Personal relationships are the fertile soil from which all advancement, all success, all achievement in life grows.

– Ben Stein

How many close friends do you have?  Solomon wrote, “Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.  Who is that for you?  Who sticks by your side through thick or thin?  Who is it that:

8607_tonemappedsmallSees you at your worst but never forgets your best?
Thinks you’re a little bit more wonderful than you really are?
Is someone you can talk to for hours or be with in complete silence?
Is as happy for your success as you are?

Most of us are very blessed to have one close friend that fits that definition.  If you have two such friends you are luckier than to have won the megabucks.

For Olivia and her five amigas they have what is nearly unheard of … they are a posse of six such friends.  Since their freshman year four years ago the six of them have been inseparable.  Nearly every weekend and every possible chance they have they are together enjoying quality time and have maintained a friendship that is truly remarkable and the young ladies that they have become is truly incredible as well.

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Friends – they are the people who form us – and are formed by us as well.  There really is little as important as the friends that we choose.   Harvard social psychologist Dr. David McClelland, states, “The people with whom you habitually associate are your reference group and they determine as much as 95% of your success or failure in life.”

8548_tonemappedsmallSusan Enquist one of the top five NCAA coaches of all time, having a record on the softball diamond at UCLA of 887-175-1 and eleven NCAA softball titles, espouses the 33 Percent Rule.  She says you can divide people in school, on your team, at work, or anywhere else into the bottom, middle, and top thirds, and they will always have the same characteristics:  The bottom third suck the life out of you because nothing is ever good enough for them.  They take energy and motivation out of an environment.  The middle third are happy and positive when things are going well, but down in times of adversity. Circumstances dictate their attitude.  The top third maintains a positive attitude even in tough times.  They are leaders, influencers, and game-changers.  This last third are the types of friends we should be and those are the kind of friends we should seek.

Business philosopher Jim Rohn felt so strongly about the effects of those who we choose for friends that he suggested, “We become the combined average of the five people that we are around most.”  While Charlie Jones was well known for sharing his belief that, “You are going to be the same person in five years that you are today except for two things:  the people with whom you associate and the books you read.”  As the Italian proverb offers, “Keep company with good people and you will increase their number.”

John Maxwell in his book Winning with People shares the story of automaker Henry Ford who asked his lunch date who his best friend was.  As Ford waited for his response, the man hesitated.  He wasn’t sure.  “I will tell you who your best friend is,” Ford jumped in.  “Your best friend is the one who brings out the best within you.”  Who brings out the best in you?  Whoever it is, value that person because real friends are rare.

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How in the world do six teenage girls build such a bond without the drama and without the complications that such a mix of personalities could possibly create?  In observing the wonderful friendship that the girls have developed here are some of the keys that I have seen them model over their high school years:

8588_tonemappedsmallTime – they reserve quality time for their friendships, as I have heard it said, a friendship can’t survive on leftovers.

Serve – they look for small ways to serve each other.  I remember last summer Olivia was home cramming for some type of test and the girls all came over to deliver her a slushy and to let her know they were thinking of her.  They couldn’t have stayed more than a few minutes but sometimes that’s all it takes to serve someone else and make them feel valued.   I once heard a hotel owner explain how hard it is to hire people for her industry.  She explained that service is the only thing that they have to sell, but it is one of the toughest things to teach because no one wants to be considered a servant.  But Helen Keller shared, “Life is an exciting business and most exciting when lived for others.”  Serving others, including your friends, will build the most rewarding relationships that you can imagine.

8533_tonemappedsmallPut others first – the platinum rule is always the best motto when maintaining friendships:  “Treat your friends like they want to be treated.”

Express appreciation  – I would have to say that this is one of the keys to maintaining any relationships and the girls seem to excel at finding ways to appreciate each other from  creative and thoughtful handmade Christmas gifts to a number of other opportunities that they can come up with to celebrate and appreciate each other. The best way to be a friend is to see the best in those who mean the most to you.

Maybe those steps provide depth to Henry David Thoreau’s statement, “The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend.”

There are few things more important than surrounding yourself with positive and encouraging friends and there are few gifts greater than a true friend or as important a responsibility as being a friend.  Each of us must have someone we should reach out to today to thank them for all the support they provide us.  Who is that for you?

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