In early May, I stood up and gave my last speech as a college student at the President’s Leadership Program (PLP) senior night. In my speech, I stated that in college, you come across a lot of temporary people; people who are a big part of your life one day, but are gone the next. That’s just the nature of college, and life I think. But what I’m most proud of, was that I was able to build a group of friends through PLP who were always by my side. No matter what we had going on in our personal lives, no matter how busy we all got, we could always count on each other. Having that strong foundation of friendship played a huge role in shaping me as a person.
I’m very careful about who I let into my life. My circle is pretty small. The reason for that is, I have always believed, if I’m the smartest person in the room, I’m in the wrong room. I try to surround myself with people who are better than me. People who force me to grow. As individuals, we truly are the average of those who we surround ourselves with. For example, if you hang out with four drug dealers, you will become the fifth drug dealer. If you hang out with four millionaires, you will become the fifth millionaire.
In high school, I didn’t have many true friends. I just couldn’t find many like-minded people. It constantly felt like it was my brother Cory and I against the world. Cory was the person I spent most of my time with, because he was the only person challenging me. Because I couldn’t find like-minded people, I had a hard time making genuine connections. When I got to college, I decided to make connections a priority in my life.
Even after trying to establish connections, I didn’t truly build a solid group of friends until my junior year. Up until then, I had certain people that I would hang out with, but it wasn’t a consistent group. I believe genuine friendship is created through a give and take process. There were times when I had people in my life who made it feel like they were constantly just taking. They were fun to be around, but they were also draining me. Truly great friends have the ability to add value to your life. Not only are they fun to be around, but they challenge you. They give their input. They force you to grow. As they force you to grow, you should be challenging them as well. Don’t be a placeholder in someone’s life. Be an inspiration; a motivator. It’s through this give and take process when friendship flourishes. You become indispensable to each other. Being temporary friends is no longer an option because you are vitally important to each other’s success.
It’s no surprise that most of my friends came out of PLP because we’re all like-minded people. We all want success. We want to grow. We’re not satisfied with where we’re currently at in our lives. Because we have this common drive, it pulls us closer together.
What’s been hardest for me to deal with is understanding why some friendships don’t last. The truth is, relationships with people are a lot of work. To keep it flourishing, it takes a lot of time and effort. If you fail to invest that time and effort, it leads to a loss of that relationship. Whether it was intentional or unintentional.
Nothing breaks my heart more than bumping into someone that I used to be extremely close with. We smile, hug, ask how each other are doing, then continue on with our lives until we happen to run into each other again. Almost like two strangers who share a lifetime of unforgettable memories. After one of these experiences I ask myself, what happened? Why is that person no longer in my life?
It’s not that I purposely wanted to lose those people. In my mind, it kind of just happened. But it happens through a gradual process of less time and less effort. I think we all need to become more aware of the people in our lives. It’s not hard to reach out to someone you feel you’ve lost touch with. I don’t mean send them a text and say “Hey.” What I’m saying is call them and ask them to go out for coffee. Skip the small talk and dive into deep conversation. Ask what you can do to help them in their life. Be of value to other people.
College is about connection, life is about relationships, and people want to see effort. Nothing makes me smile more than someone who makes an effort to be in my life. I think most people would say the same thing. Connection is a beautiful thing. I urge all of us to make friendship a priority in our lives.