The Ruthless Math of Relationships
(Don’t try this alone)
It felt like I had won the lottery. At least what I imagined that would feel like.
An unexpected windfall of riches and resources suddenly deposited on my side of the ledger.
Work friends threw a farewell party for me and quite the party it was! The venue was stunning. The food was exceptional. The memories flowed in animated conversations.
We were al major shareholders celebrating a long- term investment of time, effort and work relationship that had gone well.
I had given leadership to a bunch of ordinary radicals and visionary misfits who like me were determined to make a difference in this world in the affordable housing and healthcare sector.
While the event was about me and our time together, in so many ways it wasn’t.
Most of us had worked side by side for many years. Others were newer to the scene. So,through it all, we enjoyed fights, jealousies, pettiness, arguments, faith, tears and tragedy, laughter and joy.
You know, – all that messed up pile of human-ness that makes for genuine community.
Some of us watched each other’s kids grow up. At times, we vexed each other beyond words, then managed to pull it from the brink, forgive, reconcile, hug it out, and refocus.
In the end, it was a celebration of compound interest in invested lives.
Here’s the Math Part
As a kid, I disliked math. It didn’t help that I never had a good math teacher.
Besides, my active juvenile brain was saying “way too boring!”
The irony is that now I work with math every day. I now appreciate the unyielding inerrancy of good math.
Whether you’re arguing a parking ticket, buying truckloads of concrete, or convincing a board of directors these budget numbers really work, you’ve got have the math right or you’re dead in the water.
Math done right doesn’t lie!
One of my favorite math formulas is the one for exponential growth:
A” is the ending amount, “P” is the beginning amount (or “principal”), “r” is the interest rate (expressed as a decimal), “n” is the number of times compounded in a year, and “t” is the total number of years.
It’s the formula for the compound interest that savvy investors have employed for centuries.
Some have called it the eighth wonder of the world.
Let me explain it this way:
There’s a picturesque pond with a small patch of lily pads. The little lily patch doubles every day.
If it takes forty-eight days to cover the whole pond, how many days to cover half of the pond?
Our linear way of thinking screams twenty-four. Wrong!
The answer is forty-seven days.
Compound interest is difficult to grasp because it is difficult to think exponentially. In other words, we think by 1 + 1 + 1 = 3.
The principle of compound interest uses exponential growth, and like the lily pad, it takes forty-seven days to accomplish half of the pond and then BAM!
Only one more day to accomplish what was done in the previous forty-seven.
So that begs a question. What if we applied the same mathematical law to the social currency of our relationships?
Here’s the Relationship Part
In her 2014 book “The Village Effect” psychologist Susan Pinker provides compelling evidence of our need to invest in face to face human relationships.
From the flap: “As humans, we’re hardwired to connect with others. Direct contact matters: tight bonds of friendship and love heal us, help children learn, extend our lives and make us happy. Not just any social networks will do: we need real in-the-flesh encounters that tie human families, groups of friends, and communities together.
In one of the lengthiest longitudinal studies ever, Harvard researchers undertook a multi-generational 75-year study. The Grant and Glueck study tracked the physical and emotional well-being of two socio-economic groups: 456 poor men growing up in Boston from 1939 to 2014 (the Grant Study), and 268 male graduates from Harvard’s classes of 1939-1944 (the Glueck study).
You guessed it.
The clear message that we get from this 75-year study is this:
Good relationships matter, Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Being a world-beater in a chosen field, or having tons of money doesn’t matter a whit in the long run.
Begs the question: Can a precise law of math be applied to the social currency of relationships?
From lived experience, I’d say a resounding “yes”!
Only one minor caveat. Our flawed human nature messes the variables somewhat, but in general, the principle still works fine.
Author James Clear in his book “Atomic Habits” says
“Time will multiply and compound whatever you feed it.”
That goes for the relationships that matter in our portfolio of relational investments.
Something to Think About.
What if we asked investment type questions around our relationships?
What is my investment timeline? Am I prepared to be patient?
What is my tolerance for risk here?
Does this investment pay dividends? Am I happy with the results?
Can I ride out a reversal?
Am I comfortable with the costs associated? (time, effort, emotional energy)
What is my strategy for allocation? One-time invest? Regular deposits? Both?
Do I double down, reinvest, buy and hold, or cash out?
Something to Do
Check your list.
See who matters
Do the math
Invest regularly and often
The windfall of rich benefits will astound you!
PS. A deep heartfelt thank-you to all of you who made my farewell such a memorable time for me and my family. I’ll cherish your kindness forever.
As usual, I’m thrilled if you check in with me.
Call, text, email, smoke signals.
Here to help.