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con·nec·tion |the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship (Brene Brown, 2013)

The concept of connection has been brought to the forefront of our mind during the past decade, then even more so during the pandemic. It has even been put under the microscope when we discuss current issues like diversity, inclusion, belonging, and authenticity. Knowing that connection is necessary to enrich our human experience, I am often asking: How do I find it? What does feel like? How do I keep it while maintaining personal boundaries and values?

I am still learning and continuing this internal conversation, always willing to take away what I can to move closer toward connectedness. I have primarily considered my personal life as a mother, friend, neighbor, community member; but a warm blanket of connection is now unexpectedly being wrapped around me in my professional world through Women Who Succeed.

I have had the pleasure of sharing our work during countless conversations with women interested in our initiative and those sharing their stories through interviews.  Without fail, I recognize that these women are not just looking for the next smart business decision but looking for one that includes the differentiator signaling them to join a worthy cause that is worth their oh so valuable time and will enrich them in return. A place where their story is valued. Learned from and passed on.

They are seeking connection: a place where they align with others and move forward together, being more impactful by sharing their valued perspective and experience with vulnerability and receiving the same in return. A circular thread woven tighter by the motion of expanding, learning, and growing together.

They are seeking belonging: a place that listens to difference and uniqueness and does not require sameness to be the thread that connects. Instead, the only true common thread is the permission and agreement to accept one another without judgement, and to see and hear the value in each other. Then apply that to the work being done. A common thread of commitment to giving of time, energy, and openness to parlay this diversity for good.

Let me share what I have learned from all of you in my quest for connection by answering some of my first questions.

Where do I find it? I find connection in others that come as they are and do what they love!  Come curious and open-minded. Come with the courage to speak up & listen in. There is no need to boast titles, push agendas, or build fences when more can be accomplished by diving in with your whole and naked heart to go big.

What does it feel like? To me connection feels like hearing and being heard. When you are listening and what is being said speaks to your heart as pure truth. And when you’re speaking you see the light brighten in the eyes across from you. It is also in that moment that I see and feel seen, and this serves as the spool of thread that has been thrown to join you together. It feels safe and comfortable, inviting and energizing.  It feels suddenly like less work and more meaning.

How do I maintain it? I will maintain connection by acknowledging it has great meaning to me, which in turn asks me to nurture it with time, attention, energy, and purpose.  I will spend my time embracing it and intentionally cultivating it. I will do and be the things that replicate this feeling. I will be honest & authentic. I will be willing to disagree, but still accept the other. I will be discerning, but without judgement. And I will always leave space to be inspired by the unimagined that grows from connections.

Thank you all for offering the threads that are providing such a colorful weave to my fine blanket of connection. It is my honor to derive such sustenance from you and your stories. I hope that you too find great meaning in the good work we’re doing by staying connected and knowing this is right where you belong!

Jennifer Bean
Director of Fundraising, Women Who Succeed

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