If you want a lesson in friendship, sell your business. Not for big bucks: that way you’ll have way more friends than you can handle. No, do what my wife and I did last summer: sell your business for just enough to get out whole, but not so much that you don’t have to work anymore. A funny thing may happen to you, as it did to me.
Your phone will stop ringing. Your in-box suddenly will not be so full. No one will want to buy you lunch anymore. A book publisher one day, I was a mere writer the next. It’s amazing how unimportant I became, and quickly.
Do I sound bitter? Not at all. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me, selling the business, not because it made me rich (not!) but because it showed me what is important. I continued to have breakfast with B. after Mass, but stopped having lunch with W. over book projects. I continued reading the biographies of saints, but stopped reading book proposals. I had just as much fun with my friends at Friday-evening CL meetings, and I never had to buy another drink for H.
I blame the Catholic Church for this turn of events. In the fall of 2007, I enrolled in RCIA. Precisely at this time, and I believe by heavenly coincidence, I was approached by Massachusetts General Hospital through a third party to write the hospital’s bicentennial history book. Three months later, I signed the book contract. Six months later, I became a Catholic. I cannot tell you how inseparably linked these two developments are in my mind.
By which time, my entire constellation of acquaintances and friends had been rewritten on the winter sky. Through the Church and through CL, I had more friends than ever, and with the business gone, so had an entire Rolodex of “friends.” Today, I know that my friends are friends not because of the money one of us can make the other, but because of something else we have in common. That new third factor in my life is the oldest factor in western history: Jesus Christ.
This is not to say that Catholics can’t be idiots. A recent dust-up in our parish men’s group—involving playground politics and my resignation as secretary—demonstrated this idiocy if my own writing doesn’t do that well enough. Yet most of my friendships in the Church will survive the rise and fall of a thousand businesses, and I am a richer man for it, though poorer.