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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Investing time like you invest money

Most of us who invest our money do so with the expectation of  some sort of return. If we know that investment is not likely to garner a decent payoff then we would not take that financial risk. There has to be some expectation of a reasonable return. It is a simple concept that almost everyone gets, even those without any financial knowledge. It is the very nature of an investment.

But do we view our investment of time in the same way? I don't think so. That becomes a lot more obvious when we consider the time we put into friendships, especially the friendships we make these days in social media.
Back in the days when we were young--in middle and high school-- that was the experience most of us had. Many of the people we met back in those days, students, teachers, and even some friends never amounted to more than a few years of casual friendships that didn't endure the test of time. But some did. Most of us have a few friends from our high school days who became lifelong friends. Five of my longest and closest friends came from those I met in grade 9, 10 and 11. But there were hundreds of others--maybe even thousands-- that faded off and I completely lost touch with.
Now, most of those were not ever really friends and I didn't put much time and effort into them at all. But there were more than a few that I did. Why did those not endure? 
In the past, I have put a lot of time into some Facebook friends. As time has gone on, they have faded away. That happens. There are no guarantees in life. I understand that. But when it happens often enough, you have to sit back and analyze what is going on. In this way, I am trying to figure out why my time investment in these people seemed to be an unwise and a "poor" investment. And also, if it was a bad investment or not. Was it even unwise? Possibly, but I have come to take a different outlook on that. Possibly it wasn't the investment persay, but how much I invested vs. how much I got back. Possibly I put in too much when I didn't need to and shouldn't have.
My topic for my blog today: What do you get from the time you put into friendships/encounters and has it been worth it? Many secondary questions arise from that first question and I will tackle a few of those along the way.
Even if many of those that I had close personal relationships have faded completely away, I still think they were worth it. Why do I think that? Well, I did get something from them, even if the friendship did not last. I learned things by interacting and there is some value in that. I had some good times with them,  some laughs. But on the whole, it wasn't the best use of my waste of time. I didn't get nearly back the investment I put in. Why is that?
To figure that out, I went back in my mind to those from my past, in real life, who came and went but were memorable and fairly significant.
In high school I met a guy named Chris in Grade 9 close to the first day of high school. I had just moved from Montreal and he from Winnipeg and neither of us knew anybody. We both loved hockey, most sports and board games and we spent a lot of time doing all of those things. We even went to Pro Hockey games and watched football on Thanksgiving together. He knew my parents well and I knew his. This lasted for one year. The next year he moved away. That happens. His father was in the Army, so he got re-posted all over the place on very short notice. I lost touch with him until last year when he found me on Facebook. Thus the power of Facebook. Finding old friends. It is probably the reason most of us started on Facebook. It was mine. But the reality of life is that people move away for various reasons. You can't start to second guess your decision to spend time with someone based on it. It lasts as long as it lasts and if life gets in the way then it does. If the connection is very strong, you will find a way to stay connected. Some friendships are meant to be brief for whatever reason and possibly if Chris had not moved away we would have drifted apart anyway,  as happened with my next friend.
Although I also knew John in Grade 9 I did not know him as well as Chris. That changed in Grade 10. We had a lot in common, many of the same things I had with Chris. John was tall and played on the high school basketball team. I did as well, but not until Grade 13.  I was more interested in baseball, golf and tennis in those days. John and I played a lot of tennis together and we played pickup basketball a lot. We spent whole summers just doing those two things together. I came to also be the assistant coach on the high school basketball team, because I was good at coaching and the coach of the team recognized that. When the team traveled to games John and I would go to together or sit on the bus together. We also had lots of common friends and we played poker and board games together. I liked John's parents, who were very nice people. And we always got along well, until Grade 12, when he changed and we seemed to drift apart. John was one of those moody guys and always feeling sorry for himself. These days I realize he had very low self esteem. We just drifted apart and I have not seen him since high school ended. As close as we were, we grew away from each other. That is just how life goes. People change and when that happens the basis for the friendship changes and contact is not important anymore,  until there is none at all. People come into your life when you probably need them to and are ready to interact with them and then leave once that is not practical or enjoyable anymore. In retrospect, John and I are just very different people who realized that as we grew up and grew apart.
 Karen was someone I spent a lot of time with in University. We were in the same program and had all the same classes together. We did have some small attraction, but she always had a steady boyfriend and it was a non starter so we were just buddies. Great buddies. But when University ended that was the end of it. I learned a lot about girls from Karen, so my time was well spent and invested. When you have a true buddy who is a girl, they tell you things that most girls will not tell guys. They give you perspective.
I learned one very important thing from Karen that I never had even thought of before. She told me girls were always looking at me and checking me out and I never was noticing it. Because she wasn't interested in me she felt comfortable sharing that and I believed her because she had no ulterior motive. Eventually, University ended and we didn't stay in touch. Our common bond was seeing each other everyday in class. Once that part of our lives ended so did the contact. Many times in life, you fall into situations and become friends as long as you are involved in those things, but lose touch when that motivating factor is taken away. Again, that is another part of life. I consider my time with Karen valuable and enjoyable, and I certainly would take her out to lunch if the situation presented itself, but I wouldn't go out of my way to do that. 
Everything you do in life can give you perspective if you are willing to see it. Does that mean they were wise investments with my time? Not necessarily. Just because you gain perspective, knowledge and have some good times doesn't justify it. You can still learn some things but maybe your time might have been better spent with others.
The previous 3 relationships all did that, even though they were somewhat brief and ended abruptly. I consider them all time well  invested although they didn't last,  they helped me in some way grow for the future ones and learn what to avoid that might not be the best situation for myself,  from a time perspective. I have used those skills gradually as I have gone along.
I knew Nadine from a first blind date that went nowhere. We clearly were only going to be buddies, but great buddies we were. We did so many things together. We even talked quite a bit about our dates and boyfriends/girlfriends. We went out to bars, concerts,clubs and were even going to go on a trip to Cuba together, which didn't happen because she lost her job and couldn't afford it. I slept on her couch a few late nights and she cared for my dog when I was too busy to do that. That went on for a few years until I got married. We just drifted apart due to time reasons. She moved away and eventually got married and we lost touch for about 15 years. But we found each other and met up for lunch. It was like we were never apart, because we always had that kinship that some friends have. I have that with my friends from Grade 9, 10 and 11 that I still see to this day,  but maybe not for a couple of years at a time.
Which brings me to my facebook experience, which initially was the impetus for writing this blog.
I have made a lot of "friends" on facebook. Currently I have about 550 and I have probably gone through at least that many who aren't around anymore, both by my choice and theirs. Many I barely knew but a few I did,  very well. Some of those still remain on my list and although we aren't that close, we still keep in touch from time to time. Just as with Chris, some moved on.  Others, like John just were different than I thought and we drifted apart because we had very little common ground. Others like Karen had like interests as I do but then one or both of us sort of fell out of that groove and there was nothing underlying left.
But when I go over the majority, I realize that although they meant well and didn't do this deliberately, they needed a lot more from me than I did from them and I was willing to give that. That happened because that is just my nature. And while it is my nature,  it is not productive for me from an investment of time perspective. Once they get they need they really don't need much more from me and I get little in the long run at the end of it all.
So, because of that, I am more careful to think ahead and make a judgement call as to whether the person I am spending a lot of time on is worth that time for me, from an investment perspective. Of course, you can never know for sure, and many have worked out to be very good investments. It is just a matter of learning from that and making better choices going forward. Still, there are no guarantees there. But hopefully a higher percentage prove to be worth the time I put in.
I am now trying to invest my time like I invest my money. Wisely.

1 comment:

  1. Some probably has to do with the foibles of Facebook posting - even some messages are considered by bigbro in the backroom of FB to be spam and get delivered into back folders.

    When you scroll by and I see something you say that triggers a go look response, I do and then end up catching up with what I've missed.


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