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In a strange twist of events ...

Once upon a time, you were young, and the world was full of possibilities. You were surrounded by beautiful friends you loved. As time passed, your circle shrank. Some moved to other cities, a few fell into relationships or jobs that took all their time, and your own days became tangled and tiresome. And now here you are, taking solace in Netflix night after night. What happened? Why is it so hard to make friends when you’re older?

Many of us know a ton of people, give a ton of Facebook likes or have hundreds of Instagram followers, but that’s not the same as having a few friends we feel close and connected to. Health-wise, there are few things that will make as big of an impact on our longevity and decreased stress-levels as having close friends. Making friendships a priority isn’t just a “nice-to-have-if-we-have-time,” but a necessity of a healthy, happy and meaningful life.

Here’s a message on my Facebook, from my great friend, Fred Reibin. “In a twist of events, I'm now partner in a Jamaican peanut butter company”. The wild thing is, when I read the message, I wasn’t surprised.

For some context: Fred had recently moved to Jamaica on a one-year work term, helping develop and grow farmer’s markets in Kingston. Earlier this year, and shortly after Fred told me that he was moving (and after I watched Cool Runnings, of course), I met up with him at the Weezer concert in Saskatoon. Between sets, Fred and I got into some deep reflection about his decision to move to Jamaica. I remember him telling me that the idea scared him, and he thought the role would be a welcome challenge.

For the remainder of that night, we went back to singing with Weezer and laughing hard with friends. But for days after, I thought more about that conversation. I thought more about his upcoming move to Jamaica. I wondered what part of the job would pose a challenge. I wondered what his biggest fears were.

And then it hit me! You see, Fred is one of the smartest guys I know. Self-starter. Super ambitious. Extremely clever. And a MacGyver-like problem solver. It wasn’t the job, or the unknown Fred was afraid of – he would be inspired by that. For Fred, his concerns were seeded in a fear of being alone.

And Jamaica presented an opportunity for him to face that fear, step outside of his comfort zone and find a new purpose, in a new community.

I’ll explain. I admire Fred for too many reasons to list. He’s done a lot of wonderful things for a lot of people. And he does it all while remaining authentic, with a willingness to listen and learn. Fred is both a mentor and role model, to me and others. I believe he can do anything. But Fred has always been around his friends, family, roomies, pets, etc. He lives a very social life, making relationships, connections and networks everywhere he goes.

But in Jamaica, Fred lives alone and works mostly by himself! There’s a lot of quiet, down time and isolation.

So, naturally it came as no surprise to me that he’s now a peanut butter mogul in Jamaica. You see, the most incredible thing about Fred, the most simple and beautiful part of who he is ... is he’s incredible at making friends. Sounds strange, but as we become adults and professionals, we somehow lose this skill. Fred never has. Here’s why:

  • He’s approachable and has a positive attitude

  • He doesn’t wait for others to make the first move

  • He says yes to an invitation, even when the urge to close himself off strikes

  • Most importantly, making connections is important to him, so he makes it a priority

Why are friendships so important? Friendships are more beneficial than just being able to have some laughs over a cup of coffee. A lack of strong relationships increases your risk of premature death from all causes by 50%, according to research from Harvard University. That’s the same mortality risk as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

So, if your social calendar is looking light, it might be time to make some new connections. But it doesn’t have to be an intimidating and awkward process. Consider Fred. If you ever meet him, you’ll realize one thing very quickly – you’ll want to be his friend. And now here’s his secret to making new acquaintances – and it’s quite simple – “he’s open to it”.

I love Fred. As a friend, he’s changed my life. He’s also offered his big brain and talent to the build of TREEO – he designed our amazing three threes logo and has supported our vision to inspire our community.

Thanks, Fred. You’re the best!

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