(Update: Sorry it's so long.)
A friend recently asked if I wanted to go to a bar that was having a drink special and I replied that I couldn't because I'd be home watching the NBA Draft. Not being a huge sports fan, like myself, he was astonished.
Now, this is perfect timing because just the other day another friend who is new to D.C. asked me how to make new friends. And my reply was "do things you're interested in and that's where people you can be friends with are."
The way I see it, drinking at a bar can happen any day of the year. Well except Sundays in 'blue law' places like South Carolina, but just about everywhere else. Drink specials happen a few days a week. Or, better yet, I have a near-full bar at home if I want to get plastered. And I have very few instances where I've made lasting friends (and definitely not girlfriends) from bars.
But the NBA Draft...especially one that includes sure-fire studs like Kevin Durant and Greg Oden (not to mention the Florida Gators), is an evening in front of the TV that cannot be missed. Not because I'm getting any closer to dating someone out of it, but because it's just too interesting to not watch.
But this same friend who asked if I wanted to hit a bar is probably also thinking, "Joah watches a lot of TV." Because he's noted that on multiple occasions, I've made references to needing to watch The Wire or Sopranos or Entourage or 24 or Heroes. And he'd be exactly right. I do watch a lot of TV.
TV/Entertainment and sports are prime examples of what I call "prime interests". In other words, if you don't like these things, we sure as hell better have a lot of other things in common to be friends. And my future wife will hopefully at least tolerate watching my favorite shows and going to the occasional baseball game. These are deal breakers.
But they're not just deal breakers, they're also things of interest that allow me to connect to people. They help me maintain connections with people and develop friendships. I can't tell you how many friends I've made and people I've met because we both LOVE the Dallas Cowboys (here in Redskins territory) or we both like going to concerts or we both like running.
A perfect example is my buddy at work, Will, who never stops arguing with me about something. But in the end, we both realize we're only arguing because we're both pretty passionate about some of the same things. This is a guy I consider a friend because we have mutual respect even in disagreement. My brother and I will be probably grow old being the same way. Arguing about Tim Duncan and the underrated, but non-dynasty, Spurs for decades.
So while 24 and the NBA Draft aren't "prime interests" they fit into categories that are. I've found maximizing the time I spend on my "prime interests" makes each day very engaging. Mostly because I know - over the course of the average day when I'll talk to any combination of my best friends, my family members, and my co-workers - that the things I'm interested in will be discussed in an engaging conversation.
Now, some people think watching TV is about the least engaging thing anyone can do, but not me. TV, to me, is right up there with all the other things I do to make each day interesting and worth mentioning or remembering. Ultimately, each day becomes 365 days.
These are my "Prime Interests":
Sports - On a 1-to-10 scale, I'm at about a 10 for being a sports fan. NFL, NCAA, NBA, MLB, NASCAR, PGA, ATP, you name it. I subscribe to Sports Illustrated and ESPN the Mag and I'm an Insider. I won my fantasy football league last year. I'm typically very good at predicting the Final Four. And I'm not just a fan when it involves my favorites like the Dallas Cowboys or the L.A. Lakers or the Atlanta Braves or Jeff Gordon or Tiger Woods or the Texas Longhorns, I'm a fan of it all. My brother is the only person I've ever met that categorically knows more about sports than I do. I grew up in a neighborhood where about 30 kids played basketball and football and baseball for hours on end. And an older brother that is worthy of being on ESPN.
Music - On a 1-to-10 scale, I'm at about a 9. I have a one-concert-per-month rule. I watch music videos when I get dressed for work in the morning. I listen to music when I go to bed at night. I talk about music with the Vice Chairman of the company I work for. I dream of one-day being a presenter at the Grammys and I've met Pharrell and Fergie and Kanye. I'd like to know a bit more about world music, but I haven't traveled enough to really take it all in. One of the main reasons I love hardwood floors, which I refuse to live without, is so I can have open dancing space in my home. I grew up with music and dancing going on in my home and my grandmother's home. My children will too. And another older brother that dreams of being the next Kanye West, athough he wouldn't make that direct reference.
Entertainment - On a 1-to-10 scale, this one is about a 9. Most of my friends can tell you when it comes to TV, movie or entertainment news, I'm the one to ask. I watch HBO like an addict. I absolutely love knowing about upcoming TV shows and movies before everyone, so I can share the scoop. I read and subscribe to about a zillion magazines a week. I've even done a movie preview for the last two years to update friends on what good movies to look forward to each year. And this year, I've been about 90 percent accurate. I don't keep up with gossip though, so I'll never be a 10.
Politics - On a 1-to-10 scale, I'm at about a 8. Politics is one of those things that has many audiences. Some of my friends like to talk foreign policy, but know nothing of campaigning. Some know campaigns, but nothing about Congress. Others know the Hill, but not local government. I put myself at a 8, and not higher, mostly because I can admit that I'm not nearly as knowledgeable as I one-day hope to be about politics. But I do put myself around people that know about foreign policy and campaigning and Congress and all the other stuff. I learn by proxy. Even right now, I know I'm more engaged and informed than most 24-year-olds, but that's not saying much because a vote doesn't have an age and I want my vote to be based on as much information as a 48-year-old that's interested in politics knows. A year from now, I'd like to say I'm at about a 9.
Information - I was going to call this "books" or "learning", but I think information sums it up better. I'm about an 8. I absolutely LOVE getting new information. Even when I think I know everything, I quietly go about finding out more about that topic or issue or arena. I read biographies religiously. I already mentioned all the magazines - and I'm talking Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, not Entertainment Weekly all the time. I visit too many Websites to list. Most of all, I meet a lot of new and smart people. I think that's the single-most important way to get information. Not to believe everything you hear, but to listen enough to know what's being said. I have a lot of friends and colleagues who I've never thanked for helping me know more about so many things like foreign policy and music and sports and politics and business. Thank you all. When I talk to people about networking, I'm really talking about information gathering.
Business - I'm at about a 6, going on a 7. I love following business. Not just business trends, but business. Business practices that relate to hiring, leadership, investing, entrepreneurship, mergers and acquisitions, marketing, and all kinds of other relevant business elements. I dream of someday owning my own business. Preferably something that combines food and music and education. Not sure what exactly, but I have some thoughts that I look forward to fleshing out. And whenever my friends come to me with business ideas, even when I'm skeptical of their abilities to foster that idea into a success, I offer whatever I can because the best businesses start with ideas and honest friends. Ask Bill Gates and Paul Allen. At least, that's what I think.
Being Active - I'm at about a 9. I love the outdoors even more than I love TV. I love running and wakeboarding and thrill-seeking and finding new places. Just last night my friend and I embarked on a park I've never been to before here in Washington. I love walking places. I love road trips. When I travel, which I include in "being active", I like going places that allow me to quickly begin taking in the surroundings like a resident and not a tourist. That's one of the reasons I haven't been overseas yet. And don't get me wrong, I love going to bars and partying. I've been to most of the bars here in D.C. (and in Austin before that) before most people I know have largely because I'm not too proud or afraid to try a new place by my lonesome on occasion. On my list of "things to do before I die" are: run a marathon in under 2 hours and 45 minutes, do a backflip while wakeboarding, skydive over the Amazon, and go to every major music (i.e. ACL) and film (i.e. Sundance) festival in the world. Oh, and if anyone is in the D.C. area and needs a tennis partner, I'm game. It's also important to note that I can't date a girl that doesn't share this.
Writing - While I love reading, writing is so much more fulfilling. Even when people look at my writing and judge me incorrectly, which happens a lot because I'm uncompromising and candid and brash, I love it. Easily, I'm at an 11 for this one. Beyond these diatribes, I love to write poetry. I have plans to write a book-per-year for the rest of my life, even if my future wife has to do the writing and I talk like Bruce Lee. I would love to write for magazines or newspapers or blogs or TV shows or movies someday. In general, I just like the feeling - call it ego if you want - of writing down something I'm thinking about and someone saying they found it insightful or interesting. Those words are much more important than if you think I'm good or not.
Other things worthy of mention include: fashion, food/wine, visiting friends or having friends visit me, throwing parties, nonprofit involvement (this could go up there in between politics and information in some cases), predicting anything, landscaping.
In closing, I guess that's the reason I choose the NBA Draft over drinks at a bar. Or why I choose to watch Entourage instead of talk about what CNN is telling me. Because I find those things more insightful and interesting. Not necessarily because they make me smarter, but more so because they make the days more memorable.
Out of 365 days a year, just about all of them involve sports, music, politics, business, information, being active and writing. If drinking replaced even just one of those things, I'd be an alcoholic within a week.
And I'd really have a problem keeping friends outside of the ones I'd make in AA.