Friendships in the Workplace

Lately I've been fielding more interview requests to talk about friendships in the workplace. Which for many women is still the number one place where you're meeting your friends. Work, much like school when we were kids, is the one place where the same people show up repeatedly without anyone having to initiate, invite, make plans, or schedule around, or follow-up with-- we're paid to be there and we both show up daily.  That consistency breeds friendships.  We report being 96% happier with our lives if we have at least three friends at work, and a whopping 30% of us end up establishing a best friend at work.

But there can also be some mine-fields.  I hear women repeatedly say to me that they don't feel comfortable making friends at work for various reasons and to that I want to gently say: "Hey, we live in a world where we all need more good friends, so take them where you can get them!" In the interview below, I hope I can squelch some of your fears by helping you see how you can build friendships appropriately!

For my blog post this time, I thought I'd re-publish an interview where Jennifer Merritt of  Levo League (a professional community for Gen Y) asked me some work-related questions.  Hope my answers are helpful to some of you!

Jennifer: If you really feel a connection with a co-worker, is it a good idea to try to deepen that relationship? Or should “office life” and “real life” be kept separate? Shasta: No, I don’t think they should be separate at all! In fact, that really is one of the last places to make friends where we have one of the biggest friendship challenges taken care of for us—consistency.  That’s why it felt easy in school–we saw each other every day. In “real life” it’s actually much more difficult to see each other regularly enough to build up that familiarity and comfortableness. The office is perfect, since you both have to spend so much time there. I’d definitely try to deepen that relationship, so much so that I’d encourage you to practice being friends outside of work, too, so that when one of you leaves the job you already have other structures in place for your friendship to continue.

How concerned should you be about making friends in the office, even at the basic level of casual friendship? People who have friends at work are way more inclined to report job satisfaction and companies recognize that that’s one of the best ways to retain employees. We will put up with a lot of stress, lower pay, and non-ideal job descriptions if we like the people we work with, so I’d say it’s worth being a pretty high priority at work. Plus, this is where you spend most of your time, so it make sense that at minimum you want to be surrounded by people you’re friendly with, even if they don’t all turn into consequential friendships.

Are there any “rules” to making friends in the office? I’d say two good principles are to, one, take it slow, and two, don’t let your friendship ever make others feel excluded in the office. The first one is super-important: don’t over-share with someone. Vulnerability—sharing more about yourself with less of a filter— is one of the actions that develops a friendship, but I encourage everyone to engage it step by step so that really you’re never taking a big risk, as much as you are many, many small ones. But that’s even more important at work, where you don’t want to share too much with someone before you’ve co-created a trusting relationship with each other.  And the second rule speaks more to making sure your friendship is adding to the office dynamics, not excluding others or making people feel wary, left out, or suspicious. While at work, invite more people to join in your friendly relationship—invite others to sit with you at lunch—and try to do more of your eventual secret-sharing outside of the office.

What are some good ways to explore deepening a relationship with a co-worker? Probably starts with friendliness and chit-chat, talking about the weekend, and what TV shows you’re watching. Then the next goal is to find a way to spend more substantial time together, so usually an invitation to grab lunch together, attend an event together, or meet for drinks after work will help make that happen. And this is where it may stay for a while—friendliness in the office, friendship for an hour here and there outside the office.  In fact, if this is as far as it goes—it’s an incredibly valuable relationship that will increase your happiness at work. In some cases, you may want to grow it to the next step and that means eventually starting to get together when it’s completely unattached to work, such as brunch on the weekend, a double-date with the boyfriends on a Friday night, or getting together to watch your favorite TV shows one night.

Can you — or should you — ever be friends with your manager? Or, if you are a manager, friends with your subordinate? This one can be tricky because there is not a “one size fits all” answer. Our personalities, company culture, and individual job descriptions will inform the decision. But in theory, I’d say yes. We can be friends with people even if we have different roles at work. Obviously it requires both people respecting the other so much that neither one shares confidential information or asks for favors at work. And the two rules I mentioned earlier–taking it slow and not letting your friendship make others uncomfortable–are even more important. But the first two steps of friendship—being friendly and starting to spend more considerable time together—is definitely appropriate, in my opinion.

Fights among friends are inevitable, and can become even more hot-button if that friend is also a co-worker. What is your advice for dealing with conflicts with friends in the office? This goes back to the second rule—don’t let your friendship make others uncomfortable in the office. That means they shouldn’t know you’re fighting. You don’t gossip about her, talk about her, or take it out on each other. Maturity means trusting each other so that even when we’re mad or disappointed,  we can still trust each other to have our backs. It also speaks to the “taking it slow” part—you should never have shared more than you felt the relationship was ready to support. By the time you fight, you should have some considerable history between the two of you where you can trust you’ll both make up and be closer than ever.

Is it appropriate to get into a friendship with someone who is in a romantic relationship? Basically, should you pursue a friendship with a co-worker if it could be misconstrued by his or her significant other? Wow you’re asking the toughies! Good for you! Again, though, this is not an easy answer. Cross-gender relationships are a wholly different animal in this setting. If the friendship could hurt people— in the office or in either of your lives—then one has to ask whether there are other feelings or motives at work. Because mature friendship wouldn’t want to jeopardize our friends other relationships. At the least, recognize this relationship has a whole different level of complication and drama that may best be avoided simply by fostering other friendships even if there isn’t as much chemistry.

What should you do if you don’t feel a connection with co-workers, on even the most basic level? (Assuming that you enjoy your job.) Bonds can always, always be developed, in some form or another. The best place to start is with having enough conversations that you can start seeing where you both have similarities or where you “get” each other. We all have more things in common that we realize—even if we have a 40-year age gap, opposite political views and are in completely different life stages.  I believe that those who seek, find; which means that if we say to ourselves, “I am choosing to like you, now I’m going to keep looking for the reasons,” we will always find them!


I'd love to hear from some of you-- have you met one of your closest friends at work?  What helped foster the friendship?  What advice would you give?

Shaping Serendipity as a Way to Make New Friends

If serendipity is the aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident, then trying to increase that encounter with luck would be what we call "shaping serendipity." John Hagel, one of the authors of The Power of Pull, spoke last fall at the monthly SF Coaches association meetings I attend.  He spoke of shaping serendipity as a decision we can make to pull the people, ideas, and objects into our lives that we need.

Serendipity Poster

In other words, if you want to start a career in fashion then there are certain cities you could live in where the "serendipity" of meeting the right people, getting invitations to the right events, and learning the ins-and-outs of the industry might increase more than the plains of Kansas. If you wanted to marry another Jew, then you're chances of "serendipity" increase in synagogues, Jewish dating sites, and through relatives than they do by hanging out at the bar down the street.  If you want to get pregnant then there are certain times every month where your "serendipity" improve. If you want to win the lottery, you have to buy a ticket. You get the idea.

Shaping Serendipity as a Way to Make New Friends

There are three levels of pull that Hagel breaks down, but I'm basically going to give my own definitions to tailor it to our subject of friendship.

1)  Access: Let's start with the obvious: You have a higher likelihood of meeting new people at an event than you do on your couch with a remote control in your hand. That's called accessing serendipity!  By showing up at something your chances have just gone up that you could make a new friend.

Where we spend our time affects our choices. How scheduled or open we are affects our availability. How much we're around people impacts our options.

2) Attract: The next level up is recognizing that some events are more likely than others to be filled with the kind of women you want to meet and could be conducive to your purposes than others.

For example, I've found that small groups are easier for me than large networking events.  Something about a small group gives permission to everyone to introduce themselves, whereas at a large mixer one person has to be very willing to walk around introducing themselves.

I've also found that it's easier to show up to something where interaction is expected such as at an entrepreneurs network, church community, or mothers/toddlers play group than it is to attend something where we're all there for the concert, lecture, or workout class.

I've also found that my chances for connection seem to go up if I'm either by myself or with someone else who is also committed to meeting people.  Otherwise it's too easy to stand there with my friend and talk all night to her.

I've also found that events or networks that cater to women increase my odds of meeting other women than events that are co-ed since we're not there to flirt or show off our husbands.

What you want to do with your female friends can also give you information about where you have the best chances of meeting them.  If you are hoping to find someone to hike with-- a hikers group ups your odds exponentially.

Joining a female friendship matching community like is obviously one of the most strategic moves you can make since you know that everyone you meet is open to new friends and wants to connect. It's hard to get better odds than that!  (But then it goes back to Step 1 where you have to show up for it to work!!!)

3) Achieve: This is the step where we maximize the serendipity, pulling out the full potential of the experience.  This is where we smile and make eye contact with others, lean in toward the person we're talking to to hear everything they're saying, ask questions that communicate our interest, assure them how happy we are to have met them, exchange our contact information, and follow-up.

That is no small list.  But without this third step then all we're doing is networking up the wazoo, making small talk, and exhausting ourselves.

It's how we engage and take advantage of the opportunities that will determine our ultimate success.  We could be in the ideal group of women, all engaging in meaningful conversation, but if we never followed up to repeat the experience then we haven't achieved our serendipity.

One of the most powerful ways to do maximize serendipity is to care less about impressing those we meet and more about loving those we meet.  Sometimes our insecurities get the best of us and we erroneously think we need others to be wowed by us.  On the contrary, most people aren't drawn to people they are intimidated by as much as they are drawn to people who seem to care about them.  Our odds of building friendship escalate when we show up caring more about how they feel than how we look. 

Vulnerability elicits trust. One of the things John Hagel said when he spoke was "we can't invite serendipitous moments if we don't expose our needs, problems, and struggles." It's so true. It's when we risk showing our need that solutions are most offered.

A secret of neuroscience is found in what we call mirror neurons which ensures that what we give is the same as what we receive.  It's why we yawn when we see someone else yawning. It means when we smile, we're more likely to get a smile back.  When we're vulnerable, we're more likely to encourage their sharing.  When we tell them we like them, they're going to like us more. When we seem excited to get together again, they'll also feel more excited.

May making friends not just feel like pure dumb luck, but rather may we end up feeling lucky and knowing we helped produce the outcome.




My Coming Out as a Feminist

I won a $1,000 ticket to a Ms. magazine fundraiser luncheon featuring Gloria Steinem last week.  With only thirty women in attendance it was a coveted win.

Feminism: a word I didn't like

I'm slowly waking up to feminism.

Half of my readers will be appalled that I feel a need to use the word feminism at all, and the other half of you are probably rolling your eyes that I ever had any hesitation around word.

I was raised in the eighties when the women's movement experienced its backlash after all the progress of the sixties and seventies. To say the least, the word feminist didn't hold positive correlation for me for most of my life, it wasn't something you wanted to be.  I'd repeatedly heard women start sentences with "I'm not a feminist, but...", modeling for me that we wanted to distance ourselves from some scary picture of women burning bra's, hating men, and causing a ruckus.

Adding to the distance I created between me and feminism was the fact that being a girl often proved to be an advantage to me.  I liked being a girl. (shows how much I misunderstood the feminism message!) More than a sense of oppression, I actually felt singled out, rewarded, and applauded.  Being among the first females running for Student Association president in college was an honor, attending seminary with less than ten women in my program felt pioneering, and serving as many people's first female pastor felt like a privilege. It wasn't without gratitude that I recognized that I had those opportunities because of women who had fought the good fight before me, but I didn't see the need to keep fighting.  I wasn't one of them. I thought we had made it.  Or, at least that there was enough momentum to keep us on our way.

I look back now with a twinge of regret that I cared more about being likable, agreeable, and your all-around-good-girl, than I did about being an advocate for women.  But I either didn't see the need or assumed the cause was doing fine without me waving the banner.

My own feminist awakening

Feminism is a loaded word. A word that few of us would disagree with in definition: "the advocacy of supporting women's rights as equal to men." In words alone, who among us isn't a feminist?

But as soon as the word is uttered-- we sometimes back away because we don't sense the urgency, don't relate to those in the media who represent the word, or don't necessarily feel like there is anything we can do, or want to do. I've had an entire career distancing myself from a word while still believing in the concept. Being a naturally positive person has more-or-less allowed me to look away from numbers as I argue that change takes time; choosing to feel encouraged by how many amazing women I knew who were doing so much.

And yet. Positivity shouldn't include denial.

Women still make up only 3% of creative directors, less than 5% of movie directors (that number dropped in 2011!), only 14% of Hollywood writers, and are shown as protagonists in only 17% of films. These numbers aren't all that different from a decade ago. Only 6 of our 50 state governors are women, and of the 535 seats of Congress, only 90 of them are women.  While we celebrate that we hold 22.1% of all statewide elected offices, that number was 22.2% in 1993 so the last twenty years hasn't shown tremendous strides there either.  I can keep going... reminding you that only 3% of Fortune 500 CEO's are women, that we are still earning double-digits less than our male counterparts, and that even though we own somewhere around 30% of businesses we still receive less than 10% of the funding.

So this last year I'd say I'm having a bit of an awakening. An awakening where I realize that we women still need to consciously play bigger games, speak out more, and offer our best in this world.  This has nothing to do with what choices you make--to get married or not, stay home with kids or work outside the home, wear stilettos or reject fashion--it has to do with being honored completely in whatever choice we do make. Not just for our sakes, but because the problems in our world need us.  The ways we engage, make decisions, and nurture those around us is being called out.  The challenges around us need us.

Like Katie Couric said in the documentary Miss Representation: If women spent 10% less time worrying about our weight and appearance, and instead applied that energy to others, she’s pretty sure we could solve all the worlds problems in a matter of months.

We can do that.

Feminism in Friendship

I've always wanted to live up to my best.  And I was always told I could.  In that sense I have always been a feminist.

But it hasn't been until this last year that I'm getting more comfortable with the word and my belief that I need to contribute to what that word stands for. I'd say that one of the forces that has transitioned me into the passion I feel for the cause were my relationships with other women.

When you experience women cheering for you-- supporting you, believing in you, thanking you, and helping you-- you realize how much more powerful you feel.  And you want everyone else to have that.

Whether it was Ayesha (who is pictured with me and Gloria above, who invited me to participate in an entrepreneurs group of women who were committed to helping each other) or Christine Bronstein from A Band of Wives who gifted me the ticket to attend the luncheon and has done nothing but cheer me on in our shared passion for women-- these two women are fabulous examples of women who have modeled their willingness to promote other women.

And when you have been given to, you want to give back.

The word feminism is still an awkward word on my tongue.  But the concept has taken root in my heart.  I hope that those of us reading this can keep living it out in our interactions with each other-- being constant reminders of each others value and potential. That as women who value friends-- we know that we are empowering each other in ways no one else can do. We can hold up mirrors to each other that remind us of our inherent worth.

In that sense, what we are doing in GirlFriendCircles is sacred work.  On the surface it would be easy to think it's just networking and social events.  But it's women showing up ready to commit to each other, willing to invest in the forming of bonds, honoring the fact that friendships with others are important enough to us to do something about it.  That's feminism.  Saying we matter.  Putting actions behind our words. We're ensuring that we don't do this journey of life without a local community, cheerleaders, allies, and friends.

Upon meeting Gloria Steinem-- I thanked her for the path she helped pave for so many of us.  Her response was "the hardest part is still ahead."

Good thing we have each other.


p.s. a couple of good resources:

  1. Find a screening in your area for Miss Representation or plan to order the DVD when it's available late February.
  2. Subscribe to Ms. magazine which is like supporting the cause since it's a non-profit magazine that seeks to tell inspiring stories about women and highlight issues and challenges facing them.



My Hopes for 2012

Frequently a new coaching client will say to me "I feel stuck."  And I always respond-- "That's simply not true.  The fact that you called me proves that you're moving forward." It is easy though sometimes to feel like we're in a hamster wheel, working hard but not seeing results. What I love about New Years is the chance to take a snapshot of this moment in my life-- what's important today to me, what I learned in the last year, what hopes I hold for the year ahead. For when I take the sacred moment of recording my "right now" I inevitably will be wowed a year from now when I look back on my humble scribbles. I will be reminded that I am indeed growing and becoming.

I thought this year I'd share some of my professional hopes with you.

Which scares me immediately upon saying that.  My ego whispers things like "What if some people think I don't deserve these things? Or aren't capable of them? What if I look presumptuous holding such big hopes? What if I don't accomplish them all? I'm just setting myself up for judgment!"

But here's why I will share my goals for anyway:

  • Modeling the Courage to Hope: I think it's really important that all of us learn to be clear about what we want-- without apologies, downplaying, or false humility.  Courage isn't the absence of fear, but rather it's the ability to value something else more than the fear. The more compelling our hopes, the more willing we will be to move toward them.
  • Modeling the Humility of the Unknown: A year from now this post will still be up and we'll all have evidence that I didn't accomplish everything I hoped. And I'll be okay with that being public. No guilt. I accept that I may not know right now what's best for me-- I leave room for Wisdom to change my mind on some goals, for the Universe to give me something different from what I think I need, and for Patience to remind me that some hopes may get seeds planted this year but may not be visible by year-end.  I hope.  And then I let go of it needing to look this exact way.
  • Extending an Invitation to You: And I willingly state my goals with hopes that some of you in the community will participate in helping the hopes become realized. You have energy in your local area that I don't have.  You have expertise and ideas I don't have. You have stories I don't have.  I welcome your fingerprints on these intentions!

Shasta's Hopes for in 2012

  1. Write the best book on female friendship that I possibly can! I spent much of 2011 learning about the publishing industry, writing my book proposal, pitching agents, and signing a book deal with Turner Publishing. Now, I have to write the book.  :) My deadline is May 31. How you can help: For now just keep encouraging me and cheering for me! I know the time will come when I'll need all hands on deck to help share the book.  What this means for you will hopefully be 1) more women hearing about GFC and joining as your potential friends in the future, and 2) a book that inspires you by validating your experience of how challenging it can be to create new friendships as an adult, why it's so worth it, and how to go beyond meeting new people to actually transforming those contacts into meaningful friends.
  2. Secure funding for I regret that this is an area I know little about, except that I know I need more money to make this community everything I know it can be. I can't keep funding this on my own as much as I believe in it.  This is a goal that is easy for me to put off since I hardly know where to begin, but nevertheless, I am going to start learning! I need staff, more money for advertising, and the expertise to improve the site. How you can help: If you have experience or introductions you can make with angel investors or venture capitalists that you'd be willing to share-- I'm all ears! What this means for you is 1) increased confidence in the future growth of this community, and 2) anticipation of welcoming more members, better user-interface features, etc.
  3. Revamp our website and add some new features. We're going to get a facelift on our homepage...sometime this year!  Woo-hoo!  Before then, the first change you'll notice starts next week.  Every Wednesday you'll now receive an email listing any CalendarCircles or ClassifiedCircles that have been added recently in your region.  (Of course you can unsubscribe from those, but we're hoping this helps you keep track of what's going on in your city.) How you can help: 1) Please go add a ClassifiedCircle (shout out for a specific type of friend or activity partner) or a CalendarCircle (any event you place on the local calendar) right now!  That way everyone in your area will see it next week! What this means for you is an increase in the local activity giving you more ways to meet new friends.
  4.  Grow the local chapters. This means we want you to be wowed with how many local members there are in your area.  This will include experimenting with local advertising options, developing our local ambassador program, and securing more local PR options.  How you can help: 1) If you are willing to help us as an ambassador in your area-- let us know. 2) If you are willing to be featured in a local story (newspaper or TV in your area) as someone who has made a friend through let us know as we can get coverage if we can promise them a local interview! What this means for you is more amazing women in your area joining so that you have unlimited possibilities for new awesome friendships.
  5. Plan more Publicity Events Across the Country.  I want to get back into more public speaking about women, our need for supportive relationships, how to improve our life/businesses/health with our friends, and how to build the community around us that we crave.  I also want us to figure out more ways of having some of you hosting a local Speed-Friending event in your area!  How you can help: 1) So if you're an event planner, belong to any women's organization that hosts events, or can introduce me to anyone looking for dynamic and inspiring speakers-- I'd welcome your contacts! Or, 2) if you think you'd like to host a speed friending event in your area (scheduling it and learning how to host/organize it) then let me know and we'll do all we can to help! What this means for you is a chance to get actively involved, work with me in promoting healthy friendships, and contribute your energy to the cause!

So those are some of mine.  I don't yet have the "how" all figured out, but I'm sure excited about the possibilities.

I hope you'll take the time to state your own personal desires.  There's something powerful about being clear that we want to play a bigger game in the year ahead.

And I have reason to believe that this time next year we'll be able to look back with gratitude for all that we learned and became along the way.

We are definitely not stuck.


Last Chance at Discount Price: If one of your intentions in 2012 is to ensure that at this time next year you have a fabulous group of local friends, healthy community-- then I invite you to start the New Year with me in my 21 Day Friendship Journey.  Over the course of a month you will journal daily in your workbook designed to bring clarity and understanding in personal growth and relational health AND you will get to call in for weekly group coaching calls! Space is limited to ensure interaction and personal attention.

Enter NEWYEAR as a discount code by Jan. 1, 2012 and save 20% which puts the cost at a mere $20 a week for 4 weeks of growth and inspiration!

Or, sign up with a friend, mother, daughter, or co-worker (your journey is private-- you only share what you want with each other!) and your price drops even more when you choose the 2 Ticket Deal.

Hope you can join us for this eye-opening journey! Sign up now as your stake in the ground that, in fact, healthy community is worth your investment and energy.

Common Friends: My Savor the Success Mastermind Group

I'm dedicating two postings this week to my left-side friends.  :) This is my second one. I've found that most of us fall into one of two camps when we look at the 5 Circles of Connectedness.  We either tend to have so many friends that our left side is super full, but we feel a lack on the right side where the intimacy, comfortableness, vulnerability and acceptance happen with real confidantes.  Or, the other imbalance is to only have a few close friends (a strong right side) and dismiss any relationship that doesn't feel BFF-like.

My previous post introduced you to the Friendship Circle women who are some of my Contact Friends, meaning that we don't really know each other well but we feel connected in some area, referring to each other as a friend, someone we're friendly with. This post is dedicated to the next circle, some of my Common Friends.

Common Friends:  We share occasional time spent together in the area we have in common. The difference between this quadrant and the former is that we have actually spent time together in a way that connects us deeper, we have our own one-on-one relationship with these individuals. It can be in our mom’s groups, because we work together, sing in the same choir, belong to the same club or we are frequently in the same social circle but we know these individuals well within the area we have in common.

One of my Common Circles: Entrepreneurs/CEO's

Last January we all committed to journeying together as a way of supporting our roles as entrepreneurs and CEO's of our own companies (our area of shared commonality). But what makes this group different than my Contact Friends is that we met monthly, shared our vulnerabilities, brainstormed solutions for each other, and offered to help whenever we could.  These women became friends of mine- I feel like I know them and they trusted me with the highs-and-lows of their businesses. (But note that they stay on my left side since we haven't necessarily bonded/socialized outside this area of commonality.)

One of the things I love about our friends in our Common Circles is that we may only have one obvious thing in common (i.e all entrepreneurs, colleagues, same pilates class, or all trying to lose weight) but we can all be so different from each other outside of that area.  In other words, we allow for friendships in this Circle with women of different ages and backgrounds far more than we do when we're out looking for a new BFF.  And it's the diversity that can add so much, often unexpectedly!

Before you meet them, I want to tell you what this group did for me, that my BFF's couldn't have done (since they aren't all running their own businesses).  These women, who were strangers to me a year ago-- have since then given feedback on my web site, introduced me to my lawyer, reminded me how far I've come on goals that felt like they were never going to happen, cheered for me when I shared my wins, talked me off the cliff when I felt overwhelmed, and brainstormed ideas with me for various projects. Those are no small things! My life is richer for having connected to this group!

Now I'll let a few of them speak for themselves!  They will each tell you what their business is and how they specifically benefited from this belonging to this group.

Ayesha Mathews-Wadhwa: Founder of PixInk Design - San Francisco Bay Area's premier digital design agency focused on brands marketing to women.

"This fabulous photograph was inspired by the Savor SF Mastermind Group. Having had the privilege to lead this amazing group of women in 2011, I really wanted a photo memory that celebrated our journey thus far and the future successes to come. I was thrilled with the support and enthusiasm with which everyone in the group helped make this happen. Special thanks to Sonya Yruel for the great photography and Kat Gordon for the captions and Shasta Nelson for showcasing us in her blog! Like Kat said "Behind every successful woman... are others lifting her up."

Shamini Dhana:, Founder of Dhana, a new Eco Brand for kids is the lifestyle brand for tween boys and girls that is eco-conscious, ethically sourced, cool, outdoorsy, and exudes that pizzaz of fun and green, inspired by international artists. Available for purchase online and through selected retail stores.

"Connecting with people like Kat Gordon of Maternal Instinct and Ayesha Mathews of PixInk allowed me to gain insight into the world of women, how they were influenced by brands using different strategies. This was such a huge gift as understanding this behavior was exactly what I needed considering the market Dhana was serving – mainly mothers and women. Additionally, I would like to add that it truly helped having a group of women to trouble shoot, de-stress and share the lonely and challenging road that all entrepreneurs experience – great group of friends and a testament to Shasta’s GirlFriendsCircles concept."

Mary Irving: Founder of Maris, Botanical skin Care Products.

"Participating in the Mastermind helped me to keep moving forward with my business.  I committed to a new website and new versions of my products so every month I'd provide updates and sample products that kept me accountable to my goals."

Cindy Lin: Founder of Staged4more Home Staging celebrated revenue growth, working with great clients, different project opportunities within the visual industry and expanding our networks. We've also added new retailers to our fun environmental real estate good luck charm: EcoJoe.

"I loved having a sounding board of people who know what I'm going through over a consistent period of time and who can grasp the business scenarios I face. While my friends are supportive, they don't necessarily understand because they work in a corporate environment, unable to understand what small businesses go through on a day-to-day basis. This group knew how stressful having your own business can be!"

Kat McCaw Gordan: Founder of Maternal Instinct: Creative Problem Solvers for Marketing to Moms. This past year we invented our MBA Program product which stands for Mom Brand Audit. It enables us to truly move the needle of the mom friendliness of any brand of any size from any industry. That's really gratifying.

"More than anything, what I valued most about the Mastermind was having access to a range of perspectives. Countless times when I was reporting my biggest challenge, someone in the group would re-frame the issue or ask a question that allowed me to unlock a solution I never would have thought of without their input."

Other members of the group include: Cristina Moe, Founder of Moe Media Marketing that helps women-owned businesses with marketing and SEO, April Yarahmadi, Founder of April Reno Jewelry creating timeless and bold fashion pieces, and Erin Shields, Founder of Green Carpet Limo, Bay Area's premier eco-friendly chauffeured car service.

Makes you want one, huh?  Yeah, me too.  I'm so sad this group is ending!

I'm already thinking ahead for what I need to do now to make sure I have this in my life next year.  My biggest piece of advice in participating in any group is to make it as regular and consistent as possible, at least monthly.

Who is in your Common Circle? What area of your life needs focused friends (business? motherhood? divorced women? politics?) Do you need to create one or search one out for 2012?


An Example of Contact Friends: "The Friendship Circle"

I love watching little light bulbs go on when I talk about my 5 Circles of Connectedness.  It's not that describing different types of friends is revolutionary, but I love how seeing the spectrum validates us both for the amazing circles we do have, and acknowledges why we're sometime craving more, different experiences in our friendships.

In this blog I often talk about the far right-end of the spectrum-- as most of us are craving more Frientimacy, deeper connections, and confidantes.  But I want to dedicate my next two blog posts to some fabulous women on my left-side--the friends whom we share something in common, cheer for each other, and provide resources and support as we can in that context.

Contact Friends: We share a casual connection with these friends that is limited to one area of our lives. This is not the same as ALL acquaintances.  For example, we may know the names of all twenty people in our monthly association meeting or at church, but these are the 2-3 that we gravitate toward, considering ourselves friends when we see them even though we don't get together with them on our own, outside the shared context.

One of my Contact Circles: Twitter & Female Friendship

In the last couple of years as I've dived into social media, I can honestly say that building up some Contact Friends on Twitter is the only way I was able to stay engaged. Otherwise, it could have just felt pointless and exhausting-- too many people talking, too few listening.  But in the exchanging of some introductions (in under 140 characters), I now claim to have friends in that world.

These are friends in the loosest term of the word in that I have met only one of them in real life, know next to nothing about their personal lives, and we connect only in the area we have in common which happens to be twitter and the subject of female friendships.

But don't let the fact that it's casual imply that it's not meaningful! They do for me what my dearest, closest friends couldn't do.

These Contact Friends connect with me in different ways; they help me feel heard when I send out a tweet, offer to partner up on projects, congratulate me on my business wins,  and share with me the resources on our shared subject that they come across. Those are no small things!

Introducing the Friendship Circle

We've banded together and created the Friendship Circle.   Since they are all aficionados of female friendship-- they have a lot to offer the readers of my blog.  I want to introduce you to these friends of mine... that they might be yours too!

  1. Business: Tell us what you do and why you love it!
  2. Gratitude: What would be #17 on your list of gratitude?  :)
  3. Friendship: Give a shout-out to one of your GirlFriends you appreciate!

Cherie Burbach (aka @brrbach), Friendship Guide at

I'm a freelance writer and author, and I celebrate the fact that every single day I get to do something I absolutely love. The days fly by when you love your work. My #17 is that I have creative hobbies (crocheting, painting, mixed media) that I can lose all track of time in. It helps me recharge my batteries and reminds me of the blessings I have. My GirlFriend: Debby Mayne. She's a writer I met online and has been a source of encouragement and cheerleading all year. I am very thankful for her generous spirit.



Rachel Bertsche (aka @rberch), Author of MWF Seeking BFF (blog & book)

Mine isn't a business, per se, but my book and blog are how hard--and hilariously awkward!--it is to make new friends as an adult. Last year was my second year at it, and I think last year I got really good at embracing the "you never know if this will be your next BFF" attitude in my life. #17: I am SO GRATEFUL for the fact that I'm someone who sleeps through the night. I hear about others who wake up every three hours and I always think, "Thank God for my lucky sleep habits!!"  Random, I know. GirlFriend: I can't pick just one! I have so many wonderful friends, and I'm so grateful for the new friends I've made over the last two years. Specifically, the new pals who've supported my writing--especially when I'm writing about them!

Debba Haupert (aka @girlfriendology), Founder of Girlfriendology

My business is my passion - inspiring women and their friendships. Girlfriendology started with a couple girlfriends dealing with cancer and grew to a community of over 40,000 women. I celebrate the joy of hearing women's stories and giving them a platform to share them. #17 Being born in this time. I'm not a 'ride across the prairie in a covered wagon' kind of girl and I'm definitely a technology and social media maven. I'm thankful for being alive in the time of iPads and WiFi (and, to be honest, indoor plumbing, gorgeous/easily-accessible shoes and coffee shops!). My beautiful GirlFriend Deana has has a rough year - including losing her BFF. Yet, through everything, she is always there for her friends and family - and with a gorgeous smile on her face. She inspires me and makes me very, very thankful that we met in college a long time ago.

Irene Levine (aka @irenelevine), Author of Best Friends Forever

I am trained as a psychologist and work as a full-time freelance journalist writing about a variety of topics including travel, lifestyle and friendship. The nicest part of my work is getting letters from people who say that my book changed their lives as well as their friendships! #17: I'm grateful to all the friends and mentors who helped shape my life---even though I've lost contact with many of them. My GirlFriend Linda listens, understands, and is always there for me. I'm lucky to be able to call her at any time or hour when I need advice.


Britt Michaelian (aka @MamaBritt) and Dabney Porte (aka @DabneyPorte), Co-Founders of #SMgirlfriends

Girlfriends Productions, LLC is our business and one thing that we are celebrating is that we have reached over 30 million people in 18 different countries and over 250 million impressions of support in the first 6 months in the Social Media Girlfriends community! Our #17: We are so grateful for the many people within our communities who are cheerleaders and who support one another without us asking for them to do it! GirlFriend: It is so hard for us to thank one person because there are so many to choose from and no one is more important than the next, so if we had to choose one person to thank it would be… our entire community.


And then there's me: Shasta Nelson (aka @girlFRNDcircles), Founder of

My favorite aspect of GirlFriendCircles, the women's friendship matching site, is talking and writing about friendship.  This last year I was excited to expand this blog (subscribe top right corner if you're new!) and for the Huffington Post. My #17 is weekends with my husband-- the restorative time when I remind myself that my self-worth is not tied to my business worth. And a GirlFriend I want to shout-out to is Daneen for being willing to keep investing in our friendship even though the mom/non-mom difference between us can feel vast.

A pretty amazing round-up, huh?  :)  How much more enjoyable my social media experience  has been because of these women!  Follow all of us on twitter by following this list: @Girlfriendology/friendship-circle

Your Contact Friends?

What worlds are you a part of where building some new friendships would be meaningful? Where do you need inspiration? Resources? Encouragement?

What are you hoping to accomplish in 2012? Weight loss? Business growth? Home-schooling your kids? Involvement in a church? Hanging out with more singles? Where can you find those people? How can you start the connections?

All friendships start here with your contact friends. Put yourself out there and introduce yourself!


p.s. And huge thanks to Girlfriend Celebrations (Dawn Bertuca & Tina Bishop) who were founding members of our Friendship Circle, helping get us all together!


Mixing Friendships and Work, by Dr. Christina Schlachter

Note from Shasta: For Friendship Month this September I’ve invited some women to guest blog for me, adding their voices and experiences to our journey.  I’m honored to host this posting by Dr. Christina Schlachter (bio at the end).  I met her at a conference last February and while we don't live near each other, we've become "business friends." I hardly ever write on friendships at work so I'm glad she took that angle! And I hope you'll all comment with things you've learned about work relationships! ---------------------------------------

When we were little girls, we would make friends with the girls in our homeroom class, play hopscotch together during recess, and pass notes during science class when we thought the teacher was not looking.

As grown women, homerooms have been traded for conference rooms, playgrounds for a morning latte at the corner coffee shop, and we text friends the latest gossip from our computers as we sit in our cubicles at work. It is amazing how things have changed, yet really stayed the same.

For those who work in offices, we spend over 8 hours a day with our “colleague” friends, so it makes complete sense that we would want to get to know and perhaps become close friends with those around us at the water cooler. But what do you do when your friend (or you) becomes the boss?

Or even for those of who work from home or run our own companies, we still create a business network that can become friends, or need our friends to help us with our businesses.  When I started my own coaching and training firm four years ago, I was thrilled to share my excitement and good fortune with friends by using them as vendors, partners, and eventually as clients. The last thing I needed to do was to partner with someone I knew nothing about – I had too much on my plate already! I trusted my friends’ opinions when it came to any problem I was having in my personal life (men, kids, diet, and everything else!), so I assumed I could work with them just as easily.

I happily report that most of my “business friends” have remained intact and many of my clients are also good acquaintances. But I also am sad to say that some of my long time friendships have soured because our “friendship” was used as “wiggle room” when it came to paying bills, providing a quality service, or getting things done on time.

Here's What I Have Learned About Friendship and Work

Alfred A. Montapert, author of The Supreme Philosophy of Man: The Laws of Life, is quoted as saying All lasting business is built on friendship, and while these may not be supreme philosophies, here are three lessons I have learned when I want to make my friendships and business grow together.

  1. State the obvious - QUICKLY!  I have never wanted to hurt a friend’s feelings, especially when it came to telling them they just are not doing a good enough job. Most of my soured friendships in business could have been saved if I had spoken up a little earlier, and I shall take that lesson to my grave. When a friendship is stressed I realize now I need to face the new situation head on and fast. First things first: State the obvious and if things are not working out perfectly, I have learned to let my friends know I value their friendship, and while there is work to be done, I know we can work it out together.
  2. Set clear objectives and timelines: Duh. Make that double duh. I would never have started a new relationship with a new contractor or vendor without having clear objectives, and I realized I was assuming my friends would just get the work done without the same courtesy I provided people I did not know. I was just as a guilty of using wiggle room with my friends’ objectives as my friends were on their end of the deal. While I have realized friendships will need a more “friendly” approach, I now kick off my new business relationship with clear objectives, timelines, and measurements. In a time of stress, there is nothing like clear objectives to keep everyone focused at the task at hand.
  3.  Set time a side for friendship. Just friendship. One mistake I made when I enlisted friends to work with me in business was to assume it was perfectly fine to move our gossiping happy hours to power lunches discussing the next greatest service offering or marketing approach. We used to hang around the water cooler, take long lunches, and instant message about the horrible outfits people wear to work, and all those times abruptly ended. I realized that while I was the boss, I still needed to put a little extra effort into scheduling NO-WORK-TALK coffee, after hours drinks, or just down time to keep my friendship going. It does take a little more effort, but I now know my friendships are worth it.

It is true, the top of the corporate ladder can be lonely. But it does not need to be. You need a team of people to help you get to the top of the corporate ladder, and wouldn’t it be nice if your team was full of people who really liked you and called you friend?

Dr. Christina Schlachter (@DrChristinaS) runs She Leads, an American Express M31000 award winning company providing training and coaching that helps teams & leaders communicate better and achieve their goals.  She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and two sons.  Her book, The Change Plan: Your Guide to Transforming Your Career and Life in 12 Weeks will hit the shelves later this year.


Is He Really a Friend? I'm Doubtful.

I admit I'm a bit more obsessed with the word friend than the average person.  I seem to see and hear it everywhere.  The same way  you begin to notice everyone else has your car once you buy it, how many pregnant women there are when you find out your pregnant, etc.  My antennae is attuned.  Reading through my Oprah magazine the other night... I seemed to circle the word on every page from some health study, research update, celebrity interview or feature story.  I'm probably the only one who does such a thing. I own the fact that I'm a wee-bit more sensitive to its usage. So while I am rarely shocked at my aptitude to hear that word more frequently than others, even I was surprised when I heard it on a serious political Sunday morning news program last weekend.

The Limitations of the Word Friend in World Politics

Condoleezza Rice (former Secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration) at the end of an interview with Fareed Zakaria, (host of CNN's GPS Sunday morning news show) used the ubiquitous word, friend, in what I'd call an inappropriate place.

Fareed, at the end of the interview asked Rice to respond to the repeated criticisms pointed at her by her former cabinet member, Don Rumsfeld, Bush's Secretary of Defense.

Condeleezza Rice on Fareed

Fareed: "Rumsfeld says you were, to put it bluntly, a bad national security adviser.. that produced a lot of the dysfunction... putting the blame squarely on you."

Rice: "Don is a friend and will always be a friend.  But he's a grumpy guy, he really is, and simply doesn't know what he's talking about."

Ummm... er...  Friend?  Really?  Someone who a) isn't close enough to you to know what he's talking about, b) criticizes you publicly in his book and interviews, c) implies in not-so-subtle terms that you're incompetent or unqualified, d) throws you under the bus in front of one of the least popular presidents and all the issues surrounding him, and e) as if that's not enough, he's what you'd call a big grump... this is your friend, the one who will "always" be your friend?

The Limitations of the Word Friend in our English Language

For all the women who go through my 21-Day Friendship Journey, the one thing they thank me for, more than anything else, is helping break down the definition of friendship and clearly seeing the different types of friends that we all need.  I've found that we frequently make the mistake of defining the word too narrowly: feeling like everyone has to be a BFF or nothing. That couldn't be further from the truth.

But even I must say that I have no category for the friendship that Rice is describing.  The Rumsfeld-Rice friendship, to me, is simply not friendship. But it does reveal that we lack enough words that carry the nuances we're trying to describe.

I think that what she was trying to say is that this was someone she knows well, in that they do have a rare bond due to some commonalities and shared experiences.  And certainly there is some platonic intimacy there-- where they know a lot of private things about each other.

But does going through a common experience in a bonding way make someone a friend? It can, yes. But it doesn't automatically mean that anyone you're close to is a friend.

I don't care how close you have felt to someone, or how bonding the experience was that you went through-- friendship is not defined by the external circumstances that pushed you together, as much as it is by how you responded to each other in those moments.

If someone proves over-and-over to not have your back, to not want your success, to point fingers, and to be a bear to be around-- this is not a mutual, healthy and positive relationship.  Therefore, it is not a friendship.

The problem is... I don't know what it is.  Do you?  What word could she have used instead?

  • Colleague is too flat, missing the intensity.
  • Enemy is too strong, communicating some hate or fear that may not be there.
  • Acquaintance or Contact doesn't speak to the intimacy or bond.

What other words do we have?  What words are outside the word friend and yet still communicate the shared relationship? Do we need to make one up?  Any ideas?

I'm not going to get over-anal on policing the use of the word friend. I'm okay over-using it to describe all kinds of relationships, but can't we semi-protect it to at least be limited to people who attempt friendliness?

Okay, off my soapbox.  :)



  1. If interested in the next cycle of the 21 Days of Friendship process, use the code Blog to save $10.
  2. I only blog here about once a week, but you can sign up separately to receive notifications of when I post a new article on Huffington Post like my most recent "To the Lonely Married Women."





The Mistake That Cost Me a New Friendship

On Saturday morning, a beautiful girl stood on the Spark & Hustle stage.  She was the only speaker of the 3-day conference to wear tennis shoes and jeans.  Her stylish t-shirt proclaimed "Save the Ta-tas." Julia Fikse

Julia Fikse's presentation, which was to challenge the 100+ female business entrepreneurs to consider how their companies could contribute to non-profit causes, began with words of vulnerability.  She applauded the attendees for their courage in coming to a conference, admitting how hard it can be show up in a room full of strangers.  To illustrate that point, she shared an experience from the evening prior that happened to her in the hotel restaurant.

It’s a story I regret to share.

Julia’s Honesty

Upon her late arrival to the conference, she approached a table of three attendees during their dinner to inquire about the conference schedule, since registration had already closed. She wondered what other programming was happening later in the evening and what time the conference started the following morning. They answered her questions. She thanked them and went back to her table for one.

What they didn’t know, and what she didn’t say until the following morning, was how much she had wished those three women had invited her to dinner.  In that moment of not being included, she joked about feeling like she was back in junior high school days with the sting of wanting to fit in.

My Honesty

The story obviously touched me.  Indeed, two days before, in speaking at the same conference, I had shared similar words. Hoping to normalize the experience for all attendees, I acknowledged the courage it takes to come to conferences where we always wonder if we'll fit in. The two of us were the two speakers to acknowledge that fear publicly.

That's what makes this next ironic sentence hard to write:  I was one of those three women at that table that triggered her feeling of rejection.

Three Reminders I Take Away

Ugh!  I feel embarrassed to admit it.  And certainly don't have to, but obviously feel that the learning potential of the moment outweighs my own regret.

  1. It’s Always Better to Give Her the Option. After she returned to her table, the question was asked at ours: "Should we invite her to eat with us?"  We turned around to look for her and saw that she had a glass of wine in front of her and that she was scribbling in a notebook.  We concluded "She's working on her talk for tomorrow morning" and decided to not interrupt her.  We assumed that we’d be a distraction or that she wouldn’t be interested. In hindsight, what would have been the harm in us asking her anyway? How ironic that she wanted to eat with us and we wanted it too—and yet it didn’t happen for lack of asking.
  2. Feeling Rejected is Rarely About Us. You need to know—Julia seems like one incredible woman. The kind of person I would definitely want as a friend.  I mean, anyone who is so passionate about a cause that she’s willing to sign over half her paycheck to making a difference; and do so in a humorous and fun way—I’d count myself lucky to know her.  So here is a clear example that while she felt the rejection, I can assure you, being the other person, that it was nothing about her.  It was our own distractions and assumptions that prevented the moment.  I know what it’s like on the other side, taking it personal, so it’s good to have reminders that our feeling of rejection is rarely about us.
  3. Defaulting to Yes! Akin to walking by a brand promoter on the street, only to realize I don't even know what I just refused, I realize that sometimes my default response pushes me to say no before I even evaluate the option. It's often only after passing the moment that I realize I never even asked what they were giving away. We say no so easily. I, in essence, said no to someone I very much wish I had said yes to.  My default needs to be yes.  My default needs to be looking for people to meet.  My default needs to remind me to have eyes to see the potential around me. I wonder how many of us miss moments with new friends for lack of simply not jumping on the moment?

The truth is that we all want to be accepted.  No one wants to risk feeling rejected.  We often think that it's the shy-est, most vulnerable in the room that we need to be sensitive to, when in fact it's also the well-known speaker who is out saving the world and running an impressive company.  No matter who we are, we want to be included.

Julia, I am so sorry.  It is my loss.  You are the kind of woman I want to know.  I'd be honored to take you to dinner the next time you're in San Francisco or I'm in L.A. Or, should we ever find ourselves in a hotel restaurant again-- please know, you are most welcome at my table.  :)

The Flywheel of Friendship

A Few Years Ago... During my first year in San Francisco I felt exhausted by the lack of comfortable and meaningful friendships.  Moving away from phenomenal friends in Southern California left me knowing what I was missing in my new city.  And certainly I was meeting people, but we all know how different it is to carry a conversation with friendly people versus hanging out with friends.

The best friends in the world may always be only a telephone call away, but that very act of calling means that we are left updating each other about our lives more than we are ever able to simply live life together, creating new memories.  A vast difference exists between calling to announce a pregnancy, a new romance, a heartbreak or job promotion versus attending a shower, meeting the new love interest, sharing ice cream on the couch or toasting the latest achievement.

But knowing that a circle of friends does more for giving us a sense of belonging in a new city than having a home or job, doesn't mean that friendships just happen. Two immediate problems surfaced for me in my friend search that first year:

  1. More Energy Spent: The first, it takes way more energy to connect with someone I barely know than it does for me to connect with a tried-and-true pal.  After a long and exhausting day, if given the choice to call my long-distance friend or go meet a new one, it was obvious which one I'd choose if left to my mood.  Surely it takes less exertion to converse with someone I know I already like than to spend time trying to audition others for the role. Plus, way easier to chat on the phone while I make dinner or surf facebook giving thumbs up than to stop somewhere on the way home, extending my day.
  2. Less Fulfillment Received: The second challenge was that even in the lunches-here-and-dinners-there with new acquaintances it was never as fulfilling as the conversations with my friends who already knew my history.  The lacking depth, comfort and ease with acquaintances just couldn't compare to what came naturally with those who had already lived life beside me.

One can see quite quickly how tempting it would be to simply rely on our former besties or our only friend than to try to expand the circle.  If ever given the choice between something familiar and something unknown-- it's human nature to stick with the former.  My potential friends couldn't compete.  They would inevitably always fall short-- through no fault of theirs other than I was measuring them against women who had an unfair advantage.

The Flywheel.

From the business cult classic book, Good to Great, comes the concept of the Flywheel. The author, Jim Collins, describes it perfectly:

Picture a huge, heavy flywheel--a massive metal disk mounted horizontally on an axle, about 30 feet in diameter, 2 feet thick, and weighing about 5,000 pounds.  Now imagine your task it to get that flywheel rotating on the axle as fast and long as possible.

Pushing with great effort, you get the flywheel to inch forward, moving almost imperceptibly at first.  You keep pushing and, after two or three hours of persistent effort, you get the flywheel to complete one entire turn.

My Flywheels

You keep pushing, and the flywheel begins to move a bit faster, and with continued great effort, you move it around a second rotation. You keep pushing in a consistent direction. Three turns... four...five... six...the flywheel builds up speed... keep pushing... nine...ten.. it builds momentum...eleven... twelve... moving faster with every turn..twenty...thirty...fifty...a hundred.

Then, at some point--breakthrough!  The momentum of the thing kicks in your's own heavy weight working for you. You're pushing no harder than during the first rotation, but he flywheel goes faster and faster. Each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort.


My Friendship Flywheel now has a momentum that cannot be stopped, an intensity that produces more energy than it requires. It wasn't always this way.  But it is now.

I still get together at least once a year with my girlfriends from Southern Cal and try to call them occasionally, and now I am also surrounded by amazing women who know my day-to-day life, who cheer for me when we get together regularly, who remind me that I am decidedly not alone in this city.

The first few turns of your Friendship Flywheel may feel like too much work.  You may think it's not worth the awkwardness and exertion.  You might be tempted to think it's not meaningful enough to sacrifice time and energy to push.  It may feel like the movements are imperceptible right now.

But believe.  Believe in the investment.  Believe in the Friendship Flywheel.  Believe that it will get easier, stronger, faster.  Believe that what feels unnatural this year will feel natural next year.  Believe that every turn of the wheel pushes you to greater chances of being surrounded by community in the future. Believe that showing up at a ConnectingCircle this weekend may be but one push to ensure that you have a good friend in your life next March.  It all counts-- believe.

What is the hardest thing, in your opinion, about making new friends? What takes the most energy? When are you tempted to feel it's not worth it? What motivates you to keep trying?


p.s.  Just wanted to share that I'm now a Huffington Post blogger for women's friendship. Yay! You can sign up on their site get an email alert when I post a new article each week, if interested. (I'm trying to post both here and there once a week each.)





How Friendships Can Contribute to the Power Vs. Likability Conundrum

"Women can be powerful. Women can be likable.  Being both is hard to do." says Fortune editor Patricia Sellers in her post this last week, "Facing Up to the Female Power Conundrum." My Own Power Struggle

I totally resonate with this battle. And it's not just a theoretical fear.  From experience, I know that as others perceive me in leadership, power or influence that my relationships more frequently have experienced jealousy, competition & criticism. As a people-pleaser, it's a temptation to choose popularity at the expense of my power.

On Friday, I spent part of the day in a coffee shop with a girlfriend of mine.  Part of our conversation centered around a workshop we had both attended last weekend where six of us participants went through a process of discovering our essence.  While hard to explain, it's basically stripping away all the titles, identities and things we do for others to land on a handful of phrases that captures who we truly are.  An acorn has the essence of an oak tree-- that which it is meant to become.

The hardest part of that workshop for me was owning how powerful my essence feels.  For me, standing in that group and stating my essence was really difficult (even though they all validated and pushed me to see what they saw.)  It felt presumptuous, vain, bold and big.

The little voice of my critic kept whispering "Who do you think you are to say those things about yourself?"

I was raised being told that I could be anything I wanted, but somewhere along the way I received messages that it wasn't acceptable to look like I wanted it. Rather, I felt like others celebrated false modesty, encouraged giving all credit to others, expected me to undersell my contributions and wanted me to pretend I didn't care for ambition and accomplishment.

To be truthful, I know I have a greater power and force than I am currently owning. My fear? As the article nailed on the head: losing likability.

The Role of Friendship in the Power Conundrum

There is still a huge difference between how we perceive men in power versus women in power.  And it would be easy to point to men as the obstacle to us owning our power, but in my experience it is definitely more my relationships with other women that will influence whether I step into my ambition.  Apparently, both genders have a harder time liking women in power as much as we like men in power.  But I'll argue that women have a stronger influence in empowering or preventing other women from having to choose one or the other.

Two years ago, sitting in the living room of a girlfriends home, she read us all the famous Marianne Williamson quote:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

And we sat in a circle, vowing to each other that we would rise to the occasion of being women who would contribute to all of us being our best.  It was powerful, to say the least. And now for two years they have proven that to be true. We have all chosen repeatedly, and it's not always our first impulse, to cheer for each other even if it makes us jealous and taps our own desires. But we hold to the belief that when she wins it will inspire my own wins.  It's not an either-or where only one of us gets what we hope.

The role of a friend is to remind us that we will both applaud each others happiness, not just our own.

Choose Both & Let your Friends Choose Both.

I can only hope that in the community that we will continue to try to be women who show up in ways that prove that the choice doesn't have to be between likability and accomplishment. We may not be able to solve the media bias or bring equality per se, but in our own small way, we can offer each other friendship that can be sustained through whatever ambitions we each choose to chase. If we cheer for each other, we will at least know we are liked among those who know us.

On Friday, my girlfriend modeled this.  She is pushing me to trust that whatever I step into, she is going to be there. So while I totally understand the power struggle that women feel, here is one girl who isn't being forced to choose only one.

I will choose to own both my power and keep my friends.

My Four Friendship Failures

Yesterday I attended FailCon 2010, a conference for start-up companies that works off the premise that rather than listening to a whole bunch of presenters talk about success, that sometimes we learn more from failure. Their motto "Embrace Your Mistakes. Build Your Success." reminds everyone that failure is part of the process, something to respond to and learn from, rather than simply to be avoided. Love it! So in the spirit of failure, here are some mistakes I have made in my friendship journey and what I have learned from those moments.

  1. Mistake #1: Not Identifying My Need for More Friends. Before I moved to San Francisco I could honestly say that I had really good friends. Really, really good friends. And I had just re-married. Suffice it to say, I didn't move here feeling lonely. If anything, I moved here wondering how I could possibly stay in touch with all my good friends. But my mistake became more clear when I realized that no matter how amazing my friends are-- if they don't live near me then our entire relationship is dependent upon UPDATING each other on life rather than EXPERIENCING life together. I wasn't creating new memories with friends. Rather, I was reliving old ones, simply telling them about what I had done or worse, telling them all that I would like to do if I had someone to do it with me. For me, no mater how awesome my friends were, I needed local friends. What friends do you need to enhance your current life?
  2. Mistake #2: Choosing "Present Easy" Over "Future Meaningful." This mistake is still a temptation for me. When I first moved to San Francisco, it was WAY more easy and meaningful to call a far-away friend and tell them about my day than it was to go grab drinks with potential friends. The former required nothing of me except being curled up on the couch with my phone. The latter required me to figure out logistics, travel to get somewhere/take up my whole evening and it took so much more energy to be "on." The former felt good since she could affirm who I was, whereas the latter often felt exhausting since we were sizing each other up. If given the choice-- it was easy to see why I chose the phone friend. But the truth is, if my goal is to have meaningful friends close by then I simply have to put in the time (even if it's not as fun up front) to build that bond. Like exercise, it will always feel better to sit on the couch than to drag my butt to the gym-- but only one of those options will lead me to my future goal.
  3. Mistake #3: Expecting my Strengths From Others. I'm really good at asking people questions. I'm really good at affirming and expressing value in people. I'm really good at being honest and going deep with people. So it's easy for me to walk away from a conversation or time with friends (or potential friends) and judge them on the things I do well. I'll say to myself "they did almost all the talking, they never asked me any questions" and feel put-off that I gave my best and it wasn't reciprocated. But now, I understand love languages, strengths and preferences better. I have learned to see where my friends are MUCH BETTER than I am at things that are super meaningful. She's much better at offering to help do favors. She's much better at calling me regularly and staying in touch. She's much better at not judging me. She's much better at seeing what I'm possible of and not letting me settle for less. She's much better at telling jokes. And just as I'd hate to be crossed off their list because I don't do their strengths well, I want to go into friendships not expecting us to be 50/50 in each thing, rather to allow for mutuality to come from the whole package, not each trait. Now if she forgets to ask about my life-- I'll just volunteer it. :)
  4. Mistake #4: Treating All Friends Equally. I know a lot of people and now have a lot of friends. Which means that if I had one night a week set aside for girlfriends and rotated a different friend each week then it could be a couple of months before I saw the same one again. One mistake that some of us busy, scheduled and social women make is to see all our friends as a big group we need to tend to, when in fact no one can keep up meaningfully with that many people. Now, I have 4 women that I consider my closest friends which means that I will give more to them than to others. They get priority. Two of them live a long ways away so I commit to calling them daily/weekly even though there are other women I love that I haven't talked to in a while. And two of them live locally which means they get priority when my schedule gets full. They trump the larger group. It ensures that I have some friends that really know my life, can interact with me in meaningful ways and that I have committed to be mindful of their lives. So by all means I want to stay connected to all 20, but these 4 get the regularity!

Clearly, I am far from the perfect friend.

Just as the CEO's and presenters at the conference yesterday are far from perfect. We all make mistakes. We all bring our wounds, habits, fears and tendencies to the relationship. We all get busy and forget.

Two imperfect people who make mistakes can't have a perfect friendship. We'll be disappointed by each other. But let's be the kind of friends that learn from those moments! I want to show up in a way that affirms my friends for loving me despite my lack and more importantly, to love them despite theirs.

To our failures! For isn't that where true friendship is found anyhow? Where we find the people who know us and who love us anyway. :)

------------- p.s. I'll make more mistakes as CEO of GirlFriendCircles too. Thanks for loving me anyhow and staying on the journey as we try to make it as easy as possible for each other to step into new friendships!

How Many Potential Friends Do You Need?

Kind of a moment-of-incentive last night, which I think can give meaning to our world of developing friendships. I attended our monthly San Francisco Coaches Association meeting where our speaker this month, Michael Sharest, from Business Growth Solutions talked about how solo-preneuers can make $250,000 per year. The irony, I think, is that most life coaches don't go into that industry in order to be rich, they go into it as a life calling to help participate in life transformation and well-being for others. And yet, they find themselves struggling to pay bills in order to do what they feel compelled to be doing. We often think that if we're good-- people will come to us.

You know the feeling: If I have a good product, people will flock to it. Or, if I'm a fun person, people will want to date me. Or, if I say exercise is important to me, I'm sure I'll do it. Or, if I articulate my beliefs clearly, people will agree with me. Or, in our case, if I sign up to make friends, that it will just happen.

Sharest, last night, got into the numbers of business. It's seeing the formula in front of you that says "If this really matters to you, here is how to make it happen." With enough experience in small service businesses-- he knows the returns. So if an entrepreneur needs X amount of money, then that means X number of clients, which means that he needs to speak twice a month to an audience of 30 to get 6 people to sign up for a free consultation, where maybe 4-5 of them will actually follow-through with the appointment, and then 2-3 new clients will be signed up. With the math in front of you, you can prepare your expectations to work hard and smart for what matters to you. If public speaking isn't your thing, then know your numbers on newsletters, networking, advertising, referrals, etc.

The Numbers of Friendship In our case, what are the numbers for developing friendships? How many people do you have to meet before you feel chemistry with one of them? And how many of those people do you have to meet and feel chemistry with where it's mutual, reciprocated and begins to get scheduled into your life? And out of those people, how many of them will turn into real, long-lasting, shared friendships?

I don't know the numbers for you yet, but it might be worth figuring out? It's like a funnel, taking a crowd and narrowing it down to the few people you need on the other end. Do you have to meet 10 women to feel chemistry/connection with 4 of them so that maybe 3 of them actually get scheduled for more time with you before you realize that really only 2 of them will be women who prove to be the right friends for you?

How does this serve you? So if that above example were true, then you would know that you need to meet at least ten women before you could expect to make two new friends. We know that if we meet three people at a cafe one night, chances are that not all three will be our new best friends, maybe not any of them this time. But if you do three groups then chances are that you will find your one or two?

Doesn't it remind us that developing friendship is no less worthy of our time, intentionality and greatest effort than building a business? It somehow reminds me that not everyone I meet is destined to be my best friend and that I may need to meet several groups of women before I find those two that will be worthy of that title. It reminds me that this isn't an instant process. It reminds me that I can't give up after just 1-2 attempts. It reminds me that it has less to do with me if I don't meet the right four girls the first time, and more to do with the math. I simply need to remind myself that the more I meet the right people, the more I will "weed" out the ones that aren't for me. I can commit to trying different strategies, meeting different women and knowing that the math works in my favor-- I will end up with the x number of friends I want, if I'm willing to work the process.

Math isn't my favorite subject. And friendships can't be boiled down to a formula. But something tells me that the principles still have a lot to remind us. :) Best to you as you act on what you have said is important to you-- the expanding of your circle of friends.