Book Review: Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without by Tom Rath

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In Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without, Tom Rath embarks on a massive study about the impact of friendships in all contexts. In particular, he devotes a section to friendship in the workplace and discovered “that people who have a ‘best friend at work’ are seven times as likely to be engaged in their job.”

Let’s pause and reflect on the meaning of that for a minute. For most of us it seems that friendships are discouraged at the workplace and yet Rath is able to prove that “many people succeed or fail based on the support and involvement of their best friends.” I am in the midst of tackling my own book on Cultivating Winning Relationships that takes a look at relationship dynamics in the workplace and so quite obviously this book resonated with me.

What struck me most was the importance Rath placed on not forcing your friends to be who they are not. Rath defines friends into “Eight Vital Roles”. These are: Builder, Champion, Collaborator, Companion, Connector, Energizer, Mind Opener and Navigator. He not only includes steps on how to strengthen these relationships but also helps us to clarify which people in our lives play which roles. Having an understanding of these roles allows each person to simply be who they are and not who we need them to be. This frees us from trying to expect everything from one person.

I  know that I would not be where I am today were it not for my stauch supporters and “vital friends.” So today I do something I should do more often and say thank you to those people and take the time to recognize how important these people are in my life and career.

When was the last time you thanked your friends for being who they are?