Finding Real Community in LA

I know; I get it: This blog post title already reeks of hipster handholding and ethereal nonsense, but hang in there. There is a very real and exciting startup scene exploding in LA. Some exciting companies are forming and setting up shop right in our backyards, which is great and amazing and awesome and a bunch of other adjectives. Innovation inspires more innovation and it’s a beautiful thing, but does ambition and opportunity get in the way of real human connection?  Is like-mindedness really enough to create human-centered community?

In 1848, a town of well under 1,000 people was changed forever by opportunity. The Gold Rush grew the small city of San Francisco from a mere 1,000 to a thriving 25,000 over the course of one year. Americans from all across the country flooded into the city ready to work and hungry for fortune. Some were successful, some weren’t, some went mad with greed, and some lost their lives in those dark dangerous tunnels. If we looked at a definition of the word “community,” we could easily apply the word to what was happening in 1848. Thousands of like-minded forty-niners gathered in the same geographic location centered around a very clear and measurable goal. The reality, of course, was that this “community,” this collection of individuals living in close proximity pursuing the same result, was filled with greed, murder, suicide, and depression.

When we say we want community, what do we mean? Do our actions reflect our intentions, or do we find ourselves at yet another networking event looking for leads and adding numbers to our phone book? Are we at risk of seeing people as dollars signs and data points? There’s nothing wrong with networking, but at the end of the day we all crave connection. We want people fighting alongside us in the trenches. We want to be able to look at the person next to us and say “I’m tired. I need help.” and know that instead of cutting you down, they’ll hold you up until you can stand again.

That is community. It’s not just living next to someone who also happens to like making lots of money. It’s deeper than that. It’s a collection of individuals gathered together by an idea so simple that it unites a group of strangers into creating honest conversations that empower people to keep moving forward.  

Maybe this isn’t realistic. Maybe I am just another idealistic millennial who thinks he can change the world from his Macbook. Or maybe life can start looking a bit more like a support group, because when you strip it down, we’re people who crave connection, long for honesty, and desperately want to see and feel love.

My encouragement to you is this: find your tribe. Maybe that’s at a coworking space, maybe a fantasy football league, or maybe it’s a group of people who sit around a coffee shop.

Whatever it is, find it; hold on to it.

Chris Mann

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