Warner Russell is one of the guys who taught me what true friendship is. Saying that seems strange at first; we barely knew each other throughout college until we were both months away from graduation. Truth be told, we’ve only seen each other in person a handful of times in recent years, at dinners, movies and weddings of mutual friends.
However, span of time is something overrated in assessing the impact one has had on another’s life. There are some people I’ve known for years that haven’t offered a positive word, while there have been others who have sent me thoughtful messages just days after meeting them.
I first met Warner when we were both working at “The Daily Mississippian.” I was Arts & Life Editor, and he was a writer for the opinion section. I started reading his stuff each week, a real rarity because I never browsed pieces outside of my section. I’d laugh frequently and get joy out of hearing his insights.
A few weeks later, a mutual friend of ours, Clint Rosenblatt, connected us, and the following week Warner started writing for my section. He’d continue to do such until graduation in May. During that time, the Arts section got some really great content – comical, engaging and even sometimes touching.
There’s something I learned from my experience with Warner, though. Up until that final few months, I had been pretty hard about dictating exactly what writers for my section should write. I was controlling and was quickly angered if one of my writers failed to comply with a suggestion.
Imagine my surprise when I e-mailed Warner a list of topics his first week on the job as suggestions of things to cover, and he did exactly zero of them. I scratched my head when I got his first article. In the cockiest of mental sayings, I thought to myself, “Does this guy not know who I am and what I want?”
When I began to read his work, all my dread melted away. What was left was a profound appreciation. From that week forward, I never told or even hinted at what Warner should write about; I let him make the decisions for topics. And, in those final few weeks, I employed the same tactic with my other writers.
Warner’s ignoring whatever I requested wasn’t an act of rebellion but an issue of trust. I had brought him in as a great writer, and I knew he thought I should trust in him to write words of wisdom for me. And that he did.
Years later, when I began to write for The Wise Guise, Warner and his friends returned the favor. They’ve given me complete freedom in what I choose to write about each week. And sure, we may throw ideas out to one another from time to time, but we don’t direct one another on the exact words or tone of a piece. We trust in each other to create good content, and it shows.
Independence is the absolute most difficult element of life to incorporate into a friendship, relationship or business setting. As humans, our default mode is to be controlling and needy, constantly expecting others to sacrifice their time and effort to fit our personal desires.
For years, I did this. Even throughout college, as I was “growing up,” I attempted to rotate my friends’ needs around my own because it was what was good for me. What you discover is when you don’t allow people to have independence in their actions, complain at them for not altering their schedule or appearance to your wants, and offer directives instead of letting free thought roam…well, you’re not really abiding by the rules of friendship. If you’re in a relationship, locking someone to you isn’t love. And if there’s no trust in business, then I doubt your operation is going to make it for long.
It’s the independence Warner and his friends have given me to write on this site that has helped get me through some hard personal and professional times. Writing is the best form of therapy, as it allows me to vent my feelings on a range of topics the same way a fighter would take to a punching bag.
And most important of all, it’s the constant enthusiasm and appreciation Warner has greeted my work with that makes me feel blessed to be a part of this team. I enjoy hearing from and chatting with him not out of some strange, invisible obligation from college to reach out every once and a while to an old friend, but rather because I genuinely enjoy hearing what perspective he brings to a conversation.
Why do I say all this? What’s with the Warner love fest? I could ramble on with explanations, but does there have to be one? We so often fail to communicate to people how important they are to us.
What you should know is The Wise Guise wouldn’t be the great blog it is without Warner Russell, and I wouldn’t be the somewhat-respectable guy I am today without the traits he taught me.
Warner, from all of us here at The Wise Guise, we just want to thank you for enriching our lives. You’ve been there for us, and we are proud to be there for you. Take care, my friend.