Friendship is a complex and mysterious phenomenon, often defying conventional explanations. It is a source of happiness, support, and fulfillment, yet its nature and origins remain elusive. I have a lot of friends. It doesn’t take much effort for me to make friends, and once I become friends with someone, they tend to stick around forever. Someone once said I live in social luxury. He was amazed that I had somewhere to go and something to do every evening. Until he mentioned it, it never occurred to me that most people do not have as many friends as I do. Why is that? I wonder.

It certainly isn’t because I’m the nicest person in the world. I’m not even the nicest person in my block. I consider myself a top 30%. If I were graded on my niceness, I would get a C, maybe C-. I have friends who go out of their way to help others. Surprisingly, they do not have as many friends as I do. So niceness isn’t a criterion for enduring friendships.

It also isn’t because I’m rich. I have friends with hundreds of millions in assets but no friends or family. They somehow get dumped every six months or so and live alone for the most part. They could get married or have a long-term relationship if they only compromise, but they all seem allergic to one category of people they have in abundance: gold diggers. Consequently, they end up living solitary lives.

Intelligence also does not account for the number of lasting friendships I have. Most intelligent individuals tend to be loners or misanthropes, and not by choice. Intelligence and social affability are inversely related. There must be something, some perceived quality that I possess that others do not. Am I more likable? Not according to my ex. Am I more friendly? Not according to my mother. So why do I have more friends than others despite my sarcasm, dour outlook on life, and biting comments?

I believe I have found the answer in the Tilted Favor Equation, a theory I have developed and integrated into my life. This principle revolves around maintaining a balance of 70-30 in every relationship. I strive to give 70% and receive 30%, ensuring the scales are tilted in my friends’ favor. It’s not about keeping score or constantly seeking balance but embracing the idea of giving more than taking within the context of friendships. This approach allows me to be mindful of my friends’ needs, and consistently be there for them.

Critics may argue that this approach can lead to feelings of resentment or being taken for granted. While there may be some truth to this concern, we must also consider the lives of those who adhere strictly to a 50-50 give-and-take philosophy. Do they possess more friends than most? Will their friends come running in the middle of the night if they call? The answer is often no. The 50-50 relationship model is highly overrated and impractical in the realm of genuine and enduring friendships.

The paradox lies in that in certain aspects of life, winning can result in losing while losing can lead to winning. When you lose a game of Mario Kart to a friend’s 7-year-old, you gain a new friend; when you win an argument against your aging parent, you sometimes lose a friend. Is it truly important that your friend buys the next time since you bought lunch this time? Is it necessary that he lets you borrow his car since you let him drive yours? Or is it our fear of rejection or inherent brokenness that drives us to demand an exact return on our emotional investment? 

None of us have life fully figured out. Life may indeed be about winning, but in the realm of friendships, it may be wiser to lose in order to win. We should strive to win in other aspects of life, such as work, school, and health while being open to losing in friendships. By embracing this philosophy, one may gain lifelong friends, even if they occasionally fail to reciprocate in the expected ways.

Reflecting on these thoughts, I am driving to a friend’s birthday dinner with a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue. It occurs to me that he did not get me anything for my birthday, but it doesn’t bother me. In the grand scheme of friendship, material gestures hold little significance compared to the bonds we forge and the memories we create together. Happy 38th birthday ZM. Get me something for my next birthday, will you?

The Secret to Lasting Friendships

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