Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Power of Friendship (2/10/2013)

The following lecture was given at the February's second Sunday Service:

In our lives we have several chances to encounter our best friends.  Unfortunately in my life, I have moved over 20 times because of my father’s job and my job, but I made many good friends and at the same time lost contacts and cannot contact some of them.  Friendship is very important in human lives.  Because of my friends and our friendships I have been able to have a beautiful, successful life. These friends and our friendships are the power to create my abundant and fulfilling life.

Rev. Masaharu Taniguchi, founder of Seicho-No-Ie, wrote, “As implied in the statement that man is a social animal, man cannot live without others.  What is particularly important is to have good friends.  Good friends are essential throughout life, but people who are good friends from childhood and youth have the opportunity to discover the good points of each other, praise each other, comfort each other, and help each other. Through such efforts, they are enabled to develop tremendously.” (For Young People, p. 76)

Regarding the friendship Rev. Taniguchi explained the following things in the same book:

1. Have good friends, especially from youth.
2. A good friend will have faith in us.
3. Even with ordinary material success, much has to be credited to the power of good friends. 
4. An important thing is that our friends have an influence on our personality.
5. How can we get good friends?
6. At times the best friend for us is a good book rather than a human being.

I think the first and second ones do not need an explanation.  The third one Rev. Taniguchi emphasized how important it is to have a good friend in order to be successful. He wrote:

“Let us say that someone opens a law office. He has graduated from a law school and passed his bar examination, but he has no contacts. No one knows what his capabilities might be...If he has good friends or acquaintances who praise his talents and ability and recommend him to others, he may in due course become a famous lawyer and come to enjoy wealth and reputation abundantly. Through the recommendation of a friend he might be appointed a judge, a presiding judge, a chief justice of a higher court, and perhaps in time a chief justice of the Supreme Court. In life it is difficult to be recognized just because one is capable. There are such things as influence and connections and, through the good offices of another, a person who is somewhat less talented than the best may still get ahead. That is an advantage enjoyed by those who have good friends.” (pages 77-78)

To be successful, we need good friends, but a more essential thing for us to have good friends is to affect our personality. Rev. Taniguchi said, “As just discussed, friendship is necessary even for material success, but much more important is its influence on personality.  Wealth and reputation may be lost over time but an influence on personality stays for a lifetime and becomes a treasure or a handicap.” (p. 79)

Then, how can we have good friends?  I would like to introduce some concrete ways sharing a book, How to Make Luck 7 Secrets Lucky People Use to Succeed, by Marc Myers.  In this book he introduces some concrete ways to become successful, and he especially mentioned that our friends sometimes become gate persons (key persons) to bring us luck.

1)             Loyal: Become known for being loyal to your friends. When you develop a reputation for sticking by your friends, you win the respect of important people. Being known as a loyal friend shows that you stand by those who help you and that you know how to reciprocate when a favor is done for you. As a result, you make life look easy and you become someone people want to help. (p. 97)
2)           Naïve: No matter how knowledgeable or experienced you think you are, you need something extra to make people want to go out of their way for you. For some lucky people, that something extra is an ability to be little naïve. (119)
3)           Find out how smart others are: A childlike curiosity is nothing more than being fascinated by whats being said and showing it. Instead of trying to show how smart you are, its far more productive and beneficial to find out how smart others are. (124)
4)           Do not expect repayment: When you make sacrifices for people without expecting or asking for repayment, you double your chances of receiving good fortune. (129)
5)            When you become generous to your friend:
a) To be truly generous, dont spend too much time thinking about what youve done for others, only about what others are doing with the gifts youve given them.
b) Give when your generosity will build high-quality friendships.
c) Give when people are down on their luck. One of the best times to offer assistance is when people are facing hard times.
d) Giving is important, but so is following up with additional help.
e) Give something else if you cant give what was requested. (134-135)
6)           Do not count on too much: Dont get greedy. A big mistake many people make when friends or contacts provide them with help is expecting a miracle. They count on their key contacts to give them whatever they want whenever they need it. The problem is that people put too much faith in too few key contacts. They expect these influential people to make their lives easier on demand. What impatient people fail to remember is that key contacts are busy. (153)

By using these techniques we will be able to find lifelong friends and enjoy our friendship.  If we have these good friends, we can have great treasures better than material treasures.  In my very first lecture of this year I shared my personal experience how my Seicho-No-Ie friends helped me to come to the United States.  Before working at the local Seicho-No-Ie Chiba Missionary Area, I had worked for the Hilton Hotel for 8 years.  In the first 6 years I worked in the Tokyo area.  While working at the Tokyo Hilton Hotel, I lost my father in 1987.  I was devastated and I lost a big guidance in my life.  When my father was collapsed, I visited him and helped my mother to take care of him for almost 30 days. My father died on April 17, 1987, but my grandfather had died March 3, 1987.  So, I took about 4 or 5 days of for the funeral.  After a few weeks, I was able to take 4 weeks days off because of my accumulated paid vacations; however, if my friends did not cooperate to assist my shift for a month, I would not be able to take these paid vacations. When I left the Hilton Hotel at the end of December 1990, I had the accumulated vacations and my last day of working at the hotel was November 3, 1990. It was usually difficult for us to take paid vacation fully, but I had been able to take days off about 5 weeks within 2 months because of my friends helping me.

In addition to this, one of my best friends at that time was head hunted for the new opening Hilton Hotel near Tokyo Disneyland and thought that it was good for me to work with him in a new environment.  He asked me to work with him at the new hotel but I was not interested.  He strongly suggested his recruiter to recruit me to work there with the exact same conditions including the salary.  In this way I was promoted under this great condition without any effort.  The most important thing was that I moved to Chiba because I was able to meet one of my mentors who is Rev. Nanao Yamato.  Because of his influence and support, I was able to work at the Seicho-No-Ie Chiba Missionary Area.  If I had not moved to the new hotel, I would not have come to the United States because Rev. Yamato gave me a chance to study at UCLA and 6 months vacations.  Without my friends present, the Mario Kawakami would not exist and you would not be able to listen to my lecture.  Now, I believe you understand how important it is to have good friends.

Some of you may say that some people do not have a chance to meet a good friend.  In my case as I explained that because of my moving over 20 times, I had difficult times to have friends especially when I was young. Fortunately, my parents guided me to Seicho-No-Ie and I read many SNI books.  They became a part of my life, my philosophy and became very good friends.  Rev. Masaharu Taniguchi wrote the benefit of having good books which might become one of your best friends in For Young People:

“At times the best friend for us is a good book rather than a human being.  Henry Beecher observed that people who read Ruskin change completely after reading his works.  Books are live expressions of the writer and they can give their readers the same influence as living people.  Not only that, books ask for nothing except the small amount to be paid for their purchase; yet they joyfully wait for you to use your entire faculties to absorb and take away any amount of the good things they contain.” (p. 84)

We are often easily affected by our friends.  Depending on our friends we may become cheerful or gloomy, rude or gentle.  If we have bad, insincere friends, we might do bad things without feeling guilty and become insincere.  If we are surrounded by people who delight in finding fault and poking fun, we might do the same thing to others.  If we are surrounded by people who are gentle, tolerant, sincere and industrious, those characteristics will be implanted in us and we will be a very delightful person who attracts many good friends.  Thank you very much.