Creating the Opposite of Loneliness
What does the opposite of loneliness feel like?
That’s the feeling I want to create at Groove as Head of Community.
I’ve been obsessed with connecting with other people since a very young age. This is a chance to do that at scale and help others make meaningful connections too.
Whether you’re a fellow community leader or just inspired to find more connection in your work life, I hope my path to Groove and exploration of community building resonates with you:
Seeing the beauty of connection early on
I grew up in a family of six — a loud, conversation-filled home with three younger brothers and my parents. I’m privileged and grateful to have experienced true connection and deep love at a young age in my own home. I knew what it felt like to be seen and heard. For someone to really listen to you. To make you smile. To support you when things were hard.
I knew that what I had at home wasn’t always common and I wished it was for more people. I also knew that I could show up with this posture to people outside of my family — to spread this feeling of warmth, love, and connection: the opposite of loneliness.
I really believed starting as a young girl that the world would be better if we were more connected. There wasn’t a pivotal moment that I decided to intentionally show up this way (I wasn’t that self-aware at age 6), but looking back, I can see the connection between how I felt at home and how I showed up in the world outside of home.
Growing up, going to family friends’ barbeques, I was the kid talking to all the adults. The kid who spent time getting to know my elementary school teachers by going to lunch a few minutes late. I was the kid who would compliment someone’s outfit in public as an effort to say hi. I loved talking to employees at cash registers, getting up on my tiptoes to ask about their day.
Walking around the grocery store with my mom, I would look into people’s carts, trying to think about what they might be making for dinner. What was their life like? Who would they be sharing this meal with, if anyone? How did they learn to cook this meal? I was so deeply curious about how other people lived.
Looking around the local grocery store, I’d think, somehow we all ended up here in this grocery store at this time today. There’s something magical about that. And, something really powerful about that; we all have the opportunity to look at the people around us at any given moment, friends or strangers, and say or do something that could change their day or life. A simple hello, holding the door, asking a question, giving them space to really answer “How are you?”.
At age 15, I found a word for my deep fascination with strangers’ lives and the impact we have on each other.
Sonder: the realization that every random passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own, populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness.
A year later, I read a book written by the late Marina Keegan, who on the very first page, defines what she calls “the opposite of loneliness”, a phrase I’ve already used a few times in this post because it’s become a lens for how I define that feeling I’ve felt again and again. She articulated it beautifully…
“It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team.”
The opposite of loneliness is what I feel when I lean into the magic of sonder; when I appreciate the beauty of everyone being the main characters in their own lives and the fact that we have the chance to become something more than a passerby — to make a bigger difference than that. And, that’s what I wanted to do in life.
Fireworks were going off in my head when I connected these two concepts. I felt so seen by these definitions. At least two other people in the world had thought about this deeply too.
Intentionally choosing to create that feeling
When I decided where to go to college, one of my #1 priorities was I wanted to go somewhere big. A place with lots of strangers. Because with strangers came possibility. I wanted to be able to sit in a coffee shop and no one know my name. I’m an outgoing people-person. So, it wasn’t that I was trying to hide from others, I simply wanted the opportunity on a daily basis to meet new people and connect on a deep level.
For four years, I did just that on a campus of nearly 50,000 undergraduate students. I introduced myself while waiting in line for lunch, I got to know dozens of classmates in a 700-person class, I joined over fifteen different organizations to work on new projects alongside new people.
I’ve felt the magic of what it’s like to feel the opposite of loneliness with strangers, again and again. And, I want to help more people feel that.
After college, I joined best-selling author, Seth Godin, to build the altMBA and Akimbo communities. I’m a big believer that the future of education and learning should be more human, more community-focused, and more soft-skills-focused. This is exactly what we were doing at Akimbo and altMBA. We had a community of over 25,000 alumni who were eager to learn and work on projects that mattered to them.
I find job titles to be a funny thing in small companies. I was technically the Director of Digital Marketing on a team of five, but I think Multi-Hat-Wearer is a more fitting title. At the core, I was a storyteller, a creative thinker, a strategist, and a connector.
My favorite project I built at Akimbo was The Emerging Leaders Program. It was born out of my personal frustration back in college to meet people like me who were considering non-traditional career paths and liked to think outside of the box. I was a projects person and most people in college are one-job kind of people.
While I felt the opposite of loneliness in a lot of ways in college, this was a big piece of the puzzle that was missing for me. I wanted people around me who celebrated my choice to pave a non-traditional career path, instead of question it.
The program resonated with young leaders from around the world. Across three different sessions, 350 young leaders graduated, feeling empowered and deeply connected to each other. And, part of the magic was that it all happened online.
Seeing this come together reinforced I want to do more of this work; I want to help more people see that’s possible to connect deeply with new people. To find people who get it, who understand you. And, you don’t need to be in the same physical space to do it.
When I heard about what the team at Groove was building and how they valued community being at the heart of the path forward for this, I thought back to Marina’s definition of the opposite of loneliness.
The final line of that snippet I shared is my favorite part: This feeling is about having “people who are on your team.” That’s what I’ve been seeking out in life. People who understood me and celebrated me for me. That’s what the Emerging Leaders Program was designed for, to bring together people who were craving that level of connection. And, that’s what Groove is on a mission to create.
Some of us don’t have a work team; we’re freelancers and solopreneurs. And, some of us don’t have a work team near us; although we have coworkers, we are spread out across oceans and time zones (like me now!). And, some of us could use some more support and connection from others outside of our work team to feel more fulfilled.
There are a bunch of people in the world looking for a team, specifically one where everyone is enrolled in connection because that’s what we’re craving.
Groove reminds me of the concept of sonder. We’re working on different projects and have our own craziness happening in our lives, yet we all decided to show up for ourselves and for each other — to intentionally make work better and accomplish more.
How magical is it that we get to bring our projects and lived experiences to this space and get a glimpse into each other’s lives and develop care for someone who’s prioritizing their projects too?
I could hop into a Groove and meet a photographer from India editing pictures, a writer from London looking to finish another chapter in their novel, an app developer from San Fransisco creating new code, an aspiring doctor from New York City reviewing new medical research, or a marketing consultant living, exploring the world as a nomad, developing a pitch deck for a dream client.
Building the future of the Groove community
I feel most in my groove when I’m surrounded by the energy of people who will keep me going — people who are also eager to ship their projects. Groove is built for people like me. And, it’s a really special feeling to be surrounded by a team and community of people who have also experienced the pain of loneliness while working and have intentionally chosen to make things better for themselves by Grooving.
So, yes, that feeling of the opposite of loneliness is what I’m most excited to create at Groove. I’m eager to build rituals, relationships, and events with intention so that feeling is felt by Groovers and they tell others about that special feeling to grow the community.
For years, I’ve said that my personal mission is to help turn on lights for people to see possibility. Building and leading this community at Groove is allowing me to do just that — to help people see it’s possible to not feel so alone in our work and there are other people out there craving this too.
If you’re looking to feel that feeling, I’d love to Groove together. Sign up for the waitlist to join our community.