There’s a special kind of playdate reserved for tiny children.
These playdates usually go until age 2.
It’s called “parallel play.” The two kids play in the same room, but independently.
Parallel Play is an on-ramp for socialization.
TIL that a similar concept exists for older men. They’re called Men’s Sheds and according to the US chapter:
Shed members increase their self-esteem and self-worth by employing their talents and skills while establishing a new circle of friends. Often [as men get older] they lose the social connections they’d established during their working lives and because life-long friends move or pass away.
It’s sweet picturing a bunch of older men woodworking and learning how to rebuild intimacy and connection with other men.
Which got me thinking – what does it even mean to have friends? Friends are presumably more than drinking buddies. And they’re definitely more than people who can help you advance your career.
These two types of friends are nice to have. But surely we’re missing something.
There must be a special category of friends that make you a better person. Don’t you think?
The story of double-breakfast
When I worked on Wall Street, I was a networking machine. I was so out-of-control that I would wake up at 4:45 am, go to Crossfit at 5 and then have an early breakfast (7:00 am) and then a late breakfast (8:30 am).
(And we wonder why I have high-blood pressure and hair loss.)
But I was developing genuine friendships with investors, entrepreneurs, creatives. People in NYC doing rad sh*t.
And once I left finance in 2015, many of those friends vanished. There was no falling out. There was no break-up. But the glue that had held many of these friendships together was that we could both help each other’s careers grow.
These were “quid-pro-quo” friendships.
You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
Relationships based on utilitarianism and reciprocity.
They weren’t “real friends.” They were “deal friends.”
Let’s grab a drink
Next up on the friendship hierarchy, we have buddies.
Your college friends. Your mom friends. Your surf friends.
These friendships are grounded on shared experiences.
Camping trips. Coachella. Bachelorette parties. Book clubs.
Often times these friendships have a long history – decades.
And they play a vital role in our connective social tissue.
But many of these friendships seem to wither with time (particularly for men). It’s often largely due to circumstances (moving, work, child-raising) – but I submit that as we age, we also recognize that there’s more to life than our shared experiences.
The difference between friends and buddies
I recently heard the philosopher John Vervaeke describe the evolution of his friendships:
Buddies are people you do stuff with.
Friends are people who are committed to you becoming wiser.
And you’re committed to them becoming wiser.
If we move beyond Coachella and the pursuit of shared experiences – we find the pursuit of wisdom.
Wisdom in the form of self-awareness, reflection and truly living in alignment with your own values.
And that’s where “True Friends” come in.
Just a shared genuine care and purpose in making each other better human beings.
I ask you to pause and contemplate:
Which of my friends are truly committed to me becoming wiser? And am I equally committed to them becoming wiser?
It’s a very different lens of friendship. In fact, when you home in on those individuals, you’ll immediately say to yourself “Damn, they’re special.”
And by no means is this a new concept. In fact, all of these tiers are adaptions of Aristotle’s Nature of Friendships. The article Three Friendships according to Aristotle details this last category:
The friendship of virtue or the friendship of “the good”. These are the people you like for themselves, the people who push you to be a better person. The motivation is that you care for the person themselves and therefore the relationship is much more stable than the previous two categories. These friendships are hard to find because people who make the cut of “virtuous” are hard to find. Aristotle laments the rarity of such friendships, but notes they are possible between two virtuous people who can invest the time needed to create such a bond.
Now the investor in me will tell you that you need a portfolio – of all three types of friends. Just make sure you invest in that last category. Like all good things in life, it probably won’t be handed to you.