Before we start, let me talk about what this is.
This is a project of gratitude.
And a little bit of improving/practicing my english writing skills.
There’s no order, priority or preference.
These are just stories about my own personal view of the people that made an impact in my life.
We often fall into the trap of not really expressing the things we feel, because sometimes it’s awkward or it might be interpreted in a different way than intended.
Here it’s my own emotional dictatorship. It’s my truth. My way. And even if what I’m writing is about you, rest assured that the intent is good. It’s what I saw or remember from my viewpoint. So, perhaps things are different today or you are not that person anymore. All fine. At that time or at this time, I’m grateful for the shared experience. For the learnings. For the love. Z.
— — — —
001 • The ambassador of all friendships
We first met sometime around 2006. At the time I was just in my first couple of years as an art director at a small recently turned independent agency in São Paulo and this new guy would be my copy partner and little did I know, one of the best friends life would give me.
The first thing you will notice is a gentle kindness that very rarely you will encounter. It’s all on the small things. The tone of voice, the respect, the icebreaking smile. There’s an extreme sense of humility in every exchange, like he wasn’t more experienced than me or even maybe everyone around us.
As we typically work more than we should in agencies, very quickly the personal invades the professional, especially when music (and beer) is introduced and acknowledged as the unbreakable bond that will always keep us connected.
Whenever music becomes the topic, with a nod to The Beatles and all things Brazilian classics, you will see, feel and witness a change in the force. There’s air-drumming, tempo counting, exaggerated reactions, enthusiasm, passion… all quickly exploding any negativity in the room.
Another skill, and perhaps the most important one in our ambassador, is how he is hardwired to nurture relationships, to make people feel good around him, to really promote and enable unforgettable moments. It’s almost silly trying to capture in words what this guy does to a group of people, without a milligram of effort or awkwardness. He is just that beacon of joy and he is so fluent in this language that just by being there you learn valuable lessons that immediately impacts all your other friendships. What a superpower.
Put these pieces together so we can move on to some incredible stories: an empathetic beacon of good vibes, with an unbeatable soundtrack and fluent in all the expressions of generosity and humbleness. I’ve heard people say that having him working in advertising is a loss for the world. His role as the appointed ambassador of all friendships should probably be recognised by the UN.
Story #1 — Let’s buy new headphones!
This little independent agency was close to Teodoro Sampaio, the music street of São Paulo where you can buy and sell any instrument, get your stuff repaired, rent stage gear, buy stands, strings, picks and… headphones.
We used to work sitting side by side with each other, and yes, being his friend will dramatically increase your music-related spending. The need for really good hi-fi headphones was all of a sudden out of control and that was a mission for him. — Let’s go to Teodoro over lunch and get you new headphones. I know a place. — Of course he does.
After a 2-hour lunch time, several tests and shops later, we were back to the office with the new headphones in the bag. I don’t know how familiar you are with audio stuff, but within the over-ear category you can get 2 types of headphones: open and isolated. Open means that the headphones will use the air and the environment to create the acoustics inside the ear cups. It also means that the sound leaks a little bit and somebody near you would pretty much hear the hi and low bass notes. Ok. Hold on to that info.
A couple of weeks went by and while I was there designing my stuff and listening to my music, he was there sitting next to me writing his stuff and probably listening to the annoying sounds leaking from the new fucking headphones. Different from what anybody would do, he didn’t ask me to lower the volume or anything like it. It was music and friends. Fuck work. He was actually trying to identify what I was listening to, just by hearing the beats leaking through the headphones — and obviously he knew the song, the tempo, the parts and instead of saying anything, he waited for the part just before an awesome drum section, elbowed me to grab my attention, counted the 4 beats anticipating the first bar of that section and joined me in that song, now air-jamming, laughing of how silly it was, but really creating this incredible pocket of time that still lives in my head roughly 15 years later.
Story #2 — When he invites friends over for some beers and music
Beer is an incredibly important component of any story involving this guy. But not in a typical drunk dude way. He loves beer (any kind of beer) and he will drink, and you will also drink with him, as many beers you planned for the event. He will also be the first one to think about getting more and he won’t EVER show up without beer. Great friend, right? So now think about going to his place.
In São Paulo most buildings will have a guard checking the entrance and announcing the visitors or deliveries to the apartments. So you go, tell them that you are going to flat X and the person knows you are coming up. You take the lift, go up and usually get out in a small hall with all the other apartment doors. You look for the number and ring the doorbell, or the host will be waiting for you with the door open — because they know you are coming up. He does it differently.
As you open the elevator door and look for the number, you will find a beer can carefully placed on top of the door knob. If you are coming with a couple of friends, he will stack 3 cans in the exact same place. You might find it trivial or stupid reading it now. You also might find it silly when you see that in the moment. But after hanging out with him for a while you understand that this is a classic move. It’s action to make you feel welcomed from the moment you get to his floor. And of course, the other side of the story. When you are already at his place and you hear the intercom buzzing, you will witness his joy, rushing to the fridge, getting the cans and equilibrating the cans on top of the knob in a way that he can fully close the door without dropping them.
Every guest enters his place holding a beer. Equality in its purest form.
Which leads me to story #3 and the reason why he is what he is and the very reason that I got inspired to start writing whatever this is.
We met in our late 20s, and at that time most of the friends were still single or dating, and group gatherings, barbecues and other beer-drinking events were much more common. Even though anybody that meets him gets the same best-friend-since-we-were-kids treatment, it took some time to be invited to an event with his family and the actual life-long friends. Huge honor, I must say.
So let’s cut to my view for a minute.
I have friends from school that are still my best friends, even after I left the country 5 years ago. As I would imagine, every group of friends is composed of a handful of different archetypes. The one that always has a different date. The one that seriously dates the same girl since they were 12, the nerdy, the stoner, the musician, the looks-better-than-the-others and etc. To my surprise, his group of friends was quite similar to mine. About the same overall age, different neighbourhood, different school, different burger joint in the neighbourhood, some going to the same university… but generally the same structure. And honestly by the fact that they were all very much like my friends that I was completely shocked by how much these friends were different.
Let’s cut back to him, introducing his friends to me.
I get in, not knowing anyone but him. A beer magically shows up in my hand. And we started walking to the room where most of the people were staying. Every time we bumped into someone he would stop and introduce me to the person and the person to me. And that’s when things get out of control — good out of control.
Z, this is John. John is the best guitar player you will ever meet in your life. He is also a paediatrician and makes the best chocolate cake I ever had. He’s an incredible guy and my friend since the 4th grade. I’m so happy that you guys are meeting. I can’t wait for you to play some music together. — He is saying all that while having his arm around the person’s neck while pointing to them like the most important thing to do in that moment is to showcase who they are, what they do and how much he cares for them. Now stop for a second. How often do you tell a friend, right there to his face, that you admire them, that you see them, that you value the love that makes that friendship special? He does it EVERY time. And without context or maybe if you come from a different culture, you might find this type of behaviour a bit clingy but it’s not. Because it’s real. True AF. He did the same introducing his parents. And they were so sweet that you understand where all this generosity comes from.
That same scene repeated itself dozens of times that day. I have never felt more welcomed in my life. All his friends just welcomed me as I was, probably trusting that he wouldn’t bring someone that would compromise what they were as a group — nobody could mess with what they built anyway.
From that day onwards this thing stuck with me. The generosity. The openness to tell your friends you love them. The frequency. The value. It changed me. Understanding that on top of having my friend’s backs and they having mine, expressing it is a game changer that I learned how to appreciate even though I don’t feel I practice as much as I should — and that’s why this blog exists now: to tell these stories and to thank the people that changed how I see friendship, love, work, humanity, generosity and life.
A round of applause to Felipe Cotta.
Thank you my friend.