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Why You Should Bribe Your Friends and Family To Watch the Super Bowl

The key to happiness is surrounding yourself with people who like the same things you do, like sports and cake

Click here to read this story on Medium.com

Author’s friends and family manipulated into enjoying sports via alcohol, food, and gambling opportunities — photo by author

Whether worshipping the same deities, supporting the same sports franchises, or dancing to the same music, science says being around people who like the same things as you will make you happier, but it’s not as simple as just having more people around.

Losing Friends

I was five years old when my parents’ best friends decided to move to another country. We were recent immigrants, struggling to make it in Canada, and good friends were critical. The loss was palpable and contributed to a state of friendship scarcity that has existed for much of my life. 

When I got married the first time, there were conflicts between my wife and some of my friends. That, and a move from Toronto to San Diego, resulted in a traumatizing social mass extinction event. When I got divorced six years later, I lost another social circle in the mandatory friend allocation lottery that happens after a divorce.

Single again, I redoubled my efforts to make new friends, adopting a strategy of keeping different bundles of relationships, to make sure that if I ever lost one group, I would still have friends left over. My work colleagues, my South Asian friends, my activity partners, random people I met at Starbucks, they all got collected and put into bundles.

It seemed like a nice safe way to avoid ever again losing all of my friends, but there was a problem. Having all these disparate groups of people made it difficult to spend time with all of them, and I wasn’t at all deliberate in spending more, or better, time with those I considered the most valuable or closest to me. Because of my scarcity mindset, I was more focused on having as many friends as possible, instead of on how good my relationships were with them.

I had a lot of shallow friendships.

Friends groups were all in separate circles - doodling by author

Being Friends With My Kids

Having kids is what started me on the path of understanding and managing friendships better. My childhood memories of my parents are mostly that they were wonderful people who yelled at me a lot because they wanted to make me a better human, but we weren’t friends and we didn’t hang out. We didn’t like the same things.

Why would you want to like the same things as your kids? I’m glad you asked.

If you enjoy the time you spend with your kids more, you’ll spend more time with your kids.

In a burst of insight, as I worked to build a relationship with my daughter post-divorce, I got systematic. I had a few things I loved, and if she loved the same things, then it would make it easier to for me to spend more time with her. I repeated this with my two boys from my second marriage. My activities:

Reading. Anything. Comic books. Novels. Cereal box ingredients.

Sports. Great for socializing and bonding.

Video Games. Best when played with other humans.

Movies. In a dark theatre, nobody can tell you’re taking a nap.

My idea was that if my kids liked these things, then we’d always have things to do together and talk about that didn’t involve me yelling at them to make them better humans. 

Reading

This was the easiest. The number one thing a parent can do to encourage their child to read is to leave lots of books lying around. I carefully placed Archie Digests, a huge stack of superhero comics, and my complete set of Calvin & Hobbes Lazy Sunday books around the house. Or as my wife would say, I never picked up my books after I read them. Either way, it worked.

Totally non-copyright-infringing author’s rendition of a popular comic strip featuring a six year old brat and his stuffed tiger friend — created in Midjourney. Why does the kid have a striped tail?

I can’t say they like all the same books I like — none of them have taken to hard science fiction, but my daughter and I love all the same fantasy novels and comics. My boys like fantasy, sports non-fiction and Dilbert, so we can engage often as we share our favourites. 

Sports

I discussed it with my wife, and we allowed the boys to stay up past their bedtimes only if we were all watching a hockey game together on TV. From this early exposure, they grew to love all sports, and it’s now the central subject of conversation between us.

It’s not about the sports, it’s about the bonding. 

Now as a family, when their grandfather is visiting from India we watch Indian Premier League Cricket. NFL playoffs are our favourite time of year and I’m slowly introducing them to sports betting and Texas Hold ’Em poker. It teaches them math and psychology, and it’s a great way for me to make a little spending money. 

Video Games

Video games aren’t traditionally something girls are interested in, so it took some active effort with my daughter.

Starting with innocuous titles like Ecco the Dolphin and Pajama Sam puzzle games, her interest spiked when she asked me one day about World of Warcraft, an online multiplayer game. She had seen me playing it, and despite some misgivings about the violence, I invited her to play with me when she was 11, deciding that us playing together would make it less frightening.

If I thought I loved the game before, playing it with my daughter, and eventually adding in my sons, took it to another level. Xanari the Hunter and Starrani the Priest will live on forever in our family memories.

Look bro, that’s how you take down a level 70 warlock — photo by author

The boys of course took to gaming with a vengeance, every sports game you can imagine and some day maybe they’ll be able to beat me at NHL 24, but not today me lads, not today!

Movies and TV

When my daughter was nine years old, I started taking her to movies with me, and almost always movies I wanted to see myself unless there was a new Disney blockbuster opening. 

She has developed a remarkable tolerance for over the top action movies (every John Wick release) and is the only one in the family who’ll watch horror movies with me. She’s 28 now and we’ve seen over 400 movies together. Thank you daughter! Sorry about having to pull you out of Superbad when you were 12. That was a bit of parenting failure, should’ve read the warnings more carefully.

Honey, real assassins don’t hold their guns sideways — created in Midjourney

Nowadays my wife and I make sure we have TV shows we watch as a family together. The boys are 13 and 14 and we’re working our way through Brooklyn 99, but over the years our official family shows have included Big Shot (high school girls basketball team), the Mighty Ducks (kids hockey team), and all 242 episodes of Modern Family. Twice.

Setting up systems to make sure your kids like what you like will help you spend more quality time with them. More time with your kids also means that they get to see you as a regular person, and that’s good for making better humans.

Systems For Spending Time With Friends

So that’s how I used systems and a little manipulation to create more time with my kids. And five years ago I had an epiphany. I could use similar strategies to create more time to spend with my friends. 

If I could get all my closest friends to know and like each other, I could spend a lot more time with all of them because we’d be at the same parties, rather than having to organize separate smaller events for each group. 

My first experiment with this was planning a trip to Ibiza with ten couples. They were all people I wanted to spend more time with, but some were my music festival friends, some were my newer downtown friends, and some were my older South Asian friends. I guilted them all into coming on the trip by saying it was for my birthday.

Also, everyone knows that Ibiza with Sanjay will be a hoot. That’s exactly what they say, “Sanjay’s going to Ibiza? That’ll be a hoot!” because that’s how they talk in Ibiza.

The experiment was a massive success. We all had a great time despite no common backgrounds and terrible weather for four days straight. By the end of the trip, everyone had made new friends and I could subsequently say to any of my closest peeps, “You know Steven right?”

And they would respond, “Oh yeah, we met in Ibiza! Boy, that was a hoot.”

I had up until that time thought of my relationships as separate circles, and now I began to think of them as concentric circles instead. Much easier to track and maintain, and much easier to prioritize the people closer to the centre.

How often do you want to see these people? A better way to think about it — doodle by author

More Better Relationships

My personal mission these days is More Better Relationships. I want to spend the most, highest quality time with important people in my life, while continuing to meet new people and developing the best of those new relationships. 

When I look back on my life, there are many people who have come and gone that I could have had a great long term relationship with, but I didn’t have any strategy for spending time with them. Now I have strategies! A few examples:

  • I opened a bar and now, whenever someone new suggests meeting up, I tell them when I will be there next and invite them to drop by.

  • I set reminders to call or see people, on a cadence appropriate to that relationship. Call my parents twice a week. Weekly date nights with my wife. Monthly movie nights and lunches with key friends. Semi-annual guys trips. More better relationships!

  • My wife and I throw one big party every year when we invite everyone in our extended group of friends who we’d like to see regularly. Most of them reciprocate, so that keeps us socializing most weekends.

Most recently, I threw my annual Super Bowl party where I get to see mostly guy friends whose paths rarely intersect with mine, but with whom I definitely want to start or maintain a friendship. There is a poker game, a masseuse, a big-ass TV, lots of alcohol, and great food, including cake. Basically I bribe my friends into spending time with me, and as the kids have gotten older, they’ve started to invite their own friends to the party.

Decide who your friends are, who you want to spend time with, and how often you want to do it. Then come up with systems or events to do it regularly.

Don’t let your relationships just happen. Be deliberate. 

Spend time with the people you want to spend time with, bribe them if you have to. You think all these people give a damn about football? 

They’re just here for the cake. 

I write so I can connect with my readers. You can reach me by responding to this email, by commenting on my website, or by responding to the poll below.

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