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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 4 million readers. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, TODAY, NPR, TIME, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

Establishing Deeper Connections

We just returned from a twelve-day whirlwind journey along America’s west coast—a journey that provided clarity to our lives. It was the connection with other people that created that clarity.

We flew from Dayton to Portland for an amazing three-day World Domination Summit 2011, followed by a few days roaming the streets of Portland, meeting scores of enthusiastic people.

Then we drove south, down the picturesque Oregon coast, toward San Francisco. Along the way, Ryan broke his ankle while sightseeing (long story; don’t ask), but he didn’t let that spoil the trip, deciding instead to crutch the Bay Area streets after a brief detour at the ER.

In downtown San Fran, we met with Leo Babauta for tea under a sun-kissed sky. What an outstanding experience. We were supposed to chat for only one hour, but the three of us lost track of time, and one hour turned into two, which turn into four, and when we finally left, we were sunburned and smiling—happy to have created a deeper, more personal connection with each other, thanks mostly to our new friend’s advice.

Without even trying, Leo inadvertently taught us a new way to connect with people—a real connection. And we’d like to share that strategy with you.

In the middle of our chat, as we cycled through various discussion topics, Leo told us he wanted to try something he hadn’t tried before: he had recently discovered a technique that creates a bond between two or more people, a conversational strategy that gets past the surface-level conversation and builds a lasting bond.

First, he told us two stories. The first was about a successful, accomplished, award-winning businessman. The second story, however, involved a man who grew up in a poor neighborhood, had various struggles throughout his life, and live a life that was far from perfect.

And then Leo asked us which story we connected with most.

We both agreed: the latter story resonated most because as humans we are flawed, we make bad decisions, we struggle with life. We are unique, yet we are one in the same, and we connect with that sameness.

Then Leo shared his own personal, heartrending story (which we obviously won’t share here). We reciprocated, telling our own personal stories of struggle and weakness and utter humanity. It is not a coincidence that all three stories were eerily similar, sharing many common themes—pain, fear, loneliness—which describe what it means to be a human being.

We left that meeting knowing more about Leo, but also more about ourselves.

We encourage you to employ this strategy when creating a connection with others. It might seem frightening at first—it was for us—but it will help you open up and allow you to create a different kind of connection with someone: a deep, lasting connection.

And thus there was one reason this was one of the best trips of our lives: connection. Sure the weather was spectacular, and the food was amazing, and the places we went were cool, but it was our connection with other people that stood out among everything. Connection gave meaning to our journey.

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