Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and investing legend Warren Buffett don't initially seem like they would be a great fit for one another, and Gates thought so himself. When his mom wanted him to meet the Oracle of Omaha almost three decades ago, he initially balked, saying "He just buys and sells pieces of paper... I don't think we'd have much in common."
Luckily for Gates, moms frequently get their way, and he now remembers the exact date he met Buffett -- July 5, 1991. Over the last 28 years, Gates has learned a lot of crucial lessons from someone he refers to as a peer, a thought partner, and a father figure, but -- somewhat surprisingly, considering Buffett's profession -- the most impactful lesson hasn't involved money.
Instead, in the words of Gates, "The most important thing is what friendship is all about."
Billionaires Need Buddies, Too
So what is friendship all about? As Gates has learned, "It's about being the kind of friend you wish you had yourself."
While Buffett is perhaps best known for his uncanny knack for investing in companies and markets, Gates is most impressed by Buffett's ability to invest in people.
The Microsoft co-founder elaborates: "I'm always amazed at how he is able to draw people in and make it fun for them to learn from him. Even though he keeps up a hectic schedule, Warren finds time to nurture friendships like few other people I know. He picks up the phone and calls to say hello."
Gates calls those conversations the highlight of his week, but he says another gesture of Buffett's means even more. "To this day, every time I go to Omaha (which I try to do whenever I can), Warren still drives out to the airport to pick me up. It's a small gesture, but it means the world to me. I'm always impatient for the plane doors to open because I know Warren will be waiting with a new story or a joke and I'll be learning and laughing with him all over again."
It seems like a small gesture, but it's obviously had a big impact on a billionaire who could pretty easily call an Uber (or a helicopter) for a ride. Skeptical? A growing body of research backs up Gates' experience and suggests that your friendships could be more valuable than any financial asset.
Relationships Mean More than Money
The Harvard Study of Adult Development began in 1938 with more than 700 men participating, some of whom continue to take part even now that they're in their 90s. Throughout their lives, the participants would respond to assessments about their lives, health, and happiness and undergo tests that included brain scans.
Even though the men came from different geographic locations and socioeconomic backgrounds, one thing was clear: those who had more high-quality social relationships enjoyed better health for longer, while those who felt isolated and lonely experienced the opposite.
Even with what might as well be all the money in the world, it's how you interact with other people that counts.
Pick up the phone and make that call you've been thinking about.
Write a letter and let someone know you care.
Or, take a leaf out of Buffett's book, and hop in the car and meet a friend at the airport.