Feeling Alone? Do This

I finally found my tribe.

Last weekend I attended Camp GLP, a retreat led by Jonathan Fields of the Good Life Project. The event was advertised as a "summer camp for adults". I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

When I arrived at camp on Thursday, I parked my car and was immediately greeted by two volunteers blowing bubbles. One of them gave me a hug and pointed me towards registration. This was going to be interesting.

Over the next three and a half days I stood around a bonfire, went to business workshops, and even played tug-of-war. On Saturday night there was a talent show where we all ended up singing an adapted version of "Take Me Home, Country Roads". As soon as the show ended, something incredible happened.

I remember sitting on the edge of the stage totally blissed out, getting a free back rub from a trained massage therapist, surrounded by people who understood me. That's when it hit me: I had found my tribe.

These were resourceful, growth-minded individuals who were committed to creating positive change. They were seven-figure entrepreneurs and people still trying to make an impact within the confines of a corporate job. They were people who "got it".

More importantly, they got me.

All of my life I've felt like a bit of an outcast. It's lonely when you choose to rebel against the status quo. It's hard to find people who share that worldview, almost by definition.

But when you do find them it feels incredible.

For one of the few times in my life, I felt like I belonged.

Why (Real) Connection Is Crucial

The need to belong is one of the most powerful of all human motivations. We crave it just as much as we crave food, water, and sex because our evolution as a species depends on it. There is no such thing as going it alone.

Just look at how we consume. The things we buy are informed much more by a desire for group membership than by our individual preferences.

Don't believe me?

Think about your first iPod. There were other, cheaper MP3 players out there when it came out. So why did you buy one from Apple?

The white earbuds.

Those earbuds made a statement about the type of person you were: someone hip who cares about good design and who thinks differently.

The best companies in the world understand this, and so most of them have begun marketing to smaller and smaller niches: little corners of the world where people can be weird together. Where authenticity within the group matters.

Groups come in three main flavors:

  • Groups we are born into (e.g. racial, ethnic, age)
  • Groups with little or no barrier to entry (e.g. vegans, runners, entrepreneurs)
  • Groups that require certain credentials (e.g. alumni groups, business associations, fraternities)

The internet allows all three of these groups to connect and interact more often, more easily, and in different ways. It has also allowed marketers to target these groups more effectively. These days, any fool (read: me) can start a blog and reach millions of people.

But there's a problem.

The internet can't replace real, live, face-to-face connection. We all know this intuitively, but sometimes we forget (so do businesses, by the way).

The internet is at it's best when we use it to bring together people with similar worldviews, interests, or problems and help them connect in real life.

Spartan RaceMeetup, and Coachsurfing are all great examples of this. They understand that experiences are the new luxury good. They know that connection is what creates real change.

Jonathan knows this too, and that's why he was able to design an experience at Camp GLP beyond what any of us had imagined.

When to Take a Step Back

If you don't feel like you belong at work, if you are surrounded by people who don't share your "why", you aren't going to be very successful. If you don't have friends who understand and accept you, you aren't going to be very happy.

On the second day of camp, Jonathan explained that a "Good Life" consists of three main buckets: contribution, connection, and vitality.

Here's the catch: our level of fulfillment is limited by the fullness of the lowest bucket.

In other words, if you are giving everything to your work (contribution) but not focusing on your health (vitality), you will reach a point of diminishing returns. As Kristopher Carter says, a massive workload requires massive self-care. This is why many of the most successful people in the world make time to meditate.

The same thing is true of connection.

When I got to camp, I was completely burned out from my business. I was focusing so much on contribution and vitality that I didn't have any time left to find and connect with the people who mattered to me. Ironically, these are the people I needed most to help me grow my business.

As soon as I got back from camp, I prioritized connection. I went to an entrepreneurial meetup, hopped on calls with other successful coaches, went to an alumni event, and had dinner with an old friend. Somewhere in the middle off all that, I remembered why I had started my business in the first place.

How to Find People Who "Get" You

Camp GLP isn't for everyone. That's kind of the point. Here are three steps you can take right now to find your own tribe:

  1. Look inward. This may sound trite, but if you don't know who you are and what you're about, you won't know what to look for. Get started using my free True North Toolkit.
  2. Do your research. Meetups, coworking spaces, masterminds, and workshops are all great places to find common ground. If that common ground doesn't exist yet, go ahead and create your own.
  3. Connect. It's not enough just to go to where these people hang out; you need to actually put yourself out there. Tell them what you're good at, what you're passionate about, and what problems you are trying to solve.

A few tips...

  • This process is a whole lot more powerful when you focus on the parts of yourself that your current social group doesn't relate to. Where in your life do you feel insecure or embarrassed? Find people who will welcome those parts of you with open arms.
  • If you are naturally introverted, like me, this stuff is probably going to be hard for you. Do it anyway. I creatively avoided it for way too long.
  • Sometimes you have to empty before you can fill. I'm not suggesting you cut out people in your life who don't perfectly align with you, but I do suggest that you create some space.

Is your connection bucket empty? If not, which other buckets have you been neglecting?

It's time to fill them up.