Lifelong friends and truthtellers

Over the years, I’ve written many blogs about Louie’s gal pals, the many rambunctious puppies, and his tolerance (or occasional intolerance) of guests in our home. I’ve talked about his chestbumping pal, Mick, his walking buddy Sully, and his steady girls Eve and Ellie. But we’ve not talked about Sampson much.

That’s because there’s not much to talk about. Sampson (or Sammy) is just a steady-as-you-go, no drama kind of pup. And Louie loves that because Louie needs steady and stable.

Louie and Sammy met a few years ago. Sampson is an adorable pug who is occasionally stubborn while walking with his mom. But Louie rarely sees that side of Sammy. The pups happily acknowledge each other and then just walk side by side. Sammy waddles, Louie prances, and the pace seems to work for them both.

Lou can be who he is when he’s with Sampson. He can just simply be. It’s almost as though he lets out a long sigh and says, “Hey buddy.” And then they just walk together. They don’t romp
around or chase each other. They just stroll.

While I have many friends and family members who love me just as I am, my lifetime friend, Gina, has known me since the day I was born. Our parents were friends long before we came into
the world, and despite Gina’s family moving to L.A. when we were both three, our parents remained friends and my friendship with Gina deepened over the years. To this day, Gina and I
talk regularly and visit as often as possible.

The best thing about Gina is that I can be my authentic self with her. I don’t have to perform or jump through hoops or pretend or walk on egg shells. I learned about the power of vulnerability decades ago because my friendship with Gina helped me see the areas in my life that kept me from being real. It wasn’t a book or a training session or a counselor, although those are great tools. It was the power of relationship that brought me to where I am today.

Much like Louie and Sampson, Gina and I don’t have to be talking to feel close, we can simply bask in the golden silence of true friendship. We have shared life’s sorrows, including death of
loved ones, divorce, and remarriage (hers, not mine). And we’ve also shared life’s joys, such as the birth of each other’s children. We can call at 3 a.m. knowing the other will answer the phone with, “What’s wrong?” We’ve been through sickness, job promotions and losses, pandemics, economic downturns, children, grandchildren, sixty (something) birthdays, and many Kauai
sunsets. Through thick and thin, we will always be best friends.

I know Gina loves me enough to address a character flaw she may see in me long before others do. I trust her to be honest and caring, so I welcome her feedback. Some leaders think they are
above feedback, but without it they can end up with negative consequences that affect their relationships, as well as their job performance. We all need friends in our lives who act as a
stopgap to our bad behavioral choices. And we must be willing to listen.

Every leader needs a Gina! And every leader needs to listen when their Gina says, “I’m not sure about that.” Just as every Louie needs a Sampson, a steady- as-you-go, let’s walk side-by-side
pal who cares more about you than they do themselves. These kinds of friends truly empower us, enrich our lives, and make us better people, leaders…or pets!

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