We need community more than ever

I work in a co-working space in San Francisco. Since I’m the lone employee in San Francisco at my company (everyone else is in Boston), I make sure I work in a co-working space so I don’t get stir crazy working on my couch.

As well, part of the reason I pay so much freaking rent to live and work in San Francisco is because I can make connections with the incredibly talented, hard-working, and insightful people who are working here.

But the truth is that there are really amazing, excellent people everywhere, and as human beings we aren’t designed to live atomically. We’re built to live socially and connected to one another. We have these hyper-developed faculties for communication, starting with verbal communication, going to all the minute ways we connect via body language, and then even the way our pheromones communicate subtle messages.

If we were designed to live apart from one another, we wouldn’t need all those ways to send each other messages.

We’re designed to connect with each other to form friendships, form families, and to create culture and business and community. Co-working spaces are basically an excuse for a bunch of people working on creating businesses to bounce off of one another, share ideas, support one another, and feed off of one another’s energy.

There’s a couple of brand new founders who joined my co-working space this week. They’re building a financial product, and are generally incredibly friendly, smart dudes.

I made friends with them and set about making intros to a bunch of the other people on the floor to help them get acquainted.  One of the founders they met gave them a growth strategy that is basically custom-tailored to their business within five minutes of meeting them. Who knows what other value they’re going to get from the relationships that they’ll build working in community.

When I started out my career at a startup accelerator, my boss and mentor made a point of telling me that part of my job was to make sure all the founders who came through our doors could get introduced to one another and had fellow entrepreneurs to talk to. He pointed out that entrepreneurship can be an incredibly painful, lonely road, and there is no substitute for connecting with someone who is fighting the same sort of battle you are.

That lesson stuck with me, and I think it applies well outside the realm of entrepreneurship.

Each of us is working on something hard in our lives, and we can all use a collective of people around us that we can go have a tea with, talk about what’s on our mind, and get a bit of encouragement to get back up on our feet.

Finding community can be hard unless we make a strong point of forming those bonds with one another. And as our world grows more and more atomized we have to work harder to stick together, and we need one another’s company more than other.

It’s important for each of us to do the work to build community and connect with one another. We don’t have civic organizations any longer. We have corporations and startups. We don’t have the same cultural connection that churches gave us 50 and 100 years ago. We have a bunch of individuals claiming to be spiritual, but not religious. As we move away from the old labels, we have fewer and fewer cultural signifiers to connect us with one another.

But we’re still humans. We still need each other. We still want to laugh and love and grow together.

We still need to build community.

Hope this helps.

Austin W. Gunter.



I’m Austin. I live in San Francisco, practice Tai Chi, have rheumatoid arthritis, listen to a lot of loud music, and host a lot of dinner parties. Want more? Start here.

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