Thursday, April 25, 2024

OPINION: HARVEY MACKAY — Good friends make a good life

| August 23, 2020 1:00 AM

A newlywed young man was sitting on the porch on a humid day, sipping iced tea with his father. As he talked about adult life, marriage, responsibilities and obligations, the father thoughtfully stirred the ice cubes in his glass and cast a clear, sober look at his son.

“Never forget your friends,” he advised. “They will become more important as you get older. Regardless of how much you love your family, you will always need friends. Remember to go out with them occasionally or keep in contact with them somehow.”

“What strange advice,” thought the young man. “I just entered the married world. I am an adult, and surely my wife and the family that we will start will be everything I need to make sense of my life.”

Yet, he followed his father’s advice, kept in touch with his old friends and made new friends along the way. Over the years, he became aware that his father knew what he was talking about.

Children grow up. When they become independent, they begin their own families. Grandchildren are a blessing, but we can’t expect them to be at our beck and call. And besides, your family will love you regardless of who you are or what you do.

Jobs/careers come and go. People can’t do what they did physically when they were young. Parents pass on, but you persevere. Colleagues forget the favors you did. The race to achieve slows.

But true friends are always there, no matter how long or how many miles away they are. Love your parents, take care of your family, but keep a group of good friends.

My good friend Dale Brown, former LSU basketball coach, sent me this story, and it reminded me of a fascinating study by Harvard University that tracked the physical and emotional health of 700 people. They followed these people and tested them (e.g., blood samples, brain scans) for 75 years.

Here’s the primary conclusion: “The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period,” said Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development.

The analysis showed a 50% increased likelihood of survival for participants with stronger social relationships.

“Social relationships, or the relative lack thereof, constitute a major risk factor for health — rivaling the effect of well-established health risk factors such as cigarette smoking, blood pressure, blood lipids, obesity and physical activity,” stated the three authors of the study.

Good relationships will help you deal with life’s minor annoyances and your most challenging problems. Without good relationships, you’ll have a hard time finding customers, making a sale, securing a job, hiring the right employee and having great friends.

As I like to say, you must “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty,” which coincidentally is the title of a networking book I wrote. Here is the most important line in that entire book: “If I had to name the single characteristic shared by all the truly successful people I’ve met over a lifetime, I’d say it is the ability to create and nurture a network of relationships.”

You can take all my money! You can take all my factories! You can take all my land! But leave me my network of relationships, and I’ll be back to where I was today in three to five short years.

I am so convinced of that fact that I’ve worked constantly to build relationships. It has served me every day of my life in ways I could never have imagined. And I am honored to be my friends’ go-to guy when they need a favor, a reference or someone to lean on.

If you want one year of prosperity, you grow grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, you grow trees. But if you want 100 years of prosperity, you grow relationships. With the coronavirus tipping the world upside down, one thing will remain constant — the relationships we develop over a lifetime.

Relationships matter.

Mackay’s Moral: In my entire career, I have never once heard a successful person say he or she regretted putting time and energy into working on their relationships.

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Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.” He can be reached through his website,, by emailing or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.