Friendship isn’t about who you’ve known the longest. It’s about who walked into your life and said, “I’m here for you.” and proved it. -Anonymous
When my friend Garry passed away, I was disappointed to be excluded from the small group of friends who got together to memorialize him. My disappointment wasn’t just about not making his short list; I also regretted the way my relationship with him ended. Nothing happened; our relationship just slowly faded away, as many do. And yet, I probably think about him more now than I did when he was alive. Why didn’t I make more of an effort to stay in touch, especially when I knew he was sick? Was that why didn’t I make his short list?
I recently talked with a friend about the idea of the short list. He told me that, whether we know it or not, we all have a short list. As he put it, “These are the ‘go-to’ people in our lives.” He referred to them as his inner circle.
Then he said, “If I were to ever get deathly sick, or to die, there are only a few people that I could really count on to be there.”
“I would be there for you,” I said.
“I know,” he said. “That’s why you’re in the circle.”
That was one of the most meaningful things someone has said to me in a while. What an honor, I thought.
In the movie, Meet the Parents, former CIA agent Jack Byrnes (played by Robert De Niro) has a circle of trust. For Jack, the circle included only trusted members of the Byrnes family. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll recall that Greg Focker (played by Ben Stiller) is continually moved in and out of the family’s circle of trust due to his various antics.
Many years ago, I cocreated the Leading From Within workshop: a three-day experiential program in the mountains that focuses on authentic leadership. In that program, I took the circle of trust concept and expanded it into the circle of friends, using the popular Circle of Friends statue as our centerpiece.
Are you familiar with the story behind the statue?
The statue represents the bond that existed among the women from an ancient Indian tribe. As the story goes, each evening, after all the men and children had gone to bed, the women would gather together around the fire to love, honor, and appreciate each other. From their circle of friends ritual, the women drew the strength to transition from one day to the next.
In our workshop, we recreated the circle of friends whenever it was time to do personal and group sharing. The statue was symbolically placed in the center.
Here’s the point I want to make with all of this.
Whether we call this selected group our short list, or our inner circle, or our circle of trust, or the circle of friends, we are referring to the people in our lives who:
- Have our back;
- Will unconditionally love and support us;
- Will step in to help at a moment’s notice; and
- Are committed to being in relationship with us.
Now picture the circle of friends statue.
Imagine it’s your circle and you are one of the seven people. Who are the other six? Who are the people in your life that you would place in your personal circle of friends and why? Do these people know how important they are? If not, why not?
I have a pretty good idea who is in my circle of friends. Most have been there for a while and know they are there. A few others have been very impactful in my life recently, so they don’t yet know they are in my circle. I need to let them know.
I believe that we are all here on earth to discover and achieve our purpose, while helping others do the same. There is a reason we are in each other’s lives. And we all need to do a better job of telling the people around us what they mean to us. No one should have to guess if we are on each other’s short I list.
*From Geese’s book, It’s All About Me: Stories and Insights from the Geese