The worst thing about being in my late-20’s has been rarely hanging out with my good friends. We see each other every now and then, but it’s never enough.
We’re all busy (or at least, we make ourselves busy). We’re stressed and rushed, then the year has passed and we only saw each other a couple times. Usually at weddings.
This has bothered me for years. So yesterday, I sent this message to a handful of friends:
This was my favorite response:
Here’s where it started to feel weird.
I set recurring times to hang out with these friends in my Google calendar…
… This feels like a joke, right?
It should. It absolutely should.
I grew up in a close-knit neighborhood of families and friends in Colorado. We spontaneously hung out with each other every single day. It was awesome. But now, a disturbing chunk of my adult life has been lived on screens. I’ve chosen to pursue a career of online customers and clients. In the name of freedom and passive income, I chained myself to a laptop and worked non-stop.
The weirdest thing about change is that you don’t notice it in yourself. Some of the stuff I’ve written about my career now makes me cringe. I’ve proclaimed that I could help people magic their way into success — like I have some sort of Midas touch. Sometimes I believed it, other times I thought “What the hell am I doing.” Often, I thought “This will pay the bills.” It works sometimes, but not as well as you’d think.
It’s not that “CharlieHoehn.com” is a sham — it’s just an exaggeration. It’s only one part of me. It’s the squeaky-clean version that doesn’t have coffee-stained teeth or blood-shot eyes. The one who looks like a youth minister in his photos, who isn’t thinking of quitting the internet altogether, because occasionally it makes me feel like Lord Voldemort splitting his soul into horcruxes just to stay alive.
People introduce me as “This is Charlie, he used to work for Tim Ferriss and Tucker Max and….” Which I am definitely grateful for, but it makes me wonder what happened to the people who used to say, “This is Charlie, we’ve been friends since we were kids.”
No matter how many of my peers are “killing it.” no matter how many times I try to catch up or do something that “really matters,” I know that none of this actually matters all that much — I just don’t want to be the jerk who loses everyone he cares about in the process.
… But hey, let’s do another product launch and start another business, eh? Because entrepreneurs change the world while sacrificing the things that have mattered since forever. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world… are still crazy.
You want to know what bothers me? I can’t recall my old group of guy friends ever giving me a hard time to my face as this whole online thing escalated. Granted, I’m not wishing they resented me or shot me down. It’s just strange not getting teased by old friends anymore. It makes you feel like an outsider.
Maybe they believe I’ve changed. Maybe some of them don’t like being around me as much anymore. It was probably “Good for him!” for a while… and then it kept going. At what point do you stop telling your friend when he’s being an asshole?
Six years ago, I was on the I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell tour bus with Tucker. It was 7:00am, and we were just about to leave Nashville. He asked me why I looked so depressed. I told him that none of my friends were coming with me. On this path. And we had this great long talk about the choice entrepreneurs make — lone wolf or happy sheep. And it made me feel better, but “sheep” wasn’t a fair term. None of my friends are stupid.
It’s easy to make new friends. It’s hard to see the old ones stop contacting you. Because you know what you traded those friendships for — money, status, and stress.
Oh, and a website. And every person I know with a website about themselves has someone, who wants to be just like them, looking at their website and muttering:“Can you believe this f-ing guy? What a jerk.”
And then they slowly morph into a derivative. Because we are still sheep in wolves’ clothing.
Ego and self-consciousness get in the way of happiness. We sacrifice friends for screens, work, and loneliness.
And don’t say “Millennials these days.” It’s everyone. Three of the top 5 regrets of the dying are:
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish I’d let myself be happier.
We’re a disconnected society. Loneliness kills us, more than obesity and cigarettes. There’s a reason that billions of people are addicted to social media — their social lives are lacking. And I include myself in this category, even though all of my friends in Austin know that I’m constantly trying to bring people together. For chrissakes, I coordinate weekly events and run The Recess Project so it’s easier for my friends to hang out. I am above average when it comes to maintaining a social life.
And yet, it’s still really challenging. My social life still falls off becausespontaneous
hang outs grow increasingly rare as an adult. Everyone lives in a different place. No one stays put. Even though I have a wonderful girlfriend who I spend most of my free time with, I find myself wishing it was 100X easier to be constantly surrounded by my old friends.
You’d think that the people who consistently increase our happiness and lower our stress levels would be a huge priority. After all, it’s our friends who make us laugh, lift us up when we’re feeling down, and literally prevent us from going crazy. There’s a reason that the most cruel and unusual punishment in prison is social isolation.
And yet, most adults still don’t do it.
I have a friend from Colombia. She tells me the only time she feels anxious is when she’s alone. The first time she was by herself was when she studied abroad, and she stayed in and cried for the first week. I told her that it’s worth practicing being alone. Because that’s life, right? Looks like I was the unhealthy one.
The more I’ve read about what truly keeps people happy and healthy, the answer that keeps coming up — again and again — is regular time with friends. Great friendships require TIME, so if you aren’t making the time, you won’t have great friends around you. Simple as that.
The warmth and closeness of your relationships may likely be the single most important thing you can do for your quality of life. That means outweighing your time on Facebook (where it looks like everyone is living a better life than you — stressful!) with real face-to-face hangouts with your best friends. And by being a friend to your neighbors.
It’s why Epicurus — the Greek philosopher who founded the first school that studied what makes humans happy — decided to live in a commune. This idea to live with friends turned into a movement, and 400,000 people lived in Epicurean communities throughout the Mediterranean before the Christian church converted the communes into monasteries.
Humans are social creatures. Our existence is tolerable because we experience it with others. We only struggle with addiction and trauma when we feel a deep sense of disconnection from the people around us. When we are no longer isolated and are bonded with the people who love us and we love back, wethrive
Heart disease is the #1 killer in the world. Guess what might be the cure: Friendship.
In the 1950’s, the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania was known in the medical community for having “unusually low” rates of heart disease, compared to the rest of the United States.
Researchers were stumped; they had no idea how this was possible. The men in Roseto constantly smoked unfiltered cigars, drank wine “with seeming abandon,” they ate meatballs and sausages fried in lard, and they worked in mines where they contracted respiratory illnesses from gases and dust.
All signs pointed to ‘Yes, these men should be having heart attacks’ … But they weren’t.
What made Roseto different was their LACK OF STRESS by being a close-knit community. Unlike almost every other city in America, the people in Roseto were incredibly close to each other. As Dr. Stewart Wolf said, “Their community was very cohesive. There was no keeping up with the Joneses. Houses were very close together, and everyone lived more or less alike.”
As soon as the neighborhoods of Roseto became fragmented and more ‘Americanized,’ the town grew apart and heart disease normalized with the rest of the country.
If you think the perfect diet will save you from having heart attacks (and I’m very guilty of stressing out about food), think again. It’s actually more important for you to feel connected to the people around you, and not so stressed out all the time.
Of course, you can lower your stress by getting more sleep, meditating a bit, practicing gratitude, and by not doing things that make you hate your life.
But there’s a far more important strategy…
The best way to lower your stress is by regularly being around people who you enjoy passing the time with. By being around friends.
Spend time with people who love and support you. People who don’t judge you, or make you feel tense and nervous. People who lift you up and make you laugh, not drag you down. People you enjoy playing with.
And conversely, BE a person who loves and supports others. Be a person who doesn’t judge, or make others feel tense and nervous. Be a person who lifts others up and makes them laugh. Be someone who’s fun to play with. Be a good friend.
Don’t let 2016 be a year where you neglect friendship. Reach out and make it happen.