XBoxes And Friends
Almost every Tuesday night, I fire up my XBox. I’ve been doing it, for the most part, for the last 15 years. It sounds silly, and I’m not even much of a gamer, but it has persisted.
On the last Thursday of every month, for the last 8 years, I’ve had a morning coffee meeting scheduled. I’ve had to move it from time-to-time, but it has persisted.
Every May, around Mother’s Day, my family flies out to California, and we drive to a little summer camp facility on Malibu Canyon Road. We’ve been doing it for the last 13 years, give or take a pandemic and wildfire here and there. The financial cost to take that long weekend is not insignificant for 5 airline tickets, car rentals, and all the other expenses associated with it. But it has persisted.
What’s the commonality? Intentional friendship.
“People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you know which one it is, you will know what to do for that person.” — Brian Chalker
The Xbox scenario? It was born out of a group of college friends who wanted to stay connected, but were geographically challenged. Under the guise of Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six and Halo, and through various XBox console iterations, we all realized nostalgia-as-a-binding-agent quickly wore off, and that the gift of being consistently present in each other’s lives was a more enduring bond.
We’ve been through marriages, divorces, job promotions, layoffs, deployments, and even deaths within our group (rest in power, Chadwick). My wife has remarked that it was disconcerting at first to overhear our mixed conversations on the headsets. We switch seamlessly from multiplayer team commands to updates about jobs, clients, and marriages. And as much as we press into that stuff between online matches, we also take time to be together in-person, whether in Dallas, Austin, Seattle, or otherwise. The friendships endure, even though we have different lives, lifestyles, and belief systems, because I think we’ve all realized life is hard and choppy, and we need relationships with depth and longevity if we are going to stay afloat.
The monthly coffee is with my friend Micah. The meetings have been a lifeline to me, especially during some rather chaotic seasons of life. We consider each other younger/older brothers to each other, after all these years of sharing our lives with each other. We have a common faith, an entrepreneurial streak, and an affinity for high growth tech companies. But more importantly, we’ve been very, very open about internal struggles, as well as sharing successes in personal and intellectual growth. And the occasional business idea or two.
The Malibu crew? That also originated out of a desire for a group of guys to keep on meeting together after our time living together in Washington, DC. As we started to have families, we realized that we wanted to pass along the shared experience of following Jesus, and the friendships formed, with our wives and kids. The vision and the spirit of that long weekend has grown, and we have 20+ families with 50+ kids who can’t WAIT to be together, year after year. While the adults have deepened our relationships, despite being spread out between California, Texas, and beyond, we’ve also seen the kids develop their own friendships amongst their own group. And there’s a steady number of families-visiting-families trips that occur throughout the year, as well. Intentionality is key here, as we live so far away from one another.
I admit: when it comes to friends, I’ve got an embarrassment of riches. I didn’t even mention our closest of friends within our church community group, a couple of friends who text every day, usually with Wordle results, nor my network of friends through a couple of leadership communities of which I’m a member.
But why does all this matter to a CEO? Because relationships are life, particularly deep, meaningful ones. Study after study after study show that shallow acquaintances are fine for networking, but true friendships and relationships are intrinsic to a longer, fuller human experience. We’ve seen it in the boardroom, politics, non-profits, and in the church — those who don’t have deep authentic friendships fail. Miserably. Life is littered with headlines of fame and fortune, but with paragraphs and books of loneliness, misery, and wounded-ness that affects future generations.
Our bankers and financial planners talk so much about financial investing and compound interest. As professionals, we create business plans, forecasts, and detailed career paths. Even in our home life, we admire our great vacation planning and elaborate daily schedules. But the real challenge in life is to be just as purposeful, if not more, in cultivating deep relationships. The deeper the relationship, the messier it will probably get, but if we persist, we will discover how our personal and professional lives slowly become so much healthier and fuller because of them.
This may all sound a little off-brand for the typical founder/CEO type, but hear me out: besides my marriage, the long-term friendships that I have formed and cultivated are what has not just saved me at times, but allowed me to thrive, in one of the most stress and anxiety-ridden things I will ever do in life. I’m encouraging you to do the same.