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Relationships and Choice
Relationships are the cornerstone of our human experience. Think about any great memory of yours; now picture it as vividly as you can. Now that the image is clear, I bet one of the first things you considered was who was involved in the memory.
We associate memory with the people who were there. That's why it is so hard for us to remember the last few years of COVID lockdowns. Our human experience was fundamentally disrupted with isolation, and it is difficult to pinpoint specific memories without the context of others.
Understanding the importance of relationships is one thing, but fostering them as we grow older is another thing entirely. If we think of any important relationship in our life, most of them follow a logarithmic equation. Outside of marriage and work relationships (which would have lower frequency of interaction anyways), we have already spent most of our available time with close friends and family.
Assume the graph above shows interactions on the Y-axis and age on the X-axis. When we are younger, our frequency of interactions is high. We see our parents and siblings every day. We see our close friends almost as often due to living close by and attending school with them. We condense these interactions into a very small portion of our lives because, simply put, it's easier to see people more often when they are regular fixtures in our environment.
As we grow older and enter the work force, these interactions rapidly decrease. I've written about this concept in a previous newsletter, but it's worth reiterating here to make the following point:
Maintaining relationships later in life is an active choice that requires commitment from both parties.
Much like an unused muscle, relationships without effort atrophy and die. Isolation is a byproduct of this atrophy on a larger scale. Without care and attention, it is easy for us to lose contact with close friends and loved ones simply by not paying attention. These relationships cannot be maintained passively.
Aside from the mental tole of isolation, the CDC has also shown that several adverse health effects can occur if our relationships decline. We can enjoy a 50% increased risk of dementia, 29% increased risk of heart disease, and 32% increased risk of stroke simply by letting our relationships die. Let this be a reminder to reach out to an old friend, tell a family member you love them, or send an email to that former classmate.
Maintaining relationships is hard work, but the end result is worthwhile. A person can be judged at the end of their life by the quantity and quality of their friends.
The most interesting things I've encountered this week
Marshall Goldsmith has spent nearly 40 years as a leading executive coach. This podcast dives into the many lessons he learned along the way about confidence, leadership, motivating others, and decision making. If you struggle in any of these areas, or simply want to get better, then this episode is worth a listen.
An interesting article I'm reading: "20 Scariest Theories Known to Man" on Kickass Facts
I saw this article originally shared in the Morning Brew newsletter and found the information fascinating. For anyone who likes tying their brain in knots and going down science rabbit holes, these theories are incredible. While some are certainly "scary" in an existential sense, they are more interesting than anything.
I employed a fairly regular breath-work practice many years ago including box breathing and this app. It made a substantial difference in my lung function and my ability to breathe well through my nose, and then I completely forgot about my practice. Used to train free divers, this app will increase your lung capacity and help you better balance oxygen and CO2 levels (which matter a great deal if you read my previous book suggestion, Breath).
Quote of the week:
Mental toughness takes many forms. The one that I'm leaning into recently is the ability to be in charge of my mood regardless of the circumstances. Toughness is wearing a smile in situations you don't enjoy because it matters to the people you care about. Toughness is showing up, and being fully present, at times when you'd rather do something else.
How can you practice this side of mental toughness?