In a recent conversation with a good friend and collaborator in life, a thought struck me that won’t seem to leave the confines of my head (as if there was not already enough junk up there). One big life lesson that I have learned is when that happens, the best thing I can do is start writing, even if no one else ever reads the words, at least they won’t be lost. So here we go.
The thought originated from a conversation about friends and acquaintances and how the purpose I take on with every relationship is grounded in my desire to help the “best” that I can, not necessarily the “most”. Both terms are limiting in themselves, one however speaks to my internal limitations while the other to limitations that I place on myself in how I choose to develop my relationships.
To paint a picture of what I mean, I’ll use a relationship model that was developed by my old boss and mentor. Let’s look at relationships on a 1 – 10 scale, with 1-level relationships being all of the billions of people in the world that I don’t know, but could eventually know and 9 being my wife/life partner (10=symbiotic). All of those in-between represent the 1,000’s that we know with varying depths from vague facial recognition (not name) to best friends. The dynamic with each relationship and how we measure it is how much time and energy I devote to the other person.
The concept I was referring to (using that relationship model) is that I can have a million relationships that are level 3 or level 4 relationships where I spread my time and energy across a broad spectrum evenly and subsequently limit how much I can help any of them (the most), OR with a small amount of personal discipline I can make strategic decisions that allow me to determine how I can “best” help someone by focusing my relationships. This means that I can’t be everything to everyone and I have to learn that sometimes the best way I can help others is to find someone else that can go deep with them (level 5 or level 6 kind of energy).
Well, as we discussed this and talked about how energizing the right kinds of relationships are he mentioned a scene in a movie that painted a perfect picture of a life that lacked what I will refer to as “depth.” My friend described a quote from a movie called “Fight Club” that I really thought was representative of the lives of many people and of myself at one point in my life:
“Everywhere I travel, tiny life. Single-serving sugar, single-serving cream, single pat of butter. The microwave Cordon Bleu hobby kit. Shampoo-conditioner combos, sample-packaged mouthwash, tiny bars of soap. The people I meet on each flight? They’re single-serving friends.”
The quote, in my opinion, represents a very shallow existence and connotes a journey that offers little or no real joy.
So you may ask, “what do I do with that?” That is a GREAT question and exactly what I wanted to talk about.
What you do with that is ask yourself, “how deep is my life?” What do my relationships look like? If you are not married, how deep are you willing to get with those you spend time with? If you measure the number of 5, 6, 7 and 8 level friends, how many do you really have? If your friends were asked the same question about you, what would they say? If you are married, how deep is your relationship with your spouse? Does your spouse know what really scares you or really excites you? Do any of your golfing buddies know the challenges you are having in your marriage or at work?
Do you live life simply hoping to get through today and to tomorrow? Are you so focused on next year or the next phase of your life that you are sacrificing the one you are in? Is anyone in deep enough to know the real you or are you living life in a world of 3-hour acquaintances and Styrofoam coffee cups and single-serving sugars and cream?
So exactly how deep would you say you are in life?
The point of my writing is to say that we experience the essence of life (joy) only when we go deep. The superficial happiness that we get from shallow relationships and activities is short-term and nothing like the real joy that awaits us in the deep. It is only when we go deep with ourselves, our relationships and with how we live that we can find the real joy that we are meant to experience. The thing about depth is that it takes work and involves risk, the rewards however are beyond measure. So how deep are you and are you willing to endure the pressure of going deeper? I hope so!