It's not who you know

Friends, SNL, the Harvard Grant Study (again), Chris Matthews, LBJ, and a quote I've liked forever. Also: 7 other things worth a click.

Last weekend, comedian John Mulaney hosted SNL. I didn’t see it live, but I heard good things, so I later watched his monologue on YouTube.

One of his bits had to do with the idea that most grown men don’t have a lot of friends. (If they’re lucky, he says, they wind up spending time with the husbands of their wives’ friends.)

Anytime I hear something about grown men and friendship (or lack thereof), I automatically start thinking about the Harvard Grant Study—with its finding that if there’s one key to happiness and success, it’s having “good relationships.”

(Heck, I cited this just yesterday.)

Anyway, this was all in the back of my mind when I learned that Chris Matthews abruptly retired from MSNBC this week, after more than two decades.

I’m not a big cable news guy, but I read Matthews’s book, Hardball, which he wrote not long after he was the chief of staff to House Speaker Tip O'Neill. I’ve always liked this one particular quote from it:

"It's not who you know. It's who you get to know."

Old soul that I am, here’s one of my favorite illustrations. I believe both Matthews and LBJ biographer Robert Caro cited it.

It’s about how when LBJ was a brand new, completely unknown congressman back in the 1930s, he supposedly made a habit of shaving, showering, and brushing his teeth many times each morning.

He was staying in a boarding house with other new congressmen, and the routine was his way of casually bumping into his colleagues in the shared washrooms.

Now, Matthews is out, arguably in part because he forgot that lesson.

The inciting incident so to speak is the surfacing of some weird comments he’s made about attractive women on his show, and also for making an analogy between Bernie Sanders and the Nazis invasion of France in 1940.

But, Margaret Sullivan, the media columnist for The Washington Post put her finger on something more telling:

With his reported $5 million annual salary, he wielded enormous influence. For many years, he had the power to sway public opinion on the crucial topics of the day.

Not infrequently, he failed the main test of someone in that role. He was ready to offer his own views, but not prepared to hear those of his guests or to bring deep knowledge to the conversation.

It’s not enough just to know people and have good relationships. When people stop trying to “get to know” more, they start moving backwards.

Put differently: Keep making friends, friends.

7 other things worth a click

  1. There's no way I can stay up late enough to see all the Super Tuesday results, but it looks a lot more likely today than a week ago that Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee for president. (Axios)

  2. Today I learned why candidates say they're "suspending" their campaigns rather than ending them. (The Washington Post)

  3. How the effects of California’s gig economy law are giving East Coast states pause. (Politico)

  4. Some real life South Koreans are indeed living like the poor family in Parasite. (New York Times)

  5. An Amazon employee tests positive for coronavirus in Seattle, while nearby Kirkland tries to deal with it. (CNBC, Daily Best)

  6. Iran let 54,000 prisoners out of jail because of the disease. (BBC)

  7. Apple agreed to pay up to $500 million to settle claims that it throttled old phones to get people to buy new ones. (TechCrunch)

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