Photo by WeJourney | El Panama, Nicaragua
It’s said that dolphins can use sonar to sense objects from massive distances. Some scientists also say that Dolphins can then project those images, allowing other dolphins close by to see the same image. Some think humans can do something similar. Pretty bizarre eh?
This post is not about dolphins. It’s an experience I had that taught me a lesson about connecting with other humans. The experience made me feel like there is a deeper and purer form of connection we can have with our fellow humans. Maybe… we can project images like dolphins?
Writing this makes me feel silly. I will never be able to prove to anyone that this experience allowed me to “connect deeper” with others. I can only describe this moment in time to you and attempt to explain how it gave me a stronger appreciation for all humans.
The moment struck me at a time where I felt disconnected from my family, friends and fellow humans and made me realize I had been seeking human connection the wrong way. If I could just prove to my peers that I could produce more income and influence then I’d connect deeper with my fellow humans. I would get invited to more places, have the opportunity to invest in causes I cared about and entrepreneurs I believed in, get to travel more often etc. While I still want these things to happen, they are no longer my aim.
In April 2016 I went on a service-centric retreat to Nicaragua with roughly 20 others I had just met to build homes for a remote community outside of Managua. Our bus arrived in the community early in the morning, we split up into groups of 5 and hiked to the family we were serving. Living conditions were rougher than I had ever seen, yet the families had a surprisingly good sense of humor. At least enough to laugh at my shitty Spanish.
We had the unique experience of building the home alongside the family who would be living in it. I quite literally dug holes for the foundation with a 6-year-old Nicaraguan girl. Which brings me to my little moment. The ground was tough so these holes were not dug with a shovel but with a large metal rod that you hurled into the ground to break up dirt. The dirt had to go somewhere after it was loosened so Nadia (the 6-year-old girl) hooked it up with a small plastic bowl that acted as her shovel.
Before I knew it we were in sync. I would strike 5 times then she would scoop some dirt with her bowl. This went on for several hours. We dug 4 foundation holes together without saying a word to each other. She even saw that my hands were blistered and grabbed me a cloth to wrap my hands in (which you can see in the photo below). We couldn’t speak verbally but had no issues understanding each other.
This taught me I could have a genuine connection and appreciation for the life of another human that was so different from me in so many ways. This feeling has stayed with me since that moment. I feel a deeper and sometimes lasting connection with almost every person I cross paths with. Even if it was just a tiny moment in time. When all reasons to come across strong, smart, capable, stable, driven, attractive etc… are gone. When all you are is another human. You free yourself up for more authentic connections.
When framed like this it is easy to see why I felt a strong connection. She could only see my intentions as singular. She couldn’t look at how many followers I had or peak at my job title on LinkedIn. She saw me for who I was in that instant and no other.
While reflecting on this moment a second lesson showed its face. It showed me that the most intense experiences of joy did not come from my preconceived notions of joy.
This was recently solidified for me when I had a big win that in the past would have made me feel on top of the world. I had just closed a deal with a 25 billion dollar, publicly traded company, and yet I was more gratified, fulfilled, happy, at peace — whatever you want to call it, with the memory of digging holes with Naomi.
Naomi, indirectly showed me, what I had been seeking for all along was not any sort of achievement or status, but rather a deeper connection with my fellow humans.
My mistake was thinking that the means came after the connection. I was so wrong. In fact, the connection has always been the means to all of my actions. Thanks for straightening me out Naomi!