Last week when I asked the CCN team what our topic should be for the upcoming week, our graphic/web designer, the amazing Devin Green, responded quickly with “Connection is more than building a business”. Nice move, Devin. Really, thank you.
I know my Higher Power is speaking to me directly when the same idea or topic comes at me from multiple angles. Per the usual it takes me a little while to realize this and I typically put off taking whatever necessary action as long as possible. I'm working on it. Some may call it procrastination, but as I reflect upon my cumulative thoughts and patterns of behavior, I believe I’m a person who just needs to let things marinate before taking action. Slowly, I’m trying to let these patterns take hold in more appropriate ways, like maybe thinking more intently about major life decisions such as moving across the country, and quickening decisions like what kind of salsa to buy while I’m at the store.
Side note: Does anyone else literally take 20 minutes staring at and contemplating the best quality and flavor of salsa for price, and end up doubling the expense because of the time spent thinking about it? I’d love to hear your experiences with items you do this with too! Or let me know I'm just crazy.
It started when I was pretty young. I felt great about my hobbies and interests in elementary school, but over time I let other people dissuade me from them. Usually they were things that were for “smart kids” and considered dorky or nerdy. I wanted to be good at things that got recognized and rewarded as being “cool”. I wanted to be able to draw really well, or sing, or be amazing at basketball. I felt like Sam the Raccoon in David M. McPhail’s children’s book called Something Special, where it seemed like everyone had a talent except him.
I wanted to belong, and I also saw the good in pretty much everyone. If they were nice to me, I was nice to them. Simple. What I found through this was that the “losers” and “weird” kids saw me as their best option. Sure, they didn't have the best clothes or any interest in scoring on the kickball field, but they were nice! And they seemed to actually care for me as a person.
They didn’t want to copy off my paper, either. Ever. Even though they routinely got poor grades and I would have let them quicker than anyone else, it wasn’t even discussed. We didn’t trash talk to other kids. We listened to each other. We talked about interesting stuff, about why things were the way they were. WHY are these guys SO competitive that it ruins the game for everyone but they’re still liked? WHY is being dumb “cool”? WHY is it normal for girls to hold each others’ hands or escort each other to the bathroom, but for guys it’s “gay”?
I guess I was just happy I wasn’t Marcus, the kid who got surrounded and peed on in the showers after P.E. on more than one occasion. It took decades to forgive myself for the time I felt I had to join in to make sure it didn't ever happen to me. I justified the terribleness of it because I told myself I couldn’t have stopped it, and if 4 guys are peeing on him what’s a 5th, right?
Sickening. I wasn’t different from him in very many ways and I always wondered how the other boys felt afterward and years later. One of them was a kid who tried giving me “cool lessons” before school around that same time of my life.
On the inside, I’ve always been one to cheer for the underdogs. I should advocate for people who can’t for themselves. I always felt like I wanted to show people you can’t judge a book by its cover. I wanted people to realize that you don’t have to act any certain way to be who you are. I wanted to be a researcher on groupthink. I always wanted people to see the value in places they never thought they would. In the people they thought they wouldn’t see it in. Give people chances to be who they are. Look inside and appreciate the beauty only they possess. The purposes only they can fulfill.
But I spent much of my life looking or acting the part, and once I showed my real self, I got rejected. They didn’t get who they thought they were getting. No wonder, right?
I have been learning a lot about how the best things in life are found in its paradoxes. I’m planning to write a book to highlight them (there, I've said it, now I’m committed!). And I think the one that will give me the most value over all the rest is embracing the one thing that has set me apart and made me feel different my entire life. The best part about me! The fact that I can connect with so many different types of people doesn’t have to keep me disconnected and feeling like a misfit and ultimately isolated. My life’s purpose is to bring this diversity (all of us) TOGETHER! When I felt they couldn’t connect with each other, it was my own assumptions making me believe such. I never gave them the chance. I never asked what they wanted. I didn’t challenge them in the right ways to be more, to be better, to expand their horizons.
I lost my identity getting wrapped up in being what others wanted me to be. It wasn’t their fault. It was mine for not having congruency in my life, for not fulfilling my purpose, for not being my Authentic Self, and for having not established my core values, let alone live them. Once I realized and accepted that I am and can be loved for who I am, as me, and that’s enough - what a gift! I am truly grateful for that. I don’t have to be antagonistic or get angry to challenge others or the status quo. I can DO something.
Yes. For me Connection is more than building a business. It’s doing what I was put here to do. It’s having congruence in my life. It’s being comfortable in my skin. Today I can be like the people in my life who I have admired the most because they are who they are everywhere they go and whoever they are with. I believe in what I do and I am passionate about it. I am adding value in the lives of others as much as they add value to mine. Thank you for allowing me to share pieces of my life with you. I would love to hear some of yours too. If you have any comments or feedback, let's connect!
Matthew Stoneking is a Connections & Communications Strategist, and Founder of the Corridor Connection Network and Put Me On Paper, LLC. His core values are Authenticity, Curiosity, Clarity, Connection, and Courage. Matthew helps people and organizations discover the Freedom and Abundance that naturally come from them. To learn more about how he can help you or your organization be purpose-driven and more Connected to what you’re doing, who you’re serving, and who you’re serving with, hit him up at email@example.com or call/text 319.601.0326.