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Are You Your Friend’s Friend?


Quick! What is a friend? Can you define it? Or is it just something you feel? Is friendship something solid and permanent? Or does it come and go? Is it spontaneous? Or does it require effort and nurturance? Is it free form or structured?

Perhaps due to different interpretations of the meaning of being a friend, there is a surprising gap between those who we think of as friends and those who consider us friends.  Replicating the findings of other studies, when asked to state their relationship to others in a class on a scale of 1 to 5, from “I don’t know this person” to “One of my best friends”, there was only 53% mutuality versus an expectation of 94%! (See footnote)

Let’s define a friend as someone who you’ve taken the time to know and in turn who takes the time to truly know you. Thus given the limits of time and energy, there is a limit to the number of true friendships (i.e. “1st degree” friends as distinguished from acquaintances or people you merely know) that you can maintain. And just like a plant that is not watered or given sunshine, neglected friendships tend to wither away, though perhaps like seeds that can carry the essence of plant life in suspension for great periods of time, friendships can be restored as well under the right conditions.

There is a direct relationship between the quality and tone of your close relationships and your mental, spiritual, and physical health (‘Wired to Connect: The Surprising Link between Brain Science and Strong, Healthy Relationships’ by Amy Banks). Those who maintain a robust network of mutually supportive relationships report a meaningfully higher quality of life satisfaction and live significantly longer.

Thus, it behooves us to choose our friends with care, investing our time and energy where it is most appreciated, reciprocated, and blossoms. The best friends help us to be and become our best selves, believe in us, call out to highest potential and encourage our growth. We in turn are their most fervent cheerleaders, loving, supportive confidante, and source of constructive, compassionate feedback.


‘Are You Your Friend’s Friend? Poor Perception of Friendship Ties Limits the Ability to Promote Behavioral Change’ co-authored by Alex Pentland of MIT and as published in the journal PLOS)

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier

The Joy of Eustress


Eustress is good stress, the type and level of stress that invigorates and motivates, energizes and excites you. The term comes from the Greek prefix eu- meaning “good”. The fascinating thing is that in many ways the difference between good stress and bad stress is a matter of interpretation. One person is thrilled to give a speech, another is terrified, one individual loves to fly or finds heights fascinating, another is petrified.

How we are impacted by stress in large measure depends on how we choose to think about it, which in turn impacts our reactions, both internally and externally.  Stress after all is not an event per se but rather a reaction to an event, a reaction that is within our ability to control.  One of my favorite calming devices is to say to myself “There is someone on the other side of the globe that doesn’t care about this; I’m going to be them for a while.” Another is to imagine the worst that could really happen as a practical matter and assure myself I would find a way to adjust, a way to be happy. Plus, would it really make that big a difference a year from now?

The goal is to use stress as energy and as motivation. The key is interpretation, how you choose to frame what is happening. Your mindset is powerful: optimistic people, people who have high levels of self-esteem, who believe they can impact outcomes, tend to experiences less negative stress. They know that while they cannot change the wind, they are confident they can adjust the set of their sails. This belief system has a calming, centering effect that increases the effectiveness of their response.

The power dwells within you to transmute stress into engaged, enthusiastic, exhilarating energy; it lies in the meaning you choose, the story you decide to tell yourself: If you fully understood the power of your mind, you would never think another negative thought!

Closing quotes

“It is how people respond to stress that determines whether they will profit from misfortune or be miserable.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, ‘Flow’

“The right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.” – Hans Selye, endocrinologist, 1907-1982, ‘Stress without Distress’ 

“The very same mechanisms that produce excitement also produce fear and fear can be transformed into excitement by breathing fully with it.” – Gay Hendricks, ‘The Big Leap’

“Stress is not always a ‘bad’ thing.  Stress motivates us to changes our behaviors and move us closer to our chosen goals, dreams and aspirations. If we felt no stress, we would not be compelled to act in ways that bring about meaningful change.” – Laura Schenck, M.A., Mindfulness Muse

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier

The Danger of Thinking Outside the Box


The “Box”, a set of rules, regulations, policies and procedures, is generally created for a reason (reasons that seem good, at least at the time). It is said that the terms of a lease reflect a landlord’s scars i.e. the ways they have been burned in the past. The same is true of any “box”; it is an attempt to protect the organization particularly from the inexperienced or those with improper motivations. The trouble is that reality is complex and no box can cover every situation. Plus reality can evolve rapidly and boxes tend to be created and left in place, rarely updated in a timely fashion.

To effectively “Think Outside the Box”, you need to KNOW the Box backwards and forwards AND understand why a given rule was created and thus whether your “brilliant idea” qualifies as a legitimate exception. Often rules are created in response to things that by their nature are difficult for someone with limited experiences to be aware of i.e. 1) consequences than can occur years down the road or 2) rare but catastrophic outcomes.

Summary: Thinking outside the box without knowing what is inside the box and why it is there makes no sense.

Closing Quotes

“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

“If you never venture outside the box, you will probably not be creative. BUT if you never get inside the box, you will certainly be stupid.”
– Christopher Peterson

“I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1809-1894

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier