Before Coronavirus quarantines shut down the global economy, I attended at least three business or social events per week. I spoke with a lot of people every year. If I had ONE productive conversation, I considered the night a success. If I made one contact that I heard from again a month later, I considered the week a success.

Forging meaningful connections is hard work. Cultivating a purposeful community, even moreso. Both require long-term, attentive patience. But the rewards are invaluable.

Below, I spotlight several wonderful people I’ve known for over a year, some closer to a decade. People I didn’t expect to hear from past our initial meeting, but these unexpected connections have positively impacted my life personally and professionally.

When I worked at the Tuck School of Business in 2010, I read Harvard Business Review on a daily basis. More often than not, when I looked for an author’s name after reading a story, it was Dorie Clark, Executive Education Faculty at Duke University Fuqua School of Business. I tweeted at her, not expecting much more than a perfunctory reply. Instead, our conversation paved the way to our co-authoring an article for Forbes: Networking Should Never Be Forced

I celebrated the publishing of Dorie’s first book, Stand Out; then her second, Reinventing You; then her third, Entrepreneurial You. Meanwhile, she highlighted books written by those in her network. I’ve always admired the generosity she shows to those in her circle. Nonetheless, I was still a bit intimidated to ask her to read my book, Small Talk Techniques: Smart Strategies for Personal and Professional Success

Not only did Dorie provide a review, she was the first to do so!

Another wonderful woman I thought I would only be able to marvel from afar is Dr. Gina Barreca. I first saw her on stage at our alma mater Dartmouth College, speaking on an authors panel moderated by Ted and Helen Geisel Third Century Professor in the Humanities Donald Pease. Gina’s student experiences were included as part of the Greenways conference on campus: Coming Home. A Celebration of 40 years of Co-Education at Dartmouth College

Dr. Barreca is seated in the center

I’ve been reading the bestselling author’s work ever since. In addition to writing ten books, her work has been published in major publications, including The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Harvard Business Review. She serves as a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor at UCONN, and holds the school’s highest award for excellence in teaching.

Thanks to Facebook, we’ve developed a delightful friendship over the years and I will be contributing an essay for her upcoming book, Fast Fierce Women which is the follow-up to her most recent book, Fast Funny Women.

Used mindfully, social media can be a powerful tool for fostering relationships, especially long distance. I met DC-based Managing DIrector Stephen E. Bates over Twitter when he was visiting Hanover, New Hampshire with his young daughter. She was eleven years old at the time. Today, she is studying for a Masters degree in cyber forensics, and scheduled to graduate next May.

Stephen and I have stayed in touch for most of the past decade. When Canberk Dayan and I hosted an entrepreneurship conference at Canberk’s alma mater Columbia University in 2015, Stephen came in from Washington to moderate one of our panels. Since then, all three of us have introducted one another to people in our international networks.

I have also known Canberk for the better part of the last ten years, initially meeting through the Alumni of the Ivy League Facebook group founded by University of Pennsylvania alumnus Osman Niazi.

Canberk Dayan stands third from the left, and Stephen Bates stands on the far right

One of the more recent additions to my tribe is the producer of the award-winning drama, Just One More Kiss (Best Feature, Big Apple Film Festival) Joe Barbagallo. We met in August 2019, after StartupOneStop editor Bonnie Halper’s breakfast meeting featuring Heather Hartnett, CEO and Founding Partner of Human Ventures. Joe and I became fast friends and have collaborated on several projects since chatting over morning coffee. As Heather noted in her talk, “The future of work is about how you work with others and how you fit within a team. Culture is so important.”

Cultivating a supportive community for yourself makes all the difference in your personal and professional life. It’s deeply rewarding on so many levels, including mental health. Learn to recognize opportunities and practice adding value to those around you. And remember, it takes time, effort, and patience!

As marketing powerhouse Ted Rubin explains:

Relationships are like muscle tissue. The more they’re engaged, the stronger they become. The ability to build relationships and flex that emotional connection muscle is what makes social so valuable.

Return on Relationship™ is accrued by a person or brand due to nurturing a relationship. ROI is simple $’s and cents. ROR is the value (both perceived and real) that will accrue over time through connection, trust, loyalty, recommendations and sharing.

With Ted Rubin at a conference in 2015