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A guide on how to have good mates for life

Friendships come and go but sometimes mates are for life.

mates for life

Having mates for life is one of the best things you can do while you’re alive.

A common theme among men I’ve noticed is they tend to lose touch with their mates as they get older.

Life moves pretty fast and before they know it they’re married with kids, mortgaged up to the hilt and have a stressful-but-financially rewarding career that requires them to work 60+ hours a week.

Friendships tend to take a back seat as they strive to climb the socioeconomic ladder. Little-by-little as the day-in-day-out grind of work and life takes over, once-good mates begin to see less-and-less of one another.

A man’s natural instinct is to build, create, achieve and, if he’s married, provide for his family. It’s ingrained in him.

But there is a tendency to take on too many responsibilities in the pursuit of, what David Brooks in The Road to Character calls, his Resume Virtues. The skills he brings to the workplace.

I used to be one of these people.

If he’s smart he’ll realise that both time and health are his most important assets. The size of his house or his status among people who don’t care for him are not.

Free time allows you to invest in friendships but there are too many lonely divorced middle-aged men with few mates to prove this isn’t happening.

Maybe that’s why the highest suicide rates correlate with divorce rates? Because “most men today don’t have a life.”

Finding fulfilment in work is important, but life is diverse and work is only one part of it. Albeit a large part but just a part nonetheless.

“But I make friends at work” some might say. No you don’t. What you make are acquaintances.

It’s a conditional kind of friendship which gets demoted to Facebook once you either of you leaves. Few work colleagues make it to ‘mate’ status.

Friendship between men is primal. It goes back to a time when they had to form bonds to harvest food, build shelters and protect the tribe. It’s been passed down to us through our DNA.

Read Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging to understand why soldiers miss life on the battlefield. They don’t miss war but instead miss the comradery of other men who have their back and they have theirs.

Life is a series of relationships but some friendships can – and do – last an entire lifetime.

Sure, as we get older death becomes common and we begin to lose more and more friends and relatives.

This is part of the grand natural cycle of life. It is the old making way for the new.

Just like the sun rises and sets each day and the seasons come and go each year. It’s all cyclical and we are part of it.

Sometimes mates grow apart which is normal. We make different life choices and go different directions. Sometimes our paths come full circle and cross again and other times they don’t. Everyone’s on their own journey.

I’ve travelled a lot and I’m a product of social mobility, I have mates from all social classes and my Myers-Briggs test said I’m a mix of ENTJ and INTJ meaning I can move between extroversion and introversion.

  • I have mates I’ve known since I was three. We grew up together and have a shared history of moving through each stage of childhood through to our teenage years which are momentous times in character development.
  • I have mates who I met while spending long summers abroad of partying, booze, girls and every other kind of hedonistic pleasure you can imagine. These were some of the best times of our lives that we shared together.
  • I have mates in London who are from different backgrounds and cultures to me but we connect on an intellectual level. We can talk on a wide level of topics including politics, history, data, philosophy and business.

I’m not saying this to brag, I’m saying it because I think it’s amazing. I myself haven’t been the best of mates during certain points of life.

If you want good mates for life you have to be a good mate yourself.

It starts with you.

A good friendship requires the work of two people and since you have no control over what your mate does all you can do is honour your side of the deal.

Here’s how.

1. Always have stuff going on

Nobody likes a boring twat.

You should always be working on yourself or some kind of side project. Maybe you’re launching a new business or planning on going freelance. Maybe you’re about to hit Thailand for a month or you’re driving to Ibiza from the UK. Maybe you’re smashing the gym every day and seeing noticeable results.

Whatever it is, just have something going on. Interesting people know interesting people. Like-minds and kindred spirits connect through the law of attraction.

If you’re not occupying at least some of your free time in the pursuit of something then it’s likely your life is mediocre and so are you. 

2. Don’t be a leech

The only way to have a good friendship is when neither person needs anything from the other. The friendship is based on respect and likeability. You’re connected through a shared history, shared experiences or because you’re on the same level.

If you’re mates with someone because you need something from them then you’re just an acquaintance.

If you’re acting like a mate but have an ulterior motive then you’re a leech.

3. Make the effort

Last week a mate of mine asked if I wanted to meet for a bit to eat in some Vietnamese street food place in China Town.

“Sure” I said. We met, ate some good pho and went for a massage at a place further down the street. My mate paid all of it. Not because he owed me for anything but, in his words, wanted to treat me.

My mate made an effort. I felt good, he felt good and it’s a gesture that solidifies our friendship. And, of course, it’s on me to reciprocate next time.

Good friendships require effort and nurturing. Not in a needy or pandering kind of way but make an effort now and again. If your mate’s a good mate he’ll appreciate it and remember it.

There have been years in my life where I haven’t made the effort. I bailed on social occasions and get-togethers because I was focussed on work and making money. Life was too far out of balance in other ways including friendships and health.

You’ll never find complete balance in life but neglect a friendship long enough and it will suffer.

4. Provide support

If you see a mate as competition and feel a sense of jealousy whenever he ever succeeds in life you should take a look inside yourself and ask why you feel so insecure.

I have mates who are more successful, have more money, better looking, better with girls, better educated and smarter than me.

Hey ho, that’s life, you can’t be the best at everything.

If your mate’s trying to up his game in any aspect of life then you should be behind him providing support if-and-when he needs it.

If you tell a mate what your goals are and he responds unenthusiastically then he’s low self-esteem and low-conscious and you don’t need him.

Life sometimes isn’t easy. Sometimes we bite off more than we can chew. Sometimes shit hits the fan. We all need support from time-to-time.

Be someone that has your mate’s back not waiting for him to fail. 

Friendships come and go but sometimes mates are for life.

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