In a quasi-anonymous world, success is nothing without friends

Johannes and I get together about once a week when he’s bored and I’m stressed. He’s one of those people that has only two emotions, bored or happy, and is never stressed because he never has anything go wrong. Really. It’s not normal.

I saw Johannes last night after a long day and an even longer meeting, and started talking as we sat down at the restaurant. I told him the recent gossip. I talked all about my latest success. I described how I got in trouble for my recent post. I told him who had called me, who I had seen, who was annoying the heck out of me. Mostly, I just dumped. Dumped my entire life on him. For fifteen or twenty minutes straight. I talked and he listened. Then, far from finished, but eager to eat the food that was placed in front of me, I said:

“Okay. You now.”

“What?”

“Yeah, go, you talk now.”

He looked at me smugly as I waved my fork through the air. Then slowly, calmly, he explained to me that normal people didn’t have conversations this way. Normal people ask questions of the other person that solicit more than yes or no answers, and then they ask follow up questions to show interest. Oh. Is that how it works, I nodded, half-smiling, half-chewing, and waved my fork again.

“Okay, but really,” I said, “you talk now.”

Success means nothing if you don’t have someone to share it with. Someone who understands you’re too tired to engage in a normal conversation. Someone who not only understands, but will protect your neurosis. Good friends are irreplaceable.

And in a quasi-anonymous world this is increasingly important for Gen-Y, whose social circles are shrinking and whose loneliness is increasing.

In his book, The Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida argues that “weak ties are critical to the creative environment of a city or region because they allow for rapid entry of new people and rapid absorption of new ideas and are thus critical to the creative process.” We even choose where we live, in part, by how easy it is for us to maintain our quasi-anonymous lifestyle.

In such an environment, it is all the more important to have real friends, because “family and significant others don’t count when we talk about the benefits of friendship,” career guru Penelope Trunk reports.

Not the acquaintances that fill the photos of your “friends” on Facebook. Real friends. Acquaintances could care less if you need to sit on a certain side of the table or that you snagged ten subscribers in one day. Acquaintances care about themselves. Friends care about you.

“Friendship is to people as sunshine is to flowers,” says Ben Casnocha, young entrepreneur and author of My Start Up Life. Corny. But true. It’s not just nice to have friends outside of your professional life, it’s absolutely necessary. You can’t be successful without friends, and if you are, your success will be meaningless.

So, go – find friends that are normal where you are crazy, that are honest and trustworthy, who love you no matter what. And if you’re lucky enough to have those kind of friends already, get up in the middle of dinner, walk over to their seat, and give them a big hug. I’m sure they will tell you to go sit back down immediately, but they’ll smile at you, amused. That’s what friends do.

‘Cause you’ve got a friend in me, playa.