A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.
It is common sense that entrepreneurs should cultivate friends outside of work. However, too often, entrepreneurs allow their non-work friendships to wither, as they struggle to maintain a healthy relationship with their family while nurturing their startups.
Although difficult, cultivating friendships beyond your office can actually make it easier to deal with the stress of your startup because such friends offer a degree of objectivity that family and co-workers cannot provide.
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The Power Of Adult Friendships
New York Times columnist David Brooks notes in this article that, "Lovers face each other, but friends stand side-by-side, facing the world." He goes on to point out three powerful aspects of adult friendships (paraphrased below):
1) Friendship helps people make better judgments (by) thinking through problems together and it allows you to see yourself through sympathetic eyes.
2) Friends usually bring out the best in each other.
3) Friendship is based on mutual admiration and reciprocity, causing people to live up to their friends’ high regard.
Not convinced you should seek out a non-work, adult friend? Consider a recent study that noted that most people cite their happiest (and saddest) moments as those which involve a relationship.
According to Dr. Shira Gabriel, the study's author, “Most of us spend much of our time and effort focused on individual achievements, such as work, hobbies and schooling. However, this research suggests that the events that end up being most important in our lives, the events that bring us the most happiness and also carry the potential for the most pain, are social events — moments of connecting to others and feeling their connections to us.”
In addition to non-coworker friends, entrepreneurs should also proactively seek mentors. Occasionally, mentor relationships evolve into a deep and lasting friendships. I am an appreciative beneficiary of such a relationship, which I have discussed in a series of articles on Mentorship.
Healthy adult friendships have an element of mutual mentoring. When someone needs advice, friends are a great source of wisdom. However, such guidance is often episodic, rather than ongoing. Likewise, effective mentoring relationships include an element of friendliness, but because of the relative differences in the participants' ages, such interactions rarely evolve beyond acquaintanceships.
However, in friendtorship relationships, the parties create a rapport that blends mentorship and friendship. When this occurs, the roles of the participants situationally alternate between teacher and student.
Make a friend. Be a mentor. Who knows? Your life might soon be enriched by a wise and engaging friendtor.
This article was inspired by a lively discussion with my friendtor, Bob Wood (@bob76sign).
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