People who are friends in good and bad times are priceless
Monday Starters – By Soo Ewe Jin
THE MAS-Air Asia alliance remains very much the talk of Corporate Malaysia. In the many analyses so far, the recurring theme seems to be about how erstwhile enemies are going to work together as friends.
My colleague used the Sun Tzu quote, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer,” to lead off the cover feature on the deal in StarBizWeek on Aug 13. Somewhere in the story, there is this quote by Tony Fernandes: “You don’t have to be an enemy forever, life is too short.”
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Actually, there is not that much that separates the corporate world and politics as far as alliances are concerned.
In politics, it is said that there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests. Politicians are fond of referring to their adversaries as “strange bedfellows” but will not hesitate to climb into the same bed if it suits their interests.
In the world of high-finance, bitter rivals can easily sleep on in the same bed, so long as it is good for the bottom line.
For some business people, however, friendship is not a word that exists in their vocabulary. Many good friends who go into business together learn the hard way that years of friendship count for nothing once the business issues get into the way.
A friend told me once that he will never hire me, or ask me to be his business partner, simply because he values our friendship too much.
I once met a man at a hospital as he was dying. He told me how he had pursued wealth and success at any cost. If a family member or close friend went against him, he would not spare them any mercy.
“But look at me now. I do not have long to live. But if I recover, I will surely be a different person. I will seek the forgiveness of those I have hurt. I will forgive others. I will give back to society. I will try not to be so nasty to people,” he said.
I was there to bring him a message from a former business partner who was somehow not able to bring himself to see him personally. He told me to tell him that he did not hold anything against him and to wish him well.
Tears came to his eyes. “I wish he would come and tell me this personally. I have done so much harm to him and his business. But he still thinks of me and is concerned for me.” I told him, “I hope and pray that you will both meet up and forgive each other.” They never did. He died one week later.
I was thinking about friendship this past week after a friend posted on his Facebook this simple reflection: “It has been said that everlasting friends go long periods of time without speaking and never question the friendship. These friends pick up like they just spoke yesterday, regardless of how long it has been or how far away they live; they don’t hold grudges. They understand that life is busy and know that you will always love them.”
Whether we want to admit it or not, sheer numbers of acquaintances in itself is no reflection of the number of real friends we have. Just ask anyone previously in a high position who has retired and he will tell you about the sense of “abandonment” that one feels sometimes.
Suddenly, no one is free for lunch or for teh tarik, one such person told me recently.
This is not to say that it is not possible to have real friends within working relationships. But it can only come about if we are genuinely concerned about the person, and not just the title he or she holds.
And the test of that friendship will come when you are going through a difficult journey, and he is there for you.
● Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin is thankful for friends, near and far, new and old, who bring that special touch into his life, through good and bad times.