A place to belong

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Pioneer Nation

Jocks. Cheerleaders. Geeks. Thespians. Outsiders. Skaters. Hipsters. Emos.
Every American high-school TV show and movie highlights the cliques that form in adolescence. The groups that seem to form naturally as we grow and get a sense of our identity and work out who we most closely associate ourselves with. And to be honest these groups, although not so well defined, carry on into our adult lives too.

Because as a human race I believe we are meant to connect to others.

We like to have our views acknowledged and ratified. We like to belong.

“Across many studies of mammals, from the smallest rodents all the way to us humans, the data suggests that we are profoundly shaped by our social environment . . . We may not like the fact that we are wired such that our well-being depends on our connections with others, but the facts are the facts.”  ~ Matthew Lieberman, author of Social (currently on my “to read” list)

I think that we are all searching for people who we feel “get” us – our thoughts, views, dreams, way of life. We want to connect with others in a way that feels easy and empowering. We want to find people who we feel totally at ease with but also know they will have the hard discussions when they need to. Who will be there with us through thick and thin, cheering us on from the sidelines and picking us up when we fall down.

I am very fortunate to have many amazing connections around the world and friends who really do know and understand me. But last week I walked into a conference of 250 strangers and left two days later feeling as though I had found a whole lot more of “my people”.

Pioneer Nation is a conference, convened by Chris Guillebeau and a number of the WDS team, for solopreneurs, freelancers and small business owners. A place where every.single.person I spoke to I connected to in some way. I was inspired by their story. I felt heard and listened to. I laughed. I ate a lot of doughnuts. I wrote a ton of notes. I met people I now call my friends.

For someone who struggles to say what I do and when my usual response of “anything that comes my way that I might enjoy” often elicits a very perplexed look and then perhaps a question “but how do you make money doing that??” it was nice to be met, instead, with a knowing smile and laugh and a nod of understanding.

When asked where you are from and you say “I’m a kiwi, who usually lives in London, UK but I’m currently living in Canada for 6 months” it isn’t weird or wonderful. Everyone at the conference is living life in a way that works for them. They’re all on a journey to bring ideas to life and share their skills, knowledge, experience and love with the world. They’re from diverse backgrounds and countries living lives that they feel compelled to share.

I feel so fortunate to have found these people.

I feel so fortunate because there are so many people out there who feel isolated. Who feel that their ideas don’t fit with those around them and they don’t know where to find other people we think the same. Who would love to connect to others asking the same questions that they are asking themselves. And this is why I love groups. Why I am compelled to create communities.

I personally believe that our ability to live fulfilled and meaningful lives, although down to us, is enhanced when shared, challenged and supported by others.

It is deeply satisfying and reassuring to find others also in the same boat. They may not all think the same (diversity is something to be cherished and celebrated) but they “get you”. There is amazing power in the sense of belonging. Of being seen for who you are and accepted for all of that, with no questions even entered into.

So it’s been a week since the conference ended and I am just coming to grips with all the stories I heard, ideas and knowledge that was shared and what it all means. I am even more compelled to develop a variety of communities and my mind is whirring with ideas. Please sign up if you want to be kept informed of ideas, programmes, communities and offerings as I design and launch them. I hope I can help others find “their people” and learn what can happen with the power of connection.

Photos courtesy of Chris Guillebeau on Flickr

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