Frictionless Friendship

Selling cars, social manipulation, and the Infinite Everest

I had a mentor when I started selling luxury cars, his name was Brandon. He was sharp, clean cut, square-jawed, and well spoken. Brandon was the alpha salesman, and I gravitated towards him within moments of us meeting.

Something I observed about Brandon from the start was that he wasn’t the most knowledgable guy when it came to cars. In fact, it might be more accurate to say that Brandon didn’t know shit about cars. But it didn’t matter. What he knew better than anyone else was people. And that, as it turns out, is what selling cars is all about.

Brandon was the type of mentor who couldn’t articulate what he was doing, and why he was doing it. So I had to learn from observation. By his own admission, Brandon didn’t think he taught me very much. But nothing could be further from the truth.

He taught me the power of tactical flattery, and how to play off of peoples’ egos. That breaking the touch barrier, with a friendly nudge on the shoulder, builds trust.

He taught me how to mirror body language, and to never argue, and to always agree.

He taught me to build castles in the sky, to appeal to peoples’ fantasies.

He taught me that 90% of the time, you could be goofing off, picking your teeth in your office, as long as you were a machine for the other 10%.

He taught me that all of sales, is about being a likable person.

He was likable, and with his help, I became likable too.

The game of the car salesman, the socialite, and the man of the hour, is the game of convincing people to like you, and it works shockingly well. It works when you’re trying to sell cars, or gain customers, or pick up girls at a bar. It doesn’t work, however, when you’re trying to find a lifelong partner, or build a deep friendship.

That’s because when we play these games, and employ subtle manipulations, we undermine our ability to go the distance with those who matter the most. And going the distance is really all that matters.

If you really start to look at the prevailing research on friendship, you’ll find that it all concludes in the exact same way. In order to cultivate a deep and lasting connection, the defining factor is time. Time spent together in conversation, on walks, at the movies, in each other’s homes, on vacation, in the park, at the gym, in the bowling alley. Relationships need time. Hundreds of hours—this much is clear.

And by trying to be likable, we degrade this most fundamental requirement of connection.

You know that friend—well actually, they’re probably more of an acquaintance of yours—that you have to always dress up for? The one that you have to be “on your game” to hang out with. The one where it can never just be casual.

They’re that one person you feel insecure around. Like you’re constantly having to convince them that you’re cool enough, or smart enough, or rich enough to be their friend.

When they invite you out for the first time, you invariably feel a rush of excitement. It’s your shot to be a part of the inner circle. But after 10 times, or 20, or 100 times of this, you start to get worn down.

Each time you choose to mold yourself to someone else’s liking—whether it’s in a personal, professional, platonic, or romantic setting—you add just a tiny bit of friction to the relationship. And this friction builds and builds. Until eventually, it burns away your resolve to keep going.

So a day will come—whether it be a week, a month, or a year from now—that you’ll choose smooth over rough. Frictionless over friction. And on that day, the jig is up. The ruse will fall, and you will abandon the people who you’ve been trying to convince to like you.

It will all have been for nothing.

When looking at our relationships through this lens, the biggest deterrent of genuine connection isn’t whether or not we can convince people to like us, but rather, will we have the stamina to go the distance. To show up, day after day.

In this way, we’re like a mountain climber. Meticulously considering any excess baggage, before venturing to scale the summit. Because ounces add up. Multiplied over the tens of thousands of little steps, even the smallest resistance we carry undermines the longevity of our journey.

And when you’re trying to form a real, deep relationship, you’re not just climbing any old mountain. You’re climbing Everest. In fact, you’re climbing an infinite Everest.

On a journey like that, what kind of friction can you afford to have?

Something I always found interesting about my mentor Brandon was that, for the majority of his time at work, he was in his sitting alone in his office. Picking his teeth, scrolling his phone, and playing computer games.

After enough time observing his routines, I realized that the reason he spent so much of time in the back room, away from people, and customers, was that he was like a bear in its den. He was hibernating. He was recovering.

The toll of maintaining the facade was utterly exhausting. The games, the persona, and the mental gymnastics he had to perform on the sales floor made him resent the job. So he retreated to being silly, and goofing off, and disconnecting as a way to cope. As it turned out, he resented the lengths at which he had to go to be so damn charismatic.

I played this same game for a long time. The game of trying to become the alpha and the chameleon. I tried to scale the social ranks and become the life of the party, and convince people to fall in love with me. And I can say with full certainty, it’s exhausting, and meaningless.

In the end, the people we’re trying to spend our lives with are not our customers. They’re not a one time interaction. They’re people we’ve chosen to go the distance with.

Don’t erode your ability to go deep, and build lasting relationships, by building them on a foundation you’re destined to resent.

—Zac

PS. If you’ve made it all the way down here and don’t feel that you’ve just wasted five minutes, consider hitting the like button on this essay.

It helps others find it. And it makes me happy.

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