It’s rare that it’s a good thing to be in a coffee shop, slurping coffee, at 11:30 pm. But last night, boisterously laughing throughout an otherwise intense philosophical conversation, slurping coffee until midnight was exactly a good thing.

I spent the night working and talking with a close friend of mine, in what’s become a routine of ours: late night “cofficing,” a term he coined, that sometimes is more work than conversation, and other times more conversation than work, but is always exactly what we need. Last night, conversation trumped work, because there were a lot of thoughts worth talking about.

We go into these conversations with no expectations, and talk about the things that want to be talked about. It’s like letting a small child lead you through the zoo. If you were to lead the way, showing the kid where to go, what to look at, what to awe at, it would likely lead to disappointment for both of you. “I loved the tigers when I was a kid,” you might say, “We should see them first!” But it’s best to follow where the child’s hand tugs, because a child without preconceptions, but with autonomy, in a place like a zoo is magical — focus yourself on experiencing the awe of a child in awe.

One of the things we talked about was the three key ingredients to living a life of contentedness. Just three things. With all three, you’ll never have to ask for permission to smile, but without just one your whole life will spin off kilter like an Earth without its Sun (as our lives have many times in the past, and will likely again in the future — though hopefully less with time). I will likely write about those things, but that’s not what this thought is. What I’ve been thinking about most the past day isn’t those things, but the process by which they came to fruition.

Last night, I was doing most of the talking. But the ideas weren’t mine. I may have been the fuel, but my friend was the catalyst. It was through the recursive process of me saying something, then him saying something more, or asking the right question, or nodding affirmatively, that the thing I said gained energy, and fueled a chain reaction that led to the outcome: those three things.

That’s a catalytic friend. A person who will take the simple fuels in your life and energize them into sustained reactions. If you are pondering an idea, this friend will help you develop it into a movement. If you are satisfied with your job, a relationship, or anything in between, this person will make you feel ecstatic. They add to your life, without giving anything of their own. They aren’t sacrificing, martyring, or suffering for your gain. Their mere presence magnifies your life experience, and interactions with them expand that experience exponentially.

Catalytic friends are hard to come by. If you find one, or have one in your life, hold onto them dearly.