Don't worry, friend

Friends, friends, friends. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

John Mullaney, the comedian, tells a G-rated joke about Jesus.

I’ll paraphrase, but he says Jesus had an under-appreciated miracle: He was a grown man, in his 30s, and he actually had 12 best friends—and not only that, but none of them were simply the husbands of his wife’s friends!

We laugh because it’s funny, and we laugh because it’s true. I’m a fortunate guy. I have some very good friends, going way back. I’ll get to see two of the guys I’m thinking about next week, in fact.

(I like that they’ll read about these plans in a newsletter going to thousands of people, instead of me just replying to their texts like a normal person.)

But, like most of us, there are times when I have self-doubt. Heck, I was talking with an old work friend who happens to be in recovery. He told me about the camaraderie and friendships he’s found in Alcoholics Anonymous.

Ask 10 old friends for help moving, as he put it, and maybe one would show up. But, mention he needed a hand at AA, and he’d quickly have five volunteers—plus another guy promising to borrow someone’s truck to save money on U-Haul.

For a second there, it almost made me want to be an addict. (Not really.)

But, I will admit that I’ve practically made a second career at times of writing about the Harvard Grant Study, which followed the lives of members of the Harvard University class of 1938. And you can’t do that without wondering how these guys got it so good.

It’s a treasure trove of data. As the study’s custodian once put it, the big takeaways are that (a) work ethic and (b) friendships are the keys to success and happiness in life.

"The lessons aren't about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period."

Oh, by the way, the Harvard study also suggested that people who don't have close friendships usually wind up with worse health and less brain function in middle age, and ultimately die sooner than everyone else.

Can anyone read those statements and not ask, at least for a millisecond: Wait, how many good relationships do I really have?

Apparently not, according to another yet study, this one authored by Harvard Business School professors, but conducted at the University of British Columbia. They interviewed nearly 1,100 freshmen, asking them:

  • how many friends they had made since September, and

  • whether they thought they, or their peers, had more friends.

Just under half of those surveyed, 48 percent, said they were sure that others had more friendships than they did, which is almost eerily statistically valid. But, the researchers then followed up with the students who merely thought they had fewer friends, and ultimately found that they had "lower levels of wellbeing.”

Causation? Correlation? Who can tell. But the lead researcher at least thought there was a vicious, self-defeating circle involved.

“If they feel like the gap is too big, it’s almost as if they give up and feel it isn’t even worth trying,” said HBS assistant professor Ashley Whillans.

Anyway, the massive irony running through all of this is that it's not the number of friendships we have that makes a difference in health and happiness. Instead, it's the quality of our relationships that actually matters.

So don't worry, nurture the friendships you do have, and live a happier, healthier life. Oh, and if a friend asks you to move, show up and lend a hand.

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7 other things worth your time

  • Two California men were sentenced to life in an Italian prison Wednesday night for reportedly stabbing a police officer 11 times and killing him, following a botched drug deal while vacationing in Rome. (Fox News)

  • Facebook’s independent board met and upheld Facebook’s ban of former President Trump from its platform. (CNBC)

  • After initially refusing, Peloton recalled 125,000 treadmills Wednesday, amid reports of one child’s death and 70 other injuries tied to the machines. "I want to be clear, Peloton made a mistake in our initial response," said Peloton CEO John Foley. "We should have engaged more productively with them from the outset. For that, I apologize." (CNN)

  • A renowned infectious disease expert and Rutgers University professor who traveled to New Delhi to help family amid recent surges in new COVID cases there, has contracted COVID-19 himself and died. "We have lost a giant in infection disease," said Nancy Connell, vice-chair for research at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, referring to the doctor, Dr. Rajendra Kapila. (People)

  • I’m sure you’ve been wondering: What’s the world’s most Instagrammable bird? Answer: the frogmouth, located from the Indian Subcontinent across Southeast Asia to Australia. (The Guardian)

Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Pixabay. I’ve written about the Harvard Grant Study, and this other study, in different contexts, for (Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.)

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