This is a story about how a group of friends unlocked a path to mental strength and an exponential life with love, Jui-Jitsu and a hell of a lot of fun and how you can do the same.
It’s a sad side-effect of modern society that our google search bar often knows more about our deepest anxieties than our own friends do.
It’s not that our friends don’t care, it’s that we don’t have regular time and space around each other to dig into the core essence of our realities. To open up about our insecurities and our anxieties.
Q: How often do you see your closest friends?
How often are you in a position to have a deep and meaningful conversation with them?
I’m talking about a conversation which shares your truth. A conversation you wouldn’t have with someone you don’t trust implicitly.
Drawing from my own past experience, those opportunities in life can be few and far between and usually occur in the wee hours, following a long night of revelling, after far too many drinks. When it’s only you and your closest left at the bar. By that stage, you might be too emotional and intoxicated to make much sense and your friend is likely too wasted to really help you either.
Both of you could forget the entire conversation by the time you wake up.
So where and when does one share their deepest fears / hopes / dreams?
For many, the right answer is to seek professional help and having spent time with a Psychotherapist at different stages of my life, I cannot recommend this highly enough. There is absolutely nothing weak or wrong with investing in mental health coaching.
Therapists are incredibly skilled at spotting patterns in our thoughts and can help you understand how you are getting in your own way quicker than anybody else.
With that being said, there is an additional layer which I have found can provide a foundation for long term mental fortitude.
We call it ‘PD Fridays’. Let me share what it’s all about…
A few of my closest friends created a safe, supportive environment that has exponentially improved each of our lives. It has grown to include other people, who started as strangers or acquaintances but are now very much part of our family.
As many good stories do, this one started with an urge to learn something new. A knowledge trade you could say. In this case, financial advice (namely property investment) in exchange for Brazilian Jui-Jitsu training. Little did we know that it would expand to include so much more than just those subjects.
My friend, Eddie and I agreed to meet each Friday night at 7:30 pm to train together. Our idea was that we would work on Jui-Jitsu for an hour or so, then spend some time discussing investing.
By doing this, we stumbled on a key pillar of the PD Fridays framework.
Key 1. Start with physical exertion.
It doesn’t have to be BJJ, but do something with the person(s) you are on this journey with which you achieve together and which preferably makes you exhausted. It will increase the bond between you exponentially. You could complete a workout together, build something, do a tip run, or take on some gardening. Whatever works for you.
If you have never had a Brazilian Jui Jitsu lesson before, it’s like nothing else you would have previously experienced. Sam Harris described it best in his article ‘ The pleasures of drowning‘. I highly recommend giving it a go.
After an hour of having the oxygen squeezed out of my lungs, we would sit and take some time to talk, which brings me to my second point:
Key 2. Making time & space
You might read the above and think ‘you are just working out with a friend each week, what’s so special about that?’. The key here though is the scheduled start time. By starting at 7:30pm on a Friday we allow maximum space for free-flowing discussion following our physical activity. Neither of us had anywhere to be.
Remove the time pressure if you want to create space for deep and meaningful conversation. You need time for those slightly awkward silences which often preclude an enlightening personal admission.
In a world where we squeeze workouts in during the day or before work (or before going home for dinner), it is rare to have this sort of space and time with each other.
I’ll admit that undertaking a physically exerting activity at 7:30 pm on a Friday is challenging. I often get to that stage of the week and don’t feel like spending an hour getting squashed. I often find myself reluctant to leave my warm, cosy house.
If you feel this way, just get up and go. The payoff is ALWAYS worth it.
Key 3. Make it free and get buy-in from your family.
Before we jump further into how the PD Fridays framework can help you it’s important to mention a few of it’s biggest drawcards.
It costs next to nothing. We use a training room at the local rugby club. We have chosen to sponsor the club as our way of saying thanks. This is still far cheaper than meeting at a bar or restaurant though.
It’s healthy. No matter what happens, we walk away having exercised. We didn’t get drunk or spend any money.
It’s safe for our partners. We aren’t out on the town. They don’t have to worry about us. We are only 5 mins down the road so if anything goes wrong with the kids, we can be home in no time at all.
Key 4. THE LIST.
A good mentoring session usually results in some homework. Action points that you want to remember and work on. So how do you record these? What tools do you use?
During our first session, I talked with Eddie about how the Wunderlist app (now Microsoft To-Do) helped me stay focussed on my top tasks each day. Eddie downloaded it and we discovered we could sync our lists with each other. I can see his list and he can see mine.
Suddenly we had stumbled on the second pillar of PD Fridays = Joint Accountability.
You have probably heard of ‘finding an accountability partner’ but that always sounds so naff. The key reason we share our lists with each other is so that we are up to speed with each other’s life goals when we meet.
If I know what Eddie has been working on during the week, I know what questions to ask come Friday night that can help him find the solutions he needs to move things forward.
In return, he knows what important tasks I am procrastinating on and can gently ask questions to find out what might be limiting my progress.
Others have now joined us in the shared list club, including Ali (featured in the photo at the top of this post) and even my wife.
Note: I’ll write more on how to set tasks in a future post, but for now, keep in mind, they should be actionable, achievable and preferably have a due date.
Key 5. It’s not a competition.
I have worked in sales for over a decade. I know what a strong driver competition can be. It’s important to stress this process isn’t about competing with your accountability partner(s). This is about expressing love for your closest comrades in life by helping them grow into the person they want to become.
It doesn’t matter whether you have 2 items on your list, or 20. We are here to support each other through whatever we each need at that point in time.
Key 6. Grow your team.
Pretty early on, a crew started to develop. Richard, Ali, John, Jeremy are all regulars and others are starting to see the benefit as well. We have had as many as 8 people join in on our Friday sessions which fills the room with a level of love and kindness you would expect of any long overdue catch up with old friends.
In 18 short months, our group has seen: Businesses started (and closed down), new jobs, marriage proposals, multiple babies, multiple road trips, overseas travel, the odd injury, multiple investment properties purchased, a first home purchased, business ideas created.
Life has ‘scaled-up’ shall we say.
We have supported each other through personal trials and successes with love, patience and understanding.
There is this ripple effect created when you are in the PD Fridays environment. We spend time every week thinking about how we can make life better for each other’s families and as a result, life inevitably changes for the better.
What does the future look like?
More learning. More conversations focussed on improving our lives and those of our families in a positive way and a constant drive to make the most of this gift of life we have been given.
Have I planted the seed?
Q: Who is going to join you on your PD Fridays journey?