What brings people together?

The x-factor, hormones, shared experiences, common struggles, learned skills, common hobbies, unique endeavors, a certain look…

Both online and off, what is that magnetic pull that creates curiosity from one person to another? What’s that secret sauce that drives some people to test limits, push boundaries, and draw their own road maps to living?

Think of personal trainers. There are trainers, the ones that tell you what to do and what exercise is next, maybe will even count the number of times you perform an exercise. But then there are trainers, the types of people you want to pay just to be around them. Trainers who keep you returning, when, after the initial lure of physical fitness has ended, you want to continue to grow and learn and be in their company. Something inside of you wants to make them proud.

There’s the shop owner. His store is an extra walk or a longer drive, but because of his smile, the way he completes your transaction, the way he waves at you when you leave, you take extra time out of your day to visit him. You want to support his business. You want to watch him succeed.

A contagious laugh. A beaming smile. Inspiring stories that have no end. Challenges that have been overcome.

What defines the type of person you like to be around?

In a world in which our lives grow increasingly intertwined, the time and space for us to cultivate meaningful personal relationships has become encroached upon. Superficial connections are quickly, easily made, so authentic relationships — ones that are valuable and mutually shared — have become scare.

How can we find and establish them if we’re chained to the immediate fix? Email alerts, the need to be in the know, the reward centers of our brains that light up by positive feedback, sudden jolts of praise that mask our insecurities.

Yet these insecurities, the precise vulnerabilities that make us human, make us appealing to others, we mask. Whether it’s fear or loneliness or the need for protection, we create boundaries to hide them. And we do it well. These boundaries manifest online, affect our daily interactions, and prohibit us from taking that extra step, form new connections, generate new ideas.

Do you create incubators within your life for connection? Do you seek out people who are successful? Or do you passively wait for them to come to you?