When startups pitch to new customers and investors, the first thing they need to do is define the problem their product or service intends to solve. Doing so creates common ground with their audience and justifies why a solution is needed in the first place. I’ve spoken to many startups lately that are solving for a similar problem: disconnection.
After the last few years, it’s easy to see how isolation and loneliness have negative downstream effects on us both individually and as a culture. In isolation, great ideas go unexplored. Without direct communication, interpersonal problems seethe and fester. As a result, we can see our collective mental health suffer. Physical health isn’t far behind.
Connection is a necessary piece of the health puzzle.
While digital companies aim to increase connection online, I remain aware of a deep desire to connect face-to-face. I can only tolerate so many hours on Zoom calls before I crave personal contact IRL.
Since “leaving” my full-time role with Oracle last year, I pivoted into full-time consulting work, offering content strategy and copywriting for startups and enterprises. The vast majority of Half Wild Creative’s clients are out-of-state, meaning we will always be separated by the digital divide of a laptop screen. To shift the balance and get more integrated with the local professional scene, I started attending networking events.
I go to the weekly 1 Million Cups startup pitch whenever I can, and intentionally seek out meetups for “digital nomads.”
I attended a Chamber of Commerce event to plug in with the local business leaders. It took place at a fireplace and outdoor furniture showroom. The display fireplaces were going on full blast. A young woman next to me broke the ice by commenting on my fuzzy flannel shacket (half coat, half jacket for the uninitiated.) I appreciated the compliment but admitted that, had I known we would be meeting inside a fiery inferno, I may have chosen differently. Together, we headed to the beverage table for a cooldown.
Making new connections.
On offer were beer and wine for the alcohol enjoyers and water for everyone else. All three of us reached for waters and discovered that we were all non-drinkers. I had just passed my seven-year mark while they were moving through their first year of sobriety together.
“It feels like a superpower,” admitted the young woman. We exchanged some of our favorite aspects of our sobriety: the clarity and energy, the money saved, the car keys not lost.
When I asked what she did for a living, the young woman shared that she actually worked for a recovery coach. That’s how I met Colleen Kachmann.
Colleen and I immediately hit it off when we spoke on the phone. She’s dedicated to helping people get to the root of why they use and navigate through their unhealthy patterns. We had so much in common, including the passionate desire to feel better, live better, and help other people do the same.
She graciously invited me on her podcast, Recover with Colleen, and we had an AWESOME conversation about how we both used flexibility and adaptability to cope with changing circumstances, and later struggled to find our own authentic identities as a result. She cited excerpts of my book HALF WILD: A Prayer for a Generation of Roaming Malcontents which reflected my own words back to me with new context. It was thrilling.
Colleen and her mission are empowering, unflinching, and beautifully authentically human. I’m grateful that my unceasing impulse to get out there materialized an opportunity to be a small part of her world. You can hear our conversation wherever you listen to podcasts. (Apple. Spotify.)
Let me know what you think!
Beautiful article! I love the backstory about how you met Coral and Zac.
I whole-heartedly second the feedback that your book makes people feel seen. I saw myself. I saw I’m not alone. I saw that I’m okay. I saw hope...
And you’re as talented a speaker as you are a writer. I enjoyed re-listening to the interview--I heard new things from new angles.
Thank you! I will buy you a cup of coffee IRL next time I’m in Asheville...
LOVE this. Hope all is well Whitney.