Friendships on the Water

Some years ago, for grins and chuckles, I started to write for a fly-fishing blog (here). I did so to document my learnings, failures, and outings for myself. Plus I love writing.

Gradually, other anglers offered to write for the blog as well, and we became a crew. We are passionate fly fishers who want to write, share tips, and help others.

Through word-of-mouth our Google rankings rose higher, and the blog grew and grew. It shockingly now is the #1 fly-fishing blog in New England and is #25 in the world, which makes us one of the taller midgets out there in a super-narrow niche.

We make money through ads and affiliate links and give away 100% of our profits to two charities: Project Healing Waters focuses on combat veterans with PTSD and Casting for Recovery works with cancer survivors.

As the blog’s editor, web admin., and social media manager, I have learned a ton about trends that affect my VC job. For example, years ago, it was clear that Instagram was hot and Twitter and Facebook were not. It was obvious that the Google had a monopoly on Web ads and that it would be hard to break.

But the thing I’ve learned the most and which I value the most has been that thing that many men struggle to develop: real and authentic friendships.

Before the pandemic, our crew fished together. There were day trips to local rivers and overnighters at far-flung-and-remote places in Maine and northern New England near Canada.

Over the years, the blog team became closer as we shared secret spots, secret flies, and secrets in general. It’s trite but true: most men best bond through an activity. We can trust each other only after going to shoulder-to-shoulder with someone to gauge a person’s personality and character.

For me, blogging and fishing with younger folks has been great, as nearly all of the writers are in their 20s and 30s. When asked, I give life advice, which was a prelude to the work I do now with my HBS students. I consider such sessions to be sacred. It’s part of my calling.

Recently, one of the younger writers informed us that he was moving out-of-state for a great job. Another writer recently purchased some raw land next to a river. So, yesterday, the crew got together to see the new property, fish, enjoy a river-side wood fire and BBQ, and sample some wine and rye whiskey.

We called it: ‘Shu Fest.

The 14 °F weather didn’t deter us, as we were onto fish early and often, sharing flies and techniques along the way so that each of us had trout in the net. We’re an open book with each other and other anglers with whom we cross paths.

When not eating or fishing, we masked up and had hand sanitizer on hand. Since I’m regularly tested for Covid, I did the cooking which was a joy. Amidst the convivial banter, 25 ounces of Whistle Pig Rye went down quickly. That’s some Pig!

The team didn’t get together at all in 2020, though we did keep in touch via our blog, social media, and an occasional one-on-one fishing foray. We didn’t want to take any chances as the world back then didn’t know what we didn’t know about Covid-19. With things now more known and calm, it felt good and right to re-convene yesterday, combining both a reunion and a farewell.

At the end of the meal, we offered toasts and gave surprise gifts to the new land owner and our friend who is moving away. I thanked the crew and told them that they have been such a bright spot for me during the pandemic.

One of the other writers and I fished until dark, when we could no longer see our flies or our lines. It is as though we didn’t want such a special day to end. Fortune favored us as we each had a double-digit day, which is unusual in winter.

Driving home, redolent of wood fire, grilled burgers and hot dogs, and a touch of whiskey, I couldn’t help but think of my “last day” session with my HBS class. I told them about all the things I wish I had known when I was their age.

It’s a tradition at HBS, if professors want, to give life advice on the last day of class. I took a risk and shared a lot of personal things and takeaways and received a huge number of emails from students thereafter.

I truly do love my VCPE 2020 students. I’m fortunate. I feel that I got the best ones.

One personal lesson I shared is this: happiness is about love. Bonds with friends and family are really it. Fame, fortune, and follies can only get you so far. A famous and robust longitudinal study really showed that (details here.)

As I’ve long advised others and as I continue to remind myself, “we are our choices.” Through luck, happenstance and serendipity, I resolved some years ago to choose to invest in friendships. Little did I know that they would sustain me during such a long, long pandemic.

See you on the water one day….

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