Between this time of year and the world slowly creeping back to normal, let’s keep reconnection — and human connection in general — a top priority going into 2022 and beyond.
December 13, 2021
By: Bobby Casey, Managing Director GWP
I sometimes forget the majority of the world doesn’t live as I do. I’m very fortunate in that I travel with my wife, and fly around the world to see friends and family. Sometimes friends and family come to see me!
I’ve been location independent for years before the pandemic. It sounds whimsical, right? I once had someone describe my life to me as “an expat with commitment issues”. He wasn’t wrong! But not planting roots in one place or another, isn’t the same as not maintaining strong ties with people.
Since this is a time of people getting together and reflecting on the things we’re grateful for, I wanted to focus on this.
I heard an interesting observation about the different generations:
Boomers had live music in dive bars.
GenX had live music and dance clubs.
Millennials had raves and DJs.
GenZ has gaming forums with live chat.
The evolution of the favored social gathering is stark and telling. It’s no longer virtual reality. It’s virtual IS reality: a seamless existence from on- to offline. Technology was already taking people in an impersonal direction.
One of the biggest disasters to come out of the pandemic policies is the younger generations being denied a proper childhood. If you’re in your late 20s or older, you had your fun at the park as a small child, you had sleep overs at friend’s houses, you had birthday parties, you had your graduations and team sports. You already had all that.
But a good number of young people missed out on those things, and some of those things might never go back to the way they were. When I say “missed out” I mean, they were anticipating having them and then were denied… for months.
While there are certainly families who tried to keep things more normal, there’s no denying that this long term fear campaign, did some damage.
To call this a disruption is an understatement. Some of these people were still developing their understanding of what “normal” is. Older generations are rightly more upset because they had decades to establish and live their normal.
Younger people were already somewhat cut off from people, but it was taken to new heights quickly. This happened professionally too. If they managed to keep or get a job, they were taught to treat customers as suspicious and dangerous, so service just got colder and more distant… even in person.
If they had an office job, they might never know the experience of in-person work. Having a mentor or shadowing someone to learn something, or even the fraternity built between workers.
One of the biggest challenges is keeping your humanity when you never meet the human behind the communications. This is a conscious effort. Prior to the pandemic, sales people would take their clients out to lunch, or come into the office to present in person. Even those who already worked remotely had the option of taking a lunch with someone or grabbing some coffee with them.
The in-person part has its place. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an employee, interpersonal skills are important. Generation Z, especially, has grown up behind a keyboard, phone, or tablet in a virtual space where their perceptions of reality aren’t often corroborated with what is actually happening in the world outside that space.
They only regressed further into that chamber, where a headline is read and then reaffirmed by everyone in their community repeating it.
My promotion of location independence isn’t predicated on an aversion to human interaction. Quite the contrary. I’m constantly connecting with people through conferences, masterminds, and by appointment. I meet them, get to know them, and collaborate with them.
Doing something on your own terms isn’t a call to isolation and withdrawal. Sure there are times when you really are on your own. But many, including myself, went into the digital nomad lifestyle having first had a life that wasn’t. There is a difference between opting out and not having the option at all.
My generation straddles the analogue and digital worlds. I played outside with my friends as a kid, and now I hold virtual meetings with clients sometimes.
I didn’t have a cell phone as a teen and still went out with friends. Now I have a cell phone from which I can conduct most of my business.
Generation Z doesn’t have this. They are running on an incomplete understanding of reality, with emotionally charged headlines fanning the flames. Working virtually was never meant to be a excuse to turn a computer into an allegorical cave so you can build a reality of shadows.
I saw a recent article in Zerohedge that made a simple but interesting observation about the stock market:
[V]aluations are only the mathematical representation of investor psychology.
[S]ince stock prices get driven by the “psychology” of market participants, there can be periods when markets disconnect from fundamentals.
People are speculating, and we see those fluctuations in the market when court verdicts are about to come out, mandates are being discussed, bills are close to being passed, natural hazards happen. It corrects itself, later if needed, but people are trying to anticipate the next thing to happen to various industries, motivated heavily by psychology.
It’s not wrong, but on the whole, this psychology is still measured off something real. There is a sort of self awareness in gauging how others do or will feel about something and being accurate more times than not.
Without that real human connection, there’s no way to take accurate inventory of what people are thinking or feeling toward anything. So the default assumption is that everyone shares your feelings.
Worse, the lowest common denominator convinces everyone else to feel equally terrible or hopeless about something. Then they check back with one another to make sure they are each feeling the right thing about the misrepresented news.
Being a digital nomad isn’t meant to perpetuate the loneliness or isolation. It’s meant to open a new opportunity to connect with others, and to give you a chance to set your own cadence to your own life with others who do the same.
I saw a really grim article that made it seem like you have to choose between a stable social life or a volatile one, and you forgo the connection with others when you choose to be location independent. That I guess to could be true for some, but that’s a choice, not a default.
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