My good friend
On Congressional passive-aggression, the Ford Motor Company, and how much it's worth to have the right friends
When politicians refer to one another as "my friend", it's entirely possible they mean the exact opposite. It's a term also used to soften the blow of criticism, especially when it happens in writing on the Internet: "My friend, I think you need to revisit your priors on this..."
■ But we really shouldn't get comfortable with the disingenuous use of such an important title. Consider how Warren Buffett put it to use before an audience of tens of thousands of shareholders in 2023: "Ford Motor Company was on its way to the junk heap when the Whiz Kids came in, and Henry Ford II [...] brought in Tex Thornton and my friend Arjay Miller and a few people..."
■ Arjay Miller died in 2017, the last survivor among those "Whiz Kids". He achieved plenty on his own after his time at Ford, including a decade at the helm of the Stanford Graduate School of Business. But were he to be alive today and looking for a job, the only thing any rational manager would need to know prior to uttering the words "You're hired" would be that two-word endorsement from Warren Buffett: "My friend".
■ People often bend over backwards to stand out with the help of inflated LinkedIn titles, "personal brands", aspirational social-media handles, and other "influencer"-style tactics. But even in that world, no strategy is more powerful than being the kind of person whose endorsement carries instant weight.
■ If Warren Buffett calls you "my friend", you're in the door almost anywhere. It says a great deal about you -- but it reveals even more about the accrued credibility of your endorser. People will go to great lengths to make a short-term splash or to find ways to short-circuit the process of earning a reputation.
■ But it remains certain that tactics and platforms will come and go, often in practically no time at all. Cultivating real friendships (especially those where the friends have nothing obvious to gain from one another), being generous with those friends, and earning a reputation as a trustworthy authority on questions where your own expertise is valuable will always be the path with the greatest long-term payoff.