Community is what sets you free

I’ll keep this quick and easy: professional example, societal example, personal example. Let’s dance.

The Professional Example

Some high-up lady at SoulCycle has moved over to WeWork. Gotta love it when people hop between the hot startups, right? Interesting how she frames up SoulCycle here:

One of the key values at SoulCycle is non-competitiveness. Cyclers don’t compete with each other. Rather they share the burden of the exercise together, pressing down on their peddles and bopping on their handlebars in unison, together powering their collective self-esteem and dazzling abs. But Rice says, what really kept people coming back again and again was a sense of belonging that bordered on commitment, if not obligation. It was this sense, she explains, that “If I don’t show up, somebody will be disappointed. If I don’t show up, the energy of this community will be disrupted. What I am contributing to this community is actually propelling it.”

OK. Hold onto that.

The Societal Example

In the U.S. these days, we’ve got a lot of issues with leaving rural communities behind. You can argue that’s how Trump won the Presidency, right? Indeed. But not all rural communities are a disaster. Orange City, Iowa — NW corner of the state, but 2 hours from any major airport — is actually thriving. Here is one reason why:

Julie and Greg lived in the Philadelphia suburbs for ten years. They tried to build a sense of community there, but it didn’t work. They had friends, but after a decade their town still didn’t feel like home. Around this time, when Julie was in her late thirties, her mother received a diagnosis of leukemia, and Julie went to Orange City to be with her as she was dying. She was struck by how many people came to see her mother. She noticed that some of these friends had money and others were poor, whereas in Philadelphia her friends were all very much like her and Greg. Julie thought, Here is a woman who has accomplished basically nothing, professionally, and yet she has had an impact on so many people. And she thought, These are the kinds of deep friendships that we don’t have in Philadelphia.

Hold that one too.

The Personal Example

I got divorced early in ’17. Usually when you get divorced, stuff been f’ed for a while — and that was true here too. I’d say that for parts of 2016, especially later 2016, my “sense of community” was a bar near my house. No bueno. So I joined this gym. (Picture above.) I go almost every day at 10:30am and stay until about 12:30. Some of the people down there have become some of my best friends. I see at least 1-3 people from the gym probably every weekend. I’d say it’s the single-most impactful thing I did in 2017, and that’s almost without question.


Look, none of this is rocket science. But if you really want to find out what you’re capable of and where you might “fit” or belong, you need to cultivate community. That goes for brands (who often lip-service the concept), people, families, gyms, whatever.

This is also why we need to think more on the power of friends at work, and/or gratitude at work.

Build community. Seek it out. 

This stuff matters. The KPIs? Not so much.

Ted Bauer


  1. Good stuff Ted. Reminds me of my time in New Orleans. I remember explaining to my dad why I wanted to move back after my first AmeriCorps term ended and I dicked around my parents’ house for a few months back in 2011 before I returned to NOLA do a 2nd term—for once in my life I actually felt like I was part of a community, a nice mix of “natives” and “transplants” who shared a genuine affection for NOLA’s culture, food, and history.

    I didn’t really have that growing up; I mean, I was always around other people and had a few friends here and there, but I was usually put into private/parochial schools around other kids with more money than I had or who came from obnoxious families. College was fine, though I was mostly surrounded by the same kinds of personalities (kids who grew up in upper-middle-class suburban New England; swap out the NYC metro taawwk for a Greater Boston taaahhk); never really felt like I “fit in” until I was about 24, living in New Orleans, and meeting people from around the US who held different beliefs than I did but weren’t incredibly stuck up about it. Could be why I left CT once college rolled around and have been ambivalent about returning permanently in my adult life.

  2. Introverts are not drawn automatically to this, but it is absolutely true. And necessary. Thanks for the kick in the ass. Build community. Seek it out.

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