What a failed Kickstarter taught me about community

A few weeks ago, I launched my first kickstarter. The idea? A podcasting network amplifying podcasters in the Midwest. Noble goal? Sure.

I knew there would be some barriers. The greatest barrier is myself. I loathe self-promotion, so having to spend 15 days or so blasting my social media feeds and tapping my network to bring this idea to life, seemed worse than impending dental surgery to me. It’s just not something I like doing, at all. I told myself the cause was a worthy one, that it’s not about me.

The whole idea for Flown Over came together in about three days. From the time I seeded the idea, built a site and shot a video for Kickstarter it took me from Tuesday to Thursday to get it all out there. I wanted to launch a project, I gave myself until the end of the week to do it and so, Friday was the day it had to launch and I met my goal.

For a year, I’ve been trying to grasp some type of tie to the local populace with no real avail. Making a few friends, sure. But trying to actually get anything launched without having a silo of people adamant about you as a person? Pretty impossible. If I’ve learned anything about life back in the midwest, is you just can’t do the sorts of things you can do in other places without deep ties and connections. People are skeptical, much of the relationships are cultivated from a social capital that often comes from roots, culture, race or all three of those things.

It doesn’t mean I haven’t made friends. Or met good people. I just realize that you can’t plop down into a place where cohesion and consistency matter more than boldness and energy.

Flown Over will still happen. Later in the year, though. I knew pretty early on that I could probably convince enough of my network to help me launch this project, because they believed in me. That’s not what I wanted.

I was hoping that I could get people who were part of the area I was targeting — specifically where I lived and beyond — to be interested around an idea that had growth potential. Now I just realize that you can’t show up to a place without deep ties and expect people to care.

Even if you have skin in the game, the hurdles are more difficult than somewhere else. The entire year, I’ve been trying to decide whether the frustrations of large cities is worth the hassle compared to the relatively peace of smaller ones. I’ve realized that the difficulties I face through a lack of a critical mass of people interested in different types of things, coupled with the lack of other things (diversity, jobs, etc.) make it much too difficult to keep stifling myself in places that don’t really seem to want me there anyway.

It’s not enough to have a job, you have to be able to contribute in a real way. I don’t mean volunteering in places, though that has some value. I’m talking about having real conversations, with real people about decisions, tactics, strategy and being part of the inertia of moving things forward.

Maybe the argument is, you need to be rooted to make those types of contributions; perhaps by proving oneself over a long period of time, you can eventually gain the trust of the people around you and by showing up consistently, you wear them down. I don’t know the answers, really.

I used to think that it was just a matter of “finding the right place,” and I still believe that, but part of community is having an inroads or an entry point. In the social communities where I’ve thrived, there has been a common thread that binds the experiences. I’ve been given a platform to demonstrate what I can do, the space to fail and the chance to stretch my tentacles to areas of interest that might go beyond the original thing that brought me there.

This can happen anywhere.

Connection is difficult. Part of why I’m so conscientious about sharing things like music or always seeking out new social networks is the need to identify with people. Searching for a tribe is easier than it’s probably ever been throughout history, but the complications of diversity and choice make it even more challenging to make sense of binding the ties that last months, years and more.

I used to think the missing link was the place. I realized the missing link is really me and it took building a project to teach me what I needed to know to move forward.

Originally published at medium.com on August 1, 2016.

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