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The Best Advice I Can Give You

Jason Connell -- Today's demands and tools of modernity often create illusions of connection, making it all too easy to disconnect from what's really important.

The past twelve months have been among the most demanding of my life.

Some very exciting things happened:

-- Changing the World 101 grew beyond my expectations
-- Escape the Matrix and Lead went into beta mode (more on that later!)
-- I got involved with an incredible NGO [Editor's note: non-governmental organization]
-- I published my first articles
-- And I traveled to four countries

And some very challenging things happened:

-- I broke up with my girlfriend of over a year
-- Five of the people in my life -– two still in their twenties -– passed away

And through all of the highs and lows I’ve realized something: it’s not the accomplishments and the difficulties that define a life.

It’s the people.

Without friends and family to support me, I wouldn’t have made it through the challenging times very well. Without friends and family to motivate me and celebrate with, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the exciting things I worked on.

What I realized is that it’s all about human connection.

And here is the best advice I can give you: invest in your relationships. Surround yourself with kind and supportive people who help you dream. Three excellent people in your life who you know well will be much more satisfying than three hundred acquaintances.

If you want to find the courage to change the world, if you want to excel as a leader or social entrepreneur, if you want to master a personal goal, or if you want to get the most out of your twenties -– invest in your relationships.

Your success will be better, faster, and more satisfying when you can share it. Your struggles will be more bearable when you can be supported by people who care about you.

You know that small handful of people who you really care about? Who support you? Your one or two best friends, your family members, your significant other?

Connect with them. Now. If now doesn’t work, then very soon.

And really connect with them. The demands of modernity -– completely filled calendars, high stress jobs with unrealistic expectations, and the hidden pressure to always be interesting and “on the scene” -– make it easy to disconnect without realizing it.

The tools of modernity -– facebook, Skype, email, text messages -– often create the illusion of connection, without the substance.

So take the time right now to pick up the phone and have a real conversation. Book the ticket to see that person you adore but haven’t seen in a while. Put pen to paper and write a playful yet heartfelt letter. Make a date to grab a beer or a coffee with that person who lives on the other side of your city.

And sometimes be the first one to open up -– it takes connection to the next level.

And listen. Really listen.

Honestly opening up, and truly listening are the keys to connection.

could drone on and on about how to network with impossible to meet people, how to publish short articles, how to give a good speech, and how to throw it all to the wind and travel the world for a while -– and perhaps on another day I will -– but I assure you that it will all be meaningless if you don’t have a few people who you really care about, and who really care about you, in your life.

The best advice I can give for any type of meaningful success: invest in your relationships.

Jason Connell is a 24-year-old world traveler, leader, and passionate social entrepreneur. His organization, Changing the World 101, provides American college students with insights and strategies on volunteering abroad so that they can effectively -- as the program name promises -- change the world. Jason explains how to get involved internationally, provides mental exercises to boost confidence, and helps make trips to the developing world a tangible reality. When not volunteering or inspiring others to do the same, Jason is an in-demand international speaker, and lives in Washington, D.C. For more, visit. You can also follow CTW101 at and @CTW101

© 2011 Jason Connell

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