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If it matters to you, then nothing else matters

Last night, my family and I drove 40 minutes to visit with an old college friend of mine, her husband, and their brand new baby girl.

The baby was born last month, and we like to visit at the hospital when we get the opportunity. But having had two kids of our own, we also empathize with the “JUST LEAVE US ALONE” mindset that some new parents have, so we don’t push it too much.

But given that these are some of our closest friends, we wanted to meet that kid.

Of course, the first couple of weeks are busy for parents of a newborn. Getting together with friends when you’re in your thirties is already a challenging endeavor without that wild card in there.

But we got it on the calendar and planned accordingly… and then our younger boy threw up.

It was touch-and-go that week. He bounced back, but then my older boy threw up the night before we were supposed to get together. And my wife started feeling like garbage.

We had to cancel our little dinner. No baby yet.

After the flu finally ripped its way through our house, I texted the new mom and set up a different dinner date for last night. Even then, our younger boy was coming down with something else, but he staved it off long enough for us to get together.

How can you make it matter to you?

I won’t call out anyone by name, but I know so many people who write off old friends as soon as they get busy.

“Geez, we never talk anymore! What happened to them? You still talk to them? It’s like they don’t like us anymore or something!”

I don’t have anyone in mind specifically, because I’ve heard it a lot. And there’s a deep, dark secret to hanging out with friends as adults: make it matter.

If you want to hear back from somebody and you haven’t, why not just… ask them? If something matters to you, you’ll follow up with it, right?

“But I’m always the one reaching out!” So what? You keeping a scorecard over there?

The underlying secret to this tip is: some people are bad at it, and some people just get busy. It doesn’t mean they don’t want to be around you or whatever – it just means that responsibilities increase as you get older. It’s harder to carve out time to just hang out.

In the drama-filled last few years, my wife and I haven’t really gone out a whole lot with friends. Why? Because we’re exhausted by the end of the week of suffering through the stresses we were dealing with. We just wanted to put our feet up at home. And many weeks were so stressful, our main focus was just getting to Friday night.

And we’re social people.

But I’m not writing all of this to convince you to call an old friend (I mean, if you do that, it’s fine, that’s a good thing to do too).

When it matters to you, nothing else matters

That’s a confusing subhead.

Let me illustrate with a gross little story (a lot of sick in this post). When my son was three years old, he got sick and was overloaded with mucus. A poor gag reflex combined with a weak stomach meant that, one night, he was literally throwing up every 15-ish minutes.

He shares a room with his brother, so that wasn’t going to be terribly feasible for the evening. That night, I took him down to the living room, snuggled up with him on the couch, and placed a bucket on the coffee table.

I’d hear him start to gag, I’d pull him into a seated position, hold him over the bucket, let him puke, wipe his mouth, give him a drink of water, crawl over him to take the bucket to the bathroom to clean it out, then come back to the couch, crawl over him again, and snuggle up for hopefully 10 minutes of sleep before the next round.

I did this for hours.

I’m a man who desperately needs his sleep every night. I could have made every excuse in the book to not do this. I could have been bitter at whoever got my son sick. I could have whined and complained about how it wasn’t fair that I had to do this, especially since I had to work the next day.

But I didn’t. Why not? It’s not because I’m the World’s Most Patient Dad.

It’s because, for those hours, nothing else mattered to me than taking care of my boy. The excuses, the complaints, the unfairness of it all… I ignored it.

Whether it’s a fledgling business, thin finances, frustrating friendships, or failing health, if the thing matters to you, let go of the rest of it.

Stop spending your life keeping score. Deal with whatever it is in the moment.

You want to see that friend? Pick up the stinking phone and ask to get together.

You want to build a business? Figure out what’s not working and ditch the rest.

Money too tight? Start educating yourself on ways to get out of your mess.

Whatever it is, do what you have control over, let go of the rest of it, and treat the thing like it matters to you. Because when it matters, nothing else matters.

We were sad when we couldn’t get together with our friends. We could have said, “Well, you only have one kid and you’re off of work, so you should come out by us! It’s your turn anyway! BLARGH BLARGH BLARGH…”

Instead, we just were bummed, got over the sickness, and picked up the phone again a week later. It mattered. So we acted like it.

Act like it.