This is the sixth article following The Irony of Quitting My Job to Take a Sabbatical, the first in a series on what I learned and what I’d recommend from quitting my job to take a six-month sabbatical (without another job in sight). Last week, I talked about the importance of letting go in order to move forward. Here, I share the power of community in your progress towards a meaningful goal.
“We are only human when we are part of a community.”
– Orson Scott Card
You’re never as alone as you may feel.
I felt incredibly isolated as I contemplated the upcoming leap I wanted to make. At the time, most of the people in my network worked their full-time jobs, went home, and looked forward to weekends and vacations.
Don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing wrong with that. I mention this because when we view an upcoming change with trepidation, it’s often because there are very few if any real-life examples of people who have made that said change in our networks.
I felt out of place. It felt weird to be working towards a goal drastically different than most everyone I knew. It was like the feeling you get when you’re at a party and everyone there is dressed in one specific color (let’s say orange) except for you. You can’t help but wonder why everyone else is wearing orange.
Am I missing something? Will people judge me for being different?
While this didn’t sway my resolve to work towards the leap, the questions remained in the back of my mind:
Was there something wrong with me? Why was I having a tougher time than others?
As much I don’t like to admit it at times, we’re social creatures with ancestrally rooted, herd-like tendencies. There are now hordes of people striving to stand out in this day and age, but that kind of behavior generally didn’t end well for you in the past.
Being the only one separated from the flock is a scary, vulnerable place to be. We wonder if we’re doing it right or if we’re making a mistake. As freeing as nonconformity may be, it’s lonely state with many more pitfalls and unknowns.
This is where the power of building your community comes in.
Your community makes a difference in accelerating or moving more slowly towards a meaningful goal in your life.
Amongst the orange-donned partiers, I decided to step out and attend a different party.
I sought out environments where there’d likely be people who felt how I felt. I started going to conferences, events, local workspaces and gatherings for dreamers, change-seekers and entrepreneurs. And guess what?
I started meeting other likeminded people, who then introduced me to more likeminded people.
And in doing so, I realized that I wasn’t crazy to be thinking the way I was. There were so many others who felt the same way, people of all backgrounds who desired change. Some of them had taken action; some of them were still exploring. We were all trying to figure it out.
Not only did I connect with fellow thinkers and doers in person, but I also found many others in the digital and book worlds. There are thousands and thousands of thought leaders, authors, bloggers, podcasters and entrepreneurs sharing their knowledge in different mediums.
Hearing other people’s stories helped put my fears more at ease. Knowing that I wasn’t alone helped to build courage as I continued on my path. Learning resources and tips from others saved me time, money and energy.
Community made the impossible more possible and the unreasonable more reasonable.
At one conference, I ended up talking in-depth with a woman who embraced uncertainty instead of shunning it. She taught me to say, “I don’t know, and I love it.”
I listened to another person share his transition from planning everything out to purposely throwing away his prepared notes before a big speech.
In expanding my network to include people who were challenging the status quo, I felt inspired to challenge my own. In talking with others who were going through the same thing, we shared ideas and encouraged one another. The more I interacted with people who approached life with openness instead of protectiveness and fear, the bolder I became.
I started to see that these people had a similar approach towards life.
These change-seekers approached life with a go-with-the-flow mentality, combined with openness towards meeting others and unwavering persistence.
It’s an approach that worked well as I prepared myself to take the leap. This approach continues to be important in my current status as I earn a living and build up Uncoveries.
I’ve learned and grown a lot from building up my community. I wouldn’t have reached where I am now without a few key people. I’ve been blessed in many ways, directly because of these supportive and amazing individuals who have helped me along.
Getting connected with people who are doing similar things will accelerate your progress.
Over the years of working in corporate, I didn’t prioritize meeting others from different backgrounds. I ended up with a one-dimensional network comprised of people who were primarily working towards something I didn’t want.
I was the one who changed into a different colored shirt while I was at the party.
Since then, I’m learning how to build a more diverse community, one that is more representative of where I want to go. I still keep in touch with old colleagues and friends, and I find great value in interacting across groups, old and new.
While I’m still learning, the community I’ve built has been instrumental in my process of leaping and finding a new way. And as I continue to meet others, my learning and progress will only continue to accelerate.
Does your community reflect where you want to go? What have you experienced and learned as a result of connecting with others?
Building your community to reflect where you want to go will accelerate your progress towards the goal. But community isn’t the key determinant of success. There’s another key part when committing to change—an often overlooked and frustrating experience for many.