How we can 'keep in touch' effortlessly
This week, I want to talk about an idea that is super close to me — ‘Effortless Relationships.’ One of my evolving ideas has been that all relationships should be effortless, meaning having no obligation to ‘maintain’ relationships. Now, before we all understand this a million different ways, I’d say a few things.
I feel relationships are like planting trees — you have to be consistent and patient for your sapling to turn into a tree that can last a 1000 years. Initially, you have to pay attention to your plant, but as it grows, your effort becomes effortless, and you begin to feel it’s easier to just ‘roll with it.’
I remember I read about the flywheel concept. If you’ve ever gone for soul cycle, you’ll know what I’m talking about. A flywheel is an object that stores rotational energy. The idea is that, initially, it’s super hard to make it rotate — You need to apply a lot of force to make it rotate, but after a point, the flywheel gains its own momentum and improves its speed, /without you having to apply any force./
Same with relationships. I read somewhere that you need to spend 50+ hours with someone for them to become your acquaintance and 200+ hours with someone for them to become your ‘close friend.’ This is the phase where you have to invest a lot of effort — hence, schools and colleges help overcome this initial barrier, and that’s the single most important reason why they’re useful. But once you overcome this initial hurdle, you’ll naturally have so many friends.
After graduating from Berkeley, I felt two things at the same time:
1) I was not in touch with my friends, and
2) I /was/ in touch with my friends.
I felt (1) because I thought that being in touch meant having a one hour call every week or fortnight, but I felt (2) because I realized that low-intensity, frequent touch is way better than high-intensity occasional touch.
I find that my ‘airplane analogy’ really makes sense here. Imagine you are in a plane, and 100 of your friends are also in their own planes. You all depart from your hometowns and are in the air. Now, it’s much easier for you to meet other people while you’re flying than for you to land and then meet. Flying in the air is analogous to low-intensity frequent touch, whereas landing is high-intensity occasional touch. (If you’re a rational pilot, chances are you won’t be landing every now and then.)
So, with many of my friends, I am barely in touch, but that is the point — I am /barely/ in touch, but consistently. Every now and then, we’ll share something on our group chat... a few close friends would even email me, replying to this newsletter... I’ll watch something and it will remind me of a few friends, so I reach out to them... I FaceTime a few folks, who don’t pick up, but then, they FaceTime, and I’m not able to pick up... and this phone tag continues...
But above all, the most beautiful thing is that each party is making a little bit of effort, consistently, and as long as that happens, we’re meeting each other as we fly in the air, and that’s what matters more than anything. Of course, if you want to deliberately ramp up the intensity, you can easily do that by making an emergency landing and meeting with your friend. (I do this with 5 - 6 FaceTime calls, 20 - 30 texts, and 40 - 50 ‘Yos’.)
One important aspect: As we try to make our relationships effortless, we need to have absolutely zero shame and zero ego — it doesn’t matter whether you always call them or they always call you. What matters is that both are invested in the relationship, and contribute to it, whenever they can, be it by a text, a ‘Yo’, or 10 FaceTime calls.
Finally, though, for effortless relationships, what matters is that:
Both people understand each other’s situations,
Both don’t feel a ‘sense’ of obligation to ‘keep in touch,’
Both respect each others’ circumstances and have an infinite amount of trust in the relationship,
Both communicate what they feel openly, honestly, and without reservation, and
Above all, both make an effort (be it 10%, 1%, or 0.1%.)
That’s when relationships are effortless. That’s when they’re fun to have.
See you next time,
With Ali's lessons of explicit-implicit memory, long-term and short-term memory, and Abhi's lessons from augmenting long-term memory using Anki, this is an episode in which we delve into how memory works, both biologically and functionally. Tune in to listen to a practical, functional, and rigorous first-take on memory.
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