Making Connections: Sometimes you need to feed your soul, not your ego.
“Making connections”, a phrase I have heard many times in my life. It’s a phrase that makes me cringe a bit, not because it’s a bad thing, but because of how people choose to define it. To most, “making connections” means to interact with people with an intended gain in mind. That gain can be monetary, social or professional. Whatever the gain, it has to be something that is measurable. The connection has to be proven and worthy, otherwise it is just a person, and that’s not good enough. The connection maker has to be able to say, “this connection got me here”, “that connection helped me with this”, and so on.
Spending the bulk of my adult life as a teacher, that traditional definition of what it means to make connections just didn’t matter. I did all I could for every student that passed through my door, and that meant the world to me. It was often a thankless job, but rewarding and worthwhile. “Making connections” in the traditional sense didn’t matter because I was making the kind of connections I cared about. I was making human connections. Each day, attempting to encourage and inspire, trying to build up those who were down and support those who were already excelling. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone and I wasn’t trying to climb up any professional ladder. I didn’t buddy up with the higher ups or become best friends with the senior staff, in fact, we often disagreed on things. I was good at what I did and it showed, that’s what counted.
It wasn’t until I took the art leap of faith that I struggled with the concept of connection making. I’m not a faker, I don’t force things to happen, I’m not an attention whore and I’m honest. Those character traits don’t necessarily work well in the traditional connection making department. Now that I am out of the teaching circuit, I see how the rest of the world functions. It’s not about working with people because it feels right, it’s about working with them because of how it looks or sounds. If by being associated with someone makes another seem more professional, interesting, likable or exciting, it’s considered a valuable connection. It’s all about social status, not soul status, and I have found it disheartening.
It boils down to intent...
- I don’t offer to buy meals for the homeless because they may give me a shout out tweet, telling everyone how great I am. If people got something like this in return: “Big-ups to @sawyerfresh for the grub. #winning”, I’m sure more good deeds would be done, connection would be made. I do this type of thing because I value people. If I can help, I’ve made a connection.
- I didn’t spend years working with kids, some of whom never learned anything about the word respect until they met me, because I thought all the thousands of them would eventually friend me on Facebook and I’d seem more valuable. No, I did it because I understood that those children would be adults one day and how I treated them would have a direct impact on who they would be as adults.
- I don’t have lengthy conversations with people like the “Troubadour of Ybor” because he’s going to take a photo of us, post it to Instagram and tell everyone how great I am. “Hanging with @sawyerfresh in #ybor. #goodtimes #boom” No, I do it because that may be the only conversation he has for the day, or week. Hell, I may be the only smiling face he sees all day.
- I don’t help or give to others because they may promote my work. I do it because I care and I know that one good deed can spark a chain reaction of other good deeds. Even if it doesn’t, the attempt was made.
This isn’t to say traditional connection making is all-together bad. It has value and is necessary in certain instances. What I’ve noticed, is that a good number of people operate mainly on the “where can this get me?” mentality. None of the above mentioned examples “got me” anywhere, but they were real and honest actions. My social status didn’t change, but my soul status did. That feeling when my heart swells and my chest feels warm with fulfillment, that’s when I know I’ve made a real, human connection. Remember to take time out to feed your soul, not just your ego.