your friend, or if you’d really be my friend if you got to know me.  But I feel friendly toward you.  Here’s something (relevant) that I like, and I hope you’ll like it too.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXARdPb4YBs&feature=related

  • Dgarber

    Home is where you can go and they will take you in. Friends are like that. They lift you up and make your heart stronger, they ease your pain and they share your triumphs. A friend may criticize but is never corrosive. They offer praise for honorable behavior and gentle reproof for your faults.

    A friend may disagree but never puts pride before camaraderie. They are quick to forgive and slow to anger. In the end, they believe the best of you despite all your protestations to the contrary.

    To have friends, you must first chance to be a friend. In this world of ephemera, smoke and mirrors, you have to dare to be ‘real’.

    The crucial difference between a friend and an acquaintance is that they gain nothing from their poor bet on your character but the pleasure of your company. One can never have enough friends but acquaintances can crowd your life and consume the precious moments of your life without enriching it. When you really need help in a difficult time, there is little difficulty in discerning between the two.

  • Michael3223

    could you post some links of writers you follow?

  • admirer28

    love your honesty, bareness. don’t ever cover up and become afraid James. the is the real stuff.