The Ultimate Life Hack is Friends

nireyalAuthor of Hooked
Autoplay OFF  •  2 years ago
Hi, I'm Nir. I write for TechCrunch, Forbes, Psychology Today, and am a frequent speaker at industry conferences and Fortune 500 companies. I'm the author of "Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products" and have taught at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Design School. I've sold 2 technology companies since 2003 and now help teams design more engaging products.

Visit my website:

My Book ("Hooked"):

The Ultimate Life Hack is Friends

by Nir Eyal

I've always envied friendships on TV

On the hit show Friends, a group of 20-something New Yorkers hang-out daily. I sort of thought these depictions of adult relationships were based on a sliver of reality. Nope. They aren't.

When my wife and I moved to New York City

We waited for our local version of Chandler, Kramer, Monica, and Elaine to come over. But they didn’t. In fact, no one did. What should adult friendships look like?

Not having close friendships = worse than being an alcoholic

A study in 2010 by showed that a lack of social relationships is equivalent to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.

Several months ago, when someone asked: "How are you doing?"

My reply was the standard Silicon Valley yuppie salute: "Good! Super busy!" But it wasn't exactly true. I was super busy, but I wasn't good.

More professional prospects -> More time away from friends

My professional and personal life were going well...but I only felt fine.

Friendships Starve to Death

It's easy to leave the most important people for last. However, the food of friendship is time together. The less time we invest in people the easier it is to make do without them.

For a more satisfying and more fulfilling life

You need somebody to talk to, depend on, and enjoy. My friends & I came up with a way to keep each other close. We call it the "kibbutz." It fits into our lifestyle despite busy schedules.

Here's how our kibbutz works

Every 2 weeks, 4 couples get together to talk about 1 question. Questions range from deep inquiry to lighter more practical questions.

The conversation resembles an interactive Ted talk

The conversation is always contemplative, informative and most often very funny. The topics get us past the small talk. It also prevents the gender split that happens when couples convene.

I always leave the kibbutz with new ideas and insights

Most importantly, I feel closer to my friends. It's that closeness I was missing & it's what finally helped snap me out of my funk. Consistency is key. We set side a time, every other week.

Stiff-arm the kids

Typically they play on their own, but if they do interject, they're given a stern response. We want to model what adult friendships look like.

Friends are not something we abandon like outgrown clothes

Being a good friend means listening when others have something to share and that means not being distracted by anything - including our phones and even our children (unless someone is bleeding)

Forming strong bonds is always important

no matter ho busy we get or how old we are. Lifelong friendships appear to be the key to living a longer life. Friendships help keep us alive. Seeing an occasional status update is no replacement

The people we care about most make life worth living.

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2 years agoReply
I definitely find this interesting. I love the idea of the kibbutz. In fact, my friends and I have our own version of this. Every 1st Friday of the month, a group of us get together for dinner and drinks at someone's home. We talk in depth about religion and politics and give our own insights that I find very interesting because of our diverse backgrounds of religion, upbringing and political taste. Every month we add one or two new people to the mix who we think will add to the conversation. Our backgrounds are diverse in that we come from startups, private equity, medical, real estate and others as we grow. It's the best day of the month, imo. :)

2 years agoReply
@sydney it was a class called Consumer Mind and Behavior Design!

2 years agoReply
@sydney I keep the inner circle really really small.

sydneyVerifiedco-creator of Commaful
2 years agoReply
@shanemileham "going through tough times together is important" really struck a cord with me. Somebody once told me that the strength of a friendship can be quantified by the number of stories you share together. The more stories you share and an tell, the closer you are and the longer your friendship can last.

sydneyVerifiedco-creator of Commaful
2 years agoReply
@kevinshin whoa!! what was the class?

2 years agoReply
Great post @nireyal and great to see you using Pencil! After taking your class last quarter, it's interesting to see what kinds of new products you try out. I really liked your idea of the kibbutz. I always end up having more of these deep conversations with groups of friends that aren't the main ones I hung out with for years but I do want to try it with them. @sydney I don't have anything special to share! I always just try to hang out with friends when possible but I've always been less of the organizer because of all the other things I have to do. I'm just grateful for those that plan out gatherings so I can see everyone!

2 years agoReply
Thanks for the post, Nir! As @Sydney mentioned, I am a huge fan as well :)

2 years agoReply
Thanks Nir for the great post (huge fan of Hooked too)! @sydney, great question. Each friendship is unique and requires an understanding of what you can give to the other person, from listening and making them feel appreciated to inspiring them with new stories or pieces of knowledge. I feel grateful for the friends in my life who inspire and support me, and I've found focusing on giving to be the crux of a real friendship. To understand how I might connect with another person takes a level of vulnerability and understanding of their story or vision of themselves, and I think the kibbutz is a great implementation. Depending on the context, there are other ways to delve into authenticity, often seen as departure from what is expected (e.g. the "Great! Super busy!"). With the above context, here is an approximation of how I see friendships in my life form: - Meet and exchange information through words, body language, and other means of expression - If both people see the other as a source of happiness, inspiration, or support, the conversation dives into a more vulnerable realm which creates trust - Over time, and through stressful experiences in each person's life, this friendship grows To strengthen friendships then, going through tough times together is important. This will either happen naturally (through life's hardships) or we can create stress by pushing ourselves (e.g. team sports, life goals, creating a product together, etc.). At a deeper level you can look at the reward functions and neuroplasticity involved, but from my experience, the key components of giving, vulnerability, and stress create friendships that survive even a busy schedule. I'd love to hear comments on other perspectives or things I missed!

sydneyVerifiedco-creator of Commaful
2 years agoReply
Awesome post Nir :) I'm definitely a bit guilty of piling on too much work and putting friends for last. Perhaps will give kibbutz a spin. I know we have lots of Hooked super fans here (me included). I know you guys are really busy people: @kina @silvia @sara @andrew @varadhjain @dan @lelper @Dakota @m23mclaughlin @kevinshin @shanemileham @david @jack @themasterho @nakulrane @lawrence @markwilson12 @jc @nthnlee @hackerfund @jackson @greggweiss @hirepool @neeharika How do you guys go about managing your friendships?

2 years agoReply
LOVE hooked