Today’s post is the featured article from the September 2007 issue of  The Front Porch Newsletter.  If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

blumbergface1It was just another postcard in the mail. It was advertising Peter Katz’s book, The New Urbanism. And it was at least six years ago — but I remember the quote on the front of the card just as if it arrived in yesterday’s mail. It simply said, “We have become a society awash in networks, yet starved for community.” How true these words rang six years ago — and how true they ring today. These words ring an alarm begging us to take an inventory of the real depth of our relationships. The technology of cell phones, emails, video games and warp-speed entertainment allow us to live a mile wide, but only an inch deep.

Speaking of entertainment — I am in New York and was on Broadway tonight! No — I wasn’t acting. Not even speaking! I am here for a keynote tomorrow, but tonight I was just walking to dinner down Broadway. The sidewalks were packed and as night began to fall the flashing lights and bigger-than-life video monitors became brighter and more noticeable. Standing just feet from where the New Year’s Ball drops here in New York, there was a sense of energy that only the streets of New York can muster. The sense of speed was seductive while thousands of people rushed about their way —disconnected. It probably felt different on Broadway on Tuesday, September 11th, 2001. But on Wednesday, September 26th 2007, it felt disconnected. A mile wide and an inch deep. So what does that have to do with business — and you and me? Everything.

A recent survey indicated that 25% of Americans say they do not have even one deep friendship they could turn to in times of real trouble — and 50% indicated they had only two or three. I bet the same individuals responding to this survey could be noted for having more current connections than previous generations would have had in an entire lifetime. A mile wide and an inch deep.

I have no problem with having lots of connections — unless they come at the expense of real genuine friendships. The quality of the culture of our workplaces, our homes and our communities deeply depend on the depth of our relationships. We put enormous time, energy and resources into building skills. The question is — do we put the same time, energy and effort into developing meaningful relationships? I certainly meet people who I know value meaningful relationships — and they are the first to tell me how hard it is to keep relationships a priority. “A mile wide” can become a real habit. When you are a jet-ski skimming the waves on the surface of the ocean, you are note likely to submerge into the depths of an ocean like a submarine. “A mile wide” can be a thrill — until life temporarily comes crashing down and you need real friends.

It might be helpful for us each to take an inventory of our most meaningful friendships in our professional and personal journey. It might then do us good to assess the health of that relationship. My good friend, Dave Houser, used to say that you need to always “water the garden” of friendships. Are your friendships wilting? Are they fading into a slow death from neglect? Dave knows about gardens. The late summer scene on the patio of his Atlanta condo looks like a garden on steroids. I think it is actually Miracle Grow, but I have never known for sure. What I do know is that Dave tends to the garden. Maybe some of your most meaningful relationships need a dose of Miracle Grow.

Last week I had the opportunity to reconnect with four friends that I have known since my early 20’s. It had been way too long since we connected. It was food for the soul to visit with them as I recalled how each of them was some of life’s greatest blessings in my journey on this earth. Each one of them had been a mile deep in my life. And it was truly a blessing to reconnect — just as if time had never passed.

I am convinced when we look back on our experience of life — at work, at home and in our community — we will find that the quality of the experience will be in direct correlation to the depth of our relationships.

ACTION IDEA: Do three quick things —
1. Make a list of your most meaningful and trustworthy relationships and give each of them one of three following ratings of health: 5 is in “full-bloom” — 3 is “wilting” — and “1” is “wilted”.
2. Go buy some Miracle Grow. Use it to fertilize your indoor and outdoor plants. Every time you fertilize a plant think of a relationship you need to fertilize as well.
3. Take five-minutes to send a “thank-you” note to a friend and let them know you simply appreciate your friendship. Sound corny? I bet it wouldn’t feel that way if you received one of those notes in your mailbox!