This post is a quick commemoration to follow up on a previous engagement.

Even the slightest change in frame of mind can have a massive impact on what you get out of your day. Call it psychology, the Secret, the laws of attraction, sociology, human nature, a placebo effect, or Karma. It’s an idea: That having a positive attitude can positively affect your life, change your luck, and bring more happiness.

Committing to an idea is the first step. And when it shows results, it is incredibly uplifting.

Carrying out your idea, however, is unbelievable.

After a networking training session on Friday, I was inspired – and committed – to work on making stronger and more positive connections, either with those around me, or people I would¬†like¬†to have around me. I was also determined to leave my reservations at the door, to let go of any misguided fears about letting someone in, and the “riskiness” of reaching out.

And what I learned a couple of days ago has finally clicked: Networking isn’t about a accrueing contacts. Rather, it’s about making real connections, and about communicating person-to-person, putting status, position, situation, and differences, aside. It isn’t so much about exchanging digits as it is about exchanging experiences, sharing memories, and relating on a very basic human level.

While on the topic of trying new things and overcoming fears: Today, I climbed the giant white rock on White Rock’s West Beach: A terrifying experience that had me paralyzed for fear of falling off an aptly balanced log, halfway up the side of the rock, for what felt like a good five minutes.

I was barely three feet off of the ground.

But I eventually made it to the top, and, after more acrobatics and downward-facing-dog-like moves, I made it back onto the shore. I’m still rocking my adrenaline rush, hence the two blog posts today.

And I feel great.

 

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What does it mean to have, or make, a connection with somebody?

Is it as simple as maintaining eye contact, as having a firm handshake, or just listening to what someone has to say? In an age of digital communication, emoticons, and buttons to help us “like” and “share,” what is the real value of a face-to-face connection?

The arguments around whether digital discussion is as valuable and “real” as an in-person discussion go as follows: Either you state that because emotions and micro-expressions are lost in the typed word, digital “relationships” are somehow de-sensitized to the human condition, and less meaningful. Or, you believe that it is the quality of the relationship and the people involved that defines its value, regardless of the medium of the conversation.

I have always backed up the latter, arguing that it is possible to build and maintain a strong relationship with someone via social media or with the help of technology. For example, is your connection with an acquaintance more meaningful simply because you only ever communicate face-to-face, versus your relationship with a Tweep you interact with on an ongoing basis, with whom you discuss global trends, issues and conflicts?

Absolutely not, I’ve said. And I’ve been adamant about this up until two days ago.

But the reality of it, is that when we’re online, it’s so easy to forget that we are interacting with other people. Instead of telling someone how we feel, emotions and all, we can type a carefully crafted Facebook message and send it off into space, knowing it will land, but not knowing the impact our landed words will have.

Truly, there’s a sense of comfort in the convulution of technology. We don’t have to be real, or wear our hearts on our sleeves. And the best part is, it’s not technically dishonesty, just technological detachment, and it provides such a great buffer from hurt and regret and vulnerability. It’s preferable, reassuring to know that we can retract words we don’t mean, or brush off words that mean a lot.

Now when we go to talk face-to-face, it’s easy to forget that our face will inevitably give us away, and that this time, there is someone there to watch it. We see how much of an impact our words can have, and what’s normally not a big deal – not getting an immediate response to a text – becomes a terrible feeling of unworthiness: Seeing that the person you are trying to engage just can’t be bothered to reciprocate.

There is great power and positivity that can come from meeting and greeting in the real world. You can leave a lasting impression, and have a personal impact on somebody else. You may even find how much of an impact others can have on you, if you let them. And if you’re open and willing to seek out the best in everybody, human nature’s capability for kindness and caring may reveal itself to you in a big way.

Embrace it.

We are told that we should constantly be learning, that we should overcome a fear every single day. We’re told that the secret to life is to constantly be growing and bettering ourselves as human beings, communitarians and global citizens.

It takes about 30 days to make or break a habit: The perfect amount of time to strive to be a better person, or to be better at cooking, or tennis, or being honest. So for the next 30 days, my goal is to be more connected to the people around me.

It’s an engagement to be engaged, to not be afraid of making a connection, and to maybe learn to be a little more human in the process.

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Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator (1940):

“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone, if possible, Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness – not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another.

In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood, for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world – millions of despairing men, women and little children – victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.

To those who can hear me, I say – do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people and so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes – men who despise you – enslave you – who regiment your lives – tell you what to do – what to think or what to feel! Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate – the unloved and the unnatural!

Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! In the 17th Chapter of St. Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within man” – not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power – the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

Then, in the name of democracy, let us use that power! Let us all unite! Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth the future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie! They do not fulfill their promise; they never will. Dictators free themselves, but they enslave the people! Now, let us fight to fulfill that promise! Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.

Soldiers! In the name of democracy, let us all unite!”

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