Good Friends vs. Better Friends

Ambition is the great divider of human relationships. Millions of people feel driven to accomplish something big, be it getting rich, becoming a professional athlete, or solving world hunger. Billions more, however, enjoy their lives precisely because they lack such an overarching yet also overbearing goal.

Most people don’t want to change the world, and they don’t want to feel like a failure if they don’t. That’s perfectly fine. Others hope to squeeze every inch of potential from their short time here, and that’s fine too. It does create, however, a big rift between the two groups.

If you happen to be in the “potential maximizer” camp, you might label those groups your “good friends” and your “better friends” – not because that’s how you judge and value them but because those are their default attitudes towards life: One thinks life is good and good enough; the other knows “better” always exists and therefore always chases better.

Good friends are the people you can enjoy a good time with, no strings attached. Your movie night needn’t be “about” something. It can just be movie night. You rewatch the same three movies you all loved when you were nine, you have a good laugh, and you go home. There is so much value in this.

Better friends are the people who share, encourage, and push you towards your vision of better. They love talking about their careers. They say “Go for it!” whenever you’re considering a bold move. You can brainstorm a million ideas with them, and no matter how often you fail, they’ll be there to pick you back up. There is also immeasurable value in this.

It is irrelevant which of your friends fall into which group, because your job is to simply enjoy each kind as they are. Don’t wish one friend would switch from this group to the other. Don’t try to figure out who “adds more value.” They both do.

What you should pay attention to, however, are the people who’ll sign up for both: A long discussion of where your marriage is headed and a Simpsons marathon. Making a five-year plan to become an entrepreneur and a Warcraft III LAN party. Those are your “best” friends. Not because they’re the best, but because they’re willing to join in whatever is best for you at any given time – and you’ll do the same for them.

The only true divider in human relationships is how much we’ll let ourselves be divided by our differences. If you refuse to do so, even the great chasm of ambition becomes nothing more than a little puddle to jump over so you can catch up with your friends.