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The company of others: Rediscovering the Role of Companionship in Long-term Success and Happiness

This article is an excerpt from our soon to be released book "Euphoria"

It really does take a village, doesn’t it? Not just to raise a child but for any of us to live a full, happy life. I mean, am I right? As much as we all dislike admitting it, the fact is, we humans, cannot live without the interference of others.

Even when we are successful in all the career or business-oriented things we start out to do, we cannot fully enjoy what we accomplish unless there is recognition from others and/or we get to share the fruits of our labor with others.

Like I have been saying for the last four chapters, we are genuinely happy when we have love and acceptance in our lives. The kind of love, understanding, and acceptance that we typically get from other souls.

Those who start life by being trained to really understand the value of having others in their lives, pursue this lifestyle relentlessly. Although pop culture tells us that "things" will make us happy, reality tells us otherwise, right?

We have all seen the movies and television shows in which some guy or gal who has become successful in their career, living in a nice apartment in New York city and drives a fancy car, has it all.

Most young people today strive to be that person. That person who lives a life committed to being single and spends their free time taking multiple vacations with their "great" friends. Those friends who are also mostly single and have known each other since high school or college.

This kind of “chasing fun at all costs” lifestyle has become commonplace in the 21st

century. It seems this is what we all live for these days: Fun, and nothing else. I am not bashing anyone who loves to dedicate some time and resources to enjoying life.

Nope! That is not what I am trying to do here. I have my guilty pleasures in life too. I also don't mind getting away from it all from time-to-time. I too like to drive a nice car and have a ridiculously expensive glass of wine every now and then.

So, I get it. I am just trying to engage in a thought experiment. One that seeks to uncover and try to find ways to engage with the world and the people around us in a multitude of meaningful ways. Ways that make us happy, intrinsically.

L L Cool J was right

These characters (literally) out of a movie are those that we are taught are the ones to aspire to. Kind of like making smoking look Cool. Like the ad agencies tried to do in the late ’70s to early ’90s.

This is the person the media tells us has it all. The person we should strive to be. The truth in real life is quite different. Some 86% of all millionaires and billionaires are married. Mark Zuckerberg is a married man, so was Jeff Bezos until recently.

Warren Buffet was married for some time and continues to have a steady life partner. Ursula Burns was married to Lloyd Bean for some time till he died in 2019.

My point is, in spite of what you may have seen on TV or read in books and magazines, most successful people are married and have children. There are many reasons for this.

For one, having others in your life – those who are committed to building a life, beyond leisure – helps focus you, me, all of us. We (humans) tend to do better, emotionally, financially, and psychologically when we have others who care for us (and we care for them) in our lives.

Ursula Burns, former CEO of Xerox

In 2007, Burns assumed the role of president of Xerox. In July 2009 she was named CEO, succeeding Mulcahy, who remained as chairman until May 2010.The first black woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company, Burns was also the first woman to succeed another woman as head of a Fortune 500 company.

More than just a friend

More often than not, the media leads us to believe that marriage or long-term partnerships are ones that only serve one purpose: The pursuit of sex and leisure.

And depending on the examples you saw growing up, you might look at a life lived with another as simply a headache. Something to avoid at all costs if you can. An endeavor that, although you have the need to pursue – and society puts pressure on you to – will certainly end in some type of unspeakable series of disastrous events. These are ideas and expectations of marriage so normalized and internalized that we don’t give it a second thought.

In reality, we all go into adulthood, unbeknownst to us, carrying the (matrimonial) lessons learned by watching our parents interact with one another. For the most part, those who naturally thrive at the various roles you are sure to hold in life – Mom, Wife, etc. – do so because they often either had great examples growing up, or set out to (purposefully) learn the lessons that will set them up to be these things in a productive way.

Simply put: You are likely to be able to maintain long-term relationships, be a great parent, and so on, if you had great parents, and as a consequence saw them - your parents- maintain a long-term, healthy, loving relationship.

We (human beings) are more instinct than logic. As much as we hate to admit it, and each of us sees themselves as going through life making decisions based on clear-eyed thinking, the data suggests that we make most of our decisions, even the important once based on our feelings and what we are used to, most of the time. For better or worse, we become the kind of mom our mom was. The kind of father our dad was and so on.

And if you are among the billions around the world who can honestly say to yourself and out loud that your parents did not or do not have a “good” marriage, fear not for you are obviously not alone and your life does not necessarily have to follow the same marriage-to-divorce trajectory. Your kids do not have to experience what you did. There is hope.

Dark places & bad memories

Most of us who did not find positive examples of these types of roles, often clueless of the impact said relationships have had on our view of marriage especially, tend to disregard the importance of said unions instead of digging deep to see how we can be the ones to set a new tone for our own lives.

And with good reason, right? One has to look under some dark rocks and dig deep into some painful places if we are to be the ones to break generational curses. The thing is though that most of us wish to do the work. Sure, this kind of reflection and restoration is not easy.

But we, however, continue to live our lives, fighting between our deep natural desire to form long-term bonds and our impulse to do everything in our power to actively undermine these relationships. We know not why every single one of our love stories ends the same. We are often not surprised when all our relationships end in fire and brimstone though. We usually kind of expected it.

After all, "this is how most of the folks I know end up". I was talking to a younger lady the other day. She had seen me come into the grocery store she works at. She would often be the one who helped me checkout. She had witnessed me laughing at some silly thing, one time or another, and because I do not wear a wedding band, she naturally thought I was a single woman.

That is until I mentioned my husband in a conversation we had one time. She was surprised that I was married. She asked how long I had been “tied down” and I told her my dude and I have been married for almost a decade. The length of my marriage seemed to shock her even more. I of course asked why the surprised look. She told me I didn’t “come off like a married woman”.

I inquired further. She couldn’t imagine why a married woman (or man) would seem so happy. This surprised me and I told her that among my friends and family, I had been married the shortest amount of time.

As the conversation went on, she told me she knew very few people who were married, and the ones that she knows who had tied the knot were unhappy. I thought this was such a sad but true phenomenon. This was not the first time I had heard a young person express this view of marriage.

In fact, she went on to tell me that there was no way in hell she would ever get married. I left the conversation at that since as you can imagine, I had places to be. I bring this up to say that I have heard this sentiment repeated over and over again, especially these days. When asked, most young people will tell you that they are “financially ok” and don’t need a partner and that they hope to avoid a repeat of their parents’ messy marriage.

The thing about forming positive, constructive, long-term bonds is that when done correctly, these types of unions help enrich your life in many ways.

You can have it all

What does “having it all” mean? Well, I guess it depends on what you want in life. It is easy - at any giving time in life - to know what you want in the moment. Think about it. When we are young, we want nothing more than to chill-out and have a good time. In fact, we are so focused on exercising our right to party that we invest a whole lot of energy, time, and money into having the best time of our lives.

For some, the party stops at about 25-28. Knowing what we will want five, ten years down the line and working towards that end while we continue to live in the moment, that is one of those things that separates those who will go on to live happy productive lives and the rest of us who spend all day wondering what we are doing wrong.

Knowing what our lives will look like. Or at least having some idea of our circumstances, how we will react to life and our needs down the line is but one of the many factors that influences our mental and emotional well-being as we age and have to adapt to a changing world. This is one of those things that can help shape our desire for "more". Help drive us towards success or leave us in a constant state of despair and sadness. All things being equal of course.

The good news is that most of us know how to be where we are in life – taking in the moments – while we work towards a prosperous future. Most of us, by age 30, are ready to give up the party lifestyle, dedicate more of our time to those that we have brought into our lives and work to provide a great life for and with our newly-formed tribe, aka “our family”

I have also seen those who continue to dedicate a tremendous amount of energy and time chasing a "good time" well into their 30’s. Don’t get me wrong. I think one should make time to enjoy life regardless of one’s age. I am not suggesting that you dedicate yourself to a fun-less life as you age.

I am definitely not knocking folks out there shaking what their momma gave them who also happen to be 40, 50, and beyond. The thing that comes up in life as you look to learn the lessons that will help you thrive and be happy is that you must learn to prioritize. This is one of the key pillars of adulting.

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