Writing by Nim De Swardt
Eight years ago in New York City, my life looked exceptionally good on paper: I was earning a 6-figure salary as the youngest direct report to a global CEO of a $16B company, travelling business class and in private jets around the world, speaking on global stages, partnering with the worlds leading companies and attending Harvard Business School.
But I felt so lonely. One particular moment with an Uber driver one day in New York, was a stark reminder of my internal world. He was the only human that day that I had a meaningful conversation with. On social media it seemed like I was living a connected life, the reality was different – I felt extremely disconnected.
I questioned ‘How do we stay connected in a world that sometimes feels so disconnected?’ – and this question guided an eight-year anthropological field trip across 64 countries, where I embarked on a global quest to unravel the mystery and power of human connection.
So why, when I was at the ‘top of my game’ – did I feel so empty?
One of my close collaborators, Kasley Killam is a Harvard Social Scientist and Social Health and Connection Expert. Her recent article in Psychology Today states ‘To summarize decades of scientific studies, our relationships determine both how well we live and how long we live; connection is as vital to survival as food and water.
I was craving connection.
We are living in a hyperconnected world with notification and content overload. But we are a social species that along the way have forgotten the lost art of authentic human connection.
From an early age, I became a curious observer of humans. It was in the pre-doom-scrolling ages, and the power of community was abundant. My curiosity for connection started young – I was captivated by my ongoing fascination for how we humans connect, collaborate and communicate.
We are all the same on the inside. It’s just that our outsides are often projected through ‘life highlight reels’ that rarely show the inner feels.
After years of facilitating, writing, interviewing, documenting and living as an ‘Explorer of Connection’ I have seen two big themes emerge.
One, the power of sharing stories through meaningful conversations and second, the lost rituals of intergenerational wisdom sharing in our modern-day cultures.
Stories connect us. We used to gather around the campfire and share stories. Now ‘stories’ is only seen as a 1-sec snippet of your life broadcasted on social media. Storytelling is an inherently social practice that fosters intimacy and connection with others. It’s about remembering that we belong to each other. It is only by sharing our life experiences and stories, through authentic in-real-life conversations that we can truly build new bridges of empathy and understanding.
My work goes against the grain of the filtered #livingmybestlife culture. I have listened to hundreds of life stories, across all ages and lived life experiences and can confirm that everybody has stories to share.
There is a proverb that says ‘Every time someone dies, a library burns’. We are losing the richness of our elders’ wisdom and stories every minute. I use narrative psychology, active listening and the science of reflection through my Life Story Capture technique to record voices, lives, stories and spirits. For those who are older than us, we have forgotten to listen presently.
Intergenerational wisdom sharing is a lost art. It’s about re-connecting across the ages, holding space in comfortable and supportive environments for sharing – the perfect petrie dish for authentic, deeper human connection. =
I have always had endless time, empathy and patience for the elders in our community. One of my core life philosophies is ‘win-win relationships’ – no matter our age, we all have something to share and learn from each other.
Rumi quotes ‘The wound is the place where the Light enters you’.
My pain and loneliness that dark day in New York City catalysed my curiosity to depths I couldn’t imagine. Feeling lonely is often a misunderstood and frowned upon concept. But something inside of me predicted that this deeply personal experience might also be deeply universal.
With one in four Australians feeling lonely, we are craving human connection as a means to surviving and thriving more than ever before. Deeper connections are hard to come by. Meaningful conversations with presence and without phones are rare. If quality relationships are the number one determining factor to a happy and healthy life – why are we not investing in them more?
The pandemic put the highlighter over my life ‘why’. It landed hard and fast. We simply need new, accessible tools to help us re-connect. One lonely Covid night, my friend of 34 years and I gave birth to a new passport for connection – RE-CONNECT.
RE-CONNECT are conversation cards for deeper connections. 50 psychology-based questions to skip the small talk to more meaningful conversations. It’s a simple tool with a big impact. We are a social enterprise that commits 10% of our profits to directly fund our Community Connection Program. Join us as we re-build social connection, one conversation at our time.