• Tony Dymock

Zeroed Out - Friendships

"Zeroing Out" is one of those phrases I've always loved. In the Army, we used it to describe a weapon whose scope had appropriately been calibrated to the shooter's grip and the bullet trajectory. Contrary to every Hollywood film, if you pick up a random rifle, look down the scope and pull the trigger, it's unlikely you'll land any rounds on target. They just don't work that way ...

Now that I'm out of the Army, I apply the term "Zeroing Out" to any activity that requires me to reset myself to base level. I "Zeroed Out" when I moved from construction to tech. I "Zeroed Out" when I broke up with my long-term ex and turned the spotlight on myself and my own development. But the "Zero Out" I intend to talk about now is the one I do every year or so — the one where you evaluate all the people in your life and decide whether they actually belong there.

It's common knowledge that you're a product of the five people you most associate with. Have you ever stopped to think about the people who surround you? I mean a factual, objective think about them.

You're born with the family you have, or don't have if they abandon you/die in horrific circumstances/abducted by aliens. The friends you have are from proximity, either school or uni or work. We spend all our time with these people and rarely take the time to decide if they're right for us. From personal experience, Zeroing out friendships is a life skill that should be rammed down kids throats as hard as algebra is. It'll at least be useful to a happy life.

I'm pretty confident that humans have a critical number of genuinely sustainable friendships. Mark Manson covered it a bit in his blog. Ignore the 10k friends you see people pretend to have on Insta, I dare say the upper limit is five, MAX. That's five people who you can intimately know. There's probably a further ten you can keep in the periphery, and anyone else is an acquaintance. So the real question becomes, how do you decide gets culled in a Zero Out? It's actually straightforward.

There's a series of questions I ask myself with people in my life.

  • Do we genuinely give a shit about each other? When we're talking, are we actively listening, or just waiting for our turn to talk?

  • Are there any passive-aggressive undercurrents? Are we free to speak our minds to one another, even with difficult topics, without fear of reprisal?

  • Do we complement each other's lives? Is there an exchange of value, or is one of us always dragging the other along?

You'll notice this isn't an exercise in finding fault in the other person. These questions, asked this way, require you to shine the light on YOUR own behaviour, as well as theirs. Maybe you're the shit friend, after all. Which leads into the final question;

  • Do I actually WANT this person in my life?

And that's supremely difficult to answer. It's not one you can rationalise and use your head to answer. Relationships of any kind are not logical by their very nature. You need to FEEL it. Deep down, your mini-you inside knows what it wants. Listen to your heart, and your head will follow.

Thanks to the pandemic, the best and worst of people's behaviours have gone on show. So now I have some Zeroing out to do myself 💪