Money is a form of wealth, but not the only kind. Aside from money, one can be rich in options, rich in autonomy, or rich in security. There can be a wealth of time or freedom. But what I favor most is richness in community, Recently, I have been dissecting the notion of our social network as a form of wealth. More importantly, how can we tap into our social networks in order to thrive and live rich and meaningful lives?
Our Social Network
I am hyper aware of our fortune when it comes to our social network. Mike and my ability to be working parents is facilitated by very present grandparents (on both sides). Where some people need to pay for childcare in order to earn money, we are fortunate to have free help. A full-time nanny in our area costs over $4k per month. That’s $48k that we get to save each year!
We are also lucky enough to have the support of co-workers and friends. We have neighbors that host dinners. We have friends who take Casey off our hands so that we could eat properly. My co-workers welcome Casey in the dental office. They have offered to take turns holding him should I ever need the one-off daycare. My colleagues will cover my shifts if I need to stay home to care for a sick child. And I have autonomy over my schedule. Not only can I choose the days and hours, but also how to organize my patients and treatment. This wouldn’t be possibly without understanding, empathetic and family oriented bosses.
On top of that, we live in a community that embraces sharing resources. Our Buy Nothing group supplied all of Casey’s belongings and Facebook threads run strong as mothers offer taking turns watching kids. We share unused and unwanted pantry items. And we network about which cleaner to use, which landscaper is cheapest, and what the heck HOA is going to do about so-and-so problem. For all of these reasons, Mike and I are rich in non-monetary ways.
Creating a social network
Feeling as if you have the short-end of the social stick? The good news is that you have control over how you structure your social circle. The first time I felt isolation was in January 2019 after our second trip to New Zealand. Having traveled to multiple countries by our second year of marriage, I realized that we lack in America the level of community and strong family ties found elsewhere. I wanted to feel like I belonged to something. This is exactly how I phrased it when I first reached out to Sara at Rye Goods asking to be their morning baker.
Since my return from New Zealand, I emphasized building my community. It was around the same time I heard the saying, ” you are as good as the five people you surround yourself with.” While I truly believe the statement, I also found it limiting. Why can’t you be as good as the one thousand people you surround yourself with? Plus the hundred thousand people that surround them? I found five to be a testament to America’s over-valuation of individuality. I wanted to transcend, not follow.
So I started by baking bread. They taught me how to open a bakery. Which led me to meeting restaurant and coffee shop owners. I started to write down the social history of all my patients, remembering what colleges their kids went to, where they grew up, and what they do for work. Afterwards, I started walking dogs. I met neighbors and friends who informed me of programs and groups in our local area. I joined our community workout classes.
Eventually, the people I met started to intersect. As my social network grew bigger, the world grew smaller.
Creating a social network isn’t hard work. But it definitely takes practice and intention. I moved ten times before high school, so meeting people isn’t something new to me. My best tip is to be genuinely invested in being an asset to other people. Come from a place of service and friendship, rather than trying to figure out ways in which they can help you. The latter kind of just falls into place.
On top of that, I made life choices that are aligned with my goal of prioritizing community. I never strayed far from family, choosing to live close to my parents and home. I also act as the communicator and organizer for my social circles. And I tend to connect people from different groups. In essence, instead of isolating, I try to surround.
Tapping Into Your Social Network
It takes practice tapping into a social network. Here are a few ways to benefit from people around you.
- Finding job opportunities.
- Finding service recommendations.
- Asking to borrow things you need.
- Getting a sitter for the kids.
- Pulling resources for a project.
- Searching for advice.
- Looking for a new home.
- Learning a hobby.
- Inheriting hand-me-downs.
- Getting coverage at work.
- Getting monetary help.
- Hearing about good deals.
- And more!
Some people chase money alone, hoping to get rich and accumulate wealth. But we attain that status much quicker if we have a vibrant community. Don’t forget about building good rapport with those around you. It’s just as important as building your career.