Social trust is one of the best metrics for the health of society.
Read this article if you are interested in learning about the systemic causes and solutions for loneliness and depression.
In this article, I present the problem of social distrust — how it has infected our cities and will continue to fester unless neighbourhoods are completely redesigned around belonging. Then, I present an inconspicuous solution: public human connection rituals. And vyving.
Growing up, I was fortunate enough to live in a rural neighbourhood with high social trust. My parents allowed me to bike ride wherever I wanted. There were a lot of other families in the neighbourhood. I knew pretty much all my neighbours and had probably been to all their houses for dinner at some point.
Cities are not like this.
Most neighbourhoods in cities are plagued with social distrust, a metric I learnt about while researching the Happy Cities team. Their research has revealed some interesting results.
One of the best ways to measure social trust is by asking people how much they trust their neighbours, local law enforcement, and co-workers. It turns out the factor most integral to our well-being is trust in neighbours.
Think about it. When we trust our neighbours, we can let our kids play freely. We can leave our door unlocked. Naturally, we socialize more in our neighbourhood. We participate in more community volunteering. We have more shared meals with neighbours. We invest in community infrastructure. We do not litter or steal, because they KNOW us.
Having trust in our fellow city inhabitants reduces crime, increases well-being, and amplifies social connectedness. It is one of the greatest metrics for community health.
So how are we doing? Taken from America Is Having a Moral Convulsion, featured in the Atlantic, not too well.
In 2012, 40 percent of Baby Boomers believed that most people can be trusted, as did 31 percent of members of Generation X. In contrast, only 19 percent of Millennials said most people can be trusted. Seventy-three percent of adults under 30 believe that “most of the time, people just look out for themselves,” according to a Pew survey from 2018. Seventy-one percent of those young adults say that most people “would try to take advantage of you if they got a chance.”
This an urgent problem, because most societies collapse when trust collapses as explained in the article.
So what can be done?
Let’s first begin with what I do. Then, let’s expand it to more societal solutions — such as redesigning neighbourhoods, cities, and economies.
The Practice of Vyving
Public acts of joy have an impact on social trust. When we see strangers expressing themselves and playing with each other, it signals to everyone around them that it’s safe to do so. Expression and safety go hand in hand. Play happens when humans are in a parasympathetic, prosocial mode. This is why the presence of play within a neighbourhood is a sign of community health. Safety and trust lead to more play behaviour.
But it also works in reverse. The public expression of joy and practice of play can create a sense of safety and trust within a neighbourhood. And this, my friends, is the mechanism of vyving.
Vyving works by activating public spaces with joyful acts of play and human expression — namely singing, dancing, and frolicking.
Vyving combines place-making and public joy expression. Vyving defined —
To ignite joy and human connection in public spaces — by means of dancing, singing, and playing with other humans.
Place-making is the process of creating quality places that people want to live, work, play, and learn in. Vyving is a form of place-making because it ignites human celebration in public spaces. It creates mental associations between public spaces and human expression.
What does vyving look like?
I vyve as a self-development practice. I vyve to restore social trust in our cities. I vyve because it can reduce crime and facilitate belonging. It’s backed by social psychology.
When you play publicly, you invite others to play with you.
Vyving is a great tactic, but it is superficial. The root cause of social distrust is how cities are physically designed and how the economy incentives either cooperation or competition. This environment matters. So, idealistically, how can we change the environment? Let’s dive in.
The Overhaul of Cities
Neighbourhoods must be a certain size. Dunbar’s number is the maximum size of relationships a single human can maintain; after this number is exceeded, interpersonal trust is not as automatic because anonymity increases.
This is one of the largest problems in cities — we’re all anonymous. If one of us were to wrong another, anonymity would ensure that it would not come back to bite us. Anonymity breeds social distrust.
Neighbourhoods must also incorporate communal spaces. Gathering spaces. Places where the community can engage in its rituals and activities. The relationship between proximity to parks and well-being has been shown. But I challenge the urban designers to go farther: to design spaces where community programming regularly takes place.
The more pedestrian a neighbourhood, the higher the trust. This means that we must design cities around alternative forms of transportation, instead of the private automobile.
Not being an urban designer, I’m sure there are countless projects rethinking neighbourhood design. Based on my research on human connection, the method I will emphasize is the shaping of the environment to make belonging a default. Public spaces, communal kitchens, shared vehicles, and smaller buildings (Dunbar’s number).
The Overhaul of Economic Incentives
The most significant and elusive intervention relates to economic incentives. Does the economy incentivize us to trust one another? The simple answer is no. The American-style economy incentivizes exploitation and profiteering. The economy incentivizes personal achievement. When everyone is pursuing their own goals, instead of community goals, it’s difficult to trust others.
I dream of an economy with an entirely different metric than GDP. One that reflects the depth of our human connections, not the depth of our pockets. I am excited about what Bhutan has done. They have overhauled their economic incentives, and that’s why they’re one of the happiest countries on Earth.
I know that blockchain will play a role in the economic transformation.
There is a crisis of trust in North America. So what can we do about it? What micro-actions can you and I take to be a part of the solution? To close this article, let’s commit to embodying trust. Let’s commit to forsaking cynicism. It’s too easy. It generates distrust. Let’s commit to the following behaviours.
Look people in the eyes and smile as you pass them.
Dance and sing in public regularly.
Get to know your neighbours. Invite them over for dinner. Offer to supervise their children.
Focus on relationships, not transactions. In other words, stop trying to take advantage of people.
Finally, lobby your local politicians to invest in local place-making.
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What distinguishes a leader from a community leader? An entire philosophy.
In this article, I introduce the mentality of the community-builder. It will transform how you do business, how you connect with others, and how you view community-building. Prepare for a paradigm shift.
I often tell people — community-building has been a spiritual experience. I tell them this because I want to emphasize the difference between community-leadership and executive leadership. It’s a different attitude. It’s a different method.
Operating VYVE, my entrepreneur’s association for human connection professionals, gave me the chance to practice the community mentality. After 6 months of trial and error, the mentality has forever changed how I view leadership.
The community mentality….
It’s behind-the-scenes, altruistic, empowering, opportunity-creating, and generous. It relies on patience, selflessness, and trustfulness.
In one sentence: an attitude characterized by a sincere desire and excitement to elevate others and set them up for success.
Organically, I have adopted the mentality. I think it is because I have experienced the intense fulfillment and connection that accompanies making others feel good, proud, and fearless. I have helped countless community leaders face their fears, try new things, and prevail.
What is the method by which the mentality drives people forward? Instilling self-belief in others and creating fertile environments for progress.
I tell people everyday that they are more capable than they know. I remind them of their past achievements. I tell them how important their work is. I acknowledge the progress people are making. All of this does one thing. It cultivates belief in oneself.
If I try for long enough, I can and will succeed.
When we adopt the mentality of a community-builder, we are reminding people to believe in themselves. We remind them the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.
Practically, those who’ve adopted the community mentality share the spotlight. They bring people into the spotlight. They build platforms and show off the work of others. For a great example, you can check out my newsletter, where I feature 4 human connection professionals every week and mention countless.
Not only do they feature and spotlight others’ work, they build platforms for people to do their work. They introduce potential collaborators to each other. They send out personalized resources.
The common theme is that they are an ambassador for the person’s initiative. They are serving with no expectation of return, merely for the joy of giving.
How do you adopt the community mentality? The community mentality makes life more fulfilling. It gets you high off empowering others. It gives you the kindness bliss. So, here is a checklist for adopting the mindset.
Ask yourself how you can help others first — the community mentality is based on service. It’s about amplifying the work of others by cultivating fertile environments and self-belief. When you help others, they will trust you and naturally want to reciprocate. What goes around comes around.
Give credit away — when you succeed, tell everyone who helped you succeed. Others are much more responsible for our achievements than we think. Every time you hit a milestone or get attention, use it as an opportunity to acknowledge the values and character of your community members. Here’s an example: every time I recap a community event, I recognize the participants who contributed to the event.
Focus on community success — individual success is often prioritized over the success of the community. This mentality encompasses different metrics for success. Instead of your own wealth and status points, look to the collective wealth and status of the community. When we cooperate, everybody wins and we end up with more well-being and wealth than if we just focused on ourselves.
Ask people how you can serve them better —open the channel of constructive feedback between the community leader and the community members. This reminds them that it’s safe to be candid and that your purpose is to serve them. Do what you want to do by all means, but don’t ignore the problems your community members face.
Seek to interconnect — the more interconnections within a network, the stronger the social glue becomes. As a community leader, I introduce people to one another all the time. I am always asking myself at the end of my interactions with others: Who do I know who could play a part in this person’s success?
My greatest guidance for adopting the community mentality is to shift your self-talk from ME to WE. Catch yourself when you’re thinking about WIIFM — What’s In It For Me. Instead, ask yourself how you can conveniently amplify the work of the person in front of you without falling into a helper’s complex.
So go out into the world, and during your next interaction, try out the mentality. It will take time to integrate so be patient.
I write a personal newsletter serving 903 human connection professionals in becoming world-class facilitators, entrepreneurs, and community-builders.
Edgy experience-design principles you haven’t heard of.
Read this article if you are passionate about creating transformational experiences. I will share with you the principles I leverage to take people out of their heads and into their pulsating bodies.
After reading Recapture the Rapture, by Jamie Wheal, I was little confused as to what to do. He talked about the importance of rites of passage, of sacraments, of responsible entheogen usage, and of scripture and worship. But, I was not sure what to actually do as a community architect.
His chapter on ethical cult-building was insightful but not practical. In his culture toolbox, he elaborates five elements: metaphysics, ethics, scripture, deities, and sacraments. I had never thought of metaphysics and scripture in the context of community building, so this was a plus. It really broadened my understanding of my mission to revive human connection in the developed world. Jamie argues we need to build new metaphysical and ethical frameworks to accomplish this…
But I’ll leave the theoretical and sense-making frameworks to the philosophers. As a facilitator and party scientist, I am much more interested in sacraments. Specifically, rituals involving social-bonding.
Meaning System 3.0 is a fancy term for a new culture that saves humanity. A culture that transcends the gender and culture wars and unites us all in facing our greatest challenges as earthlings. In describing Meaning System 3.0, Wheal emphasizes the importance of three habitual processes embedded in human life: catharsis, ecstasis, and communitas.
Catharsis is release and healing. Ecstasis is liberation and transcendance. And communitas is heartfelt connection to humans, self, and nature.
My mission in simple terms is to normalize a practice of cathartic, ecstatic, communitastic expression. And I believe a great way to realize this is through the modality of collective joy. However, the experience design principles below apply to all types of experiences. They are universal.
Finally. Let’s identify the principles for designing rituals that meet the standards for Meaning System 3.0.
Set the Stage
Participants must know that the experience has a different intention. They must see it in a different light. This is not just an entertainment experience. It is a transformational one. And so, how we invite people and communicate the experience to people must be informed by this unique intention.
We want our participants to drop in to a different state of consciousness during the experience, and so they must enter the event with aligned motives. The goal is not fun or socialization or relaxation. The goal is to heal and transcend.
In designing my experiences, I set the stage by crafting an excellent ‘liftoff package’ for my attendees. Within the liftoff package, I describe the techniques we will be using, I explain how they can participate, and I give them accurate expectations. I want them to know where they are going so that they can fully trust me as a facilitator and fully participate in the experience.
The second way I set the stage is through video communication with my guests. Again, this is about building trust. With transformational experiences, your guests need a level of safety and trust to fully open their hearts and give up control; surrender is an essential characteristic of transformation. They need to know, like, and trust you as their host.
So whatever we can do as hosts before the experience to cultivate this is indispensable. Direct communication is one manner. Giving your participants activities to do before the experience is another. Yet another is what the host does to open their transformational experience: the opening ritual.
I have discussed the importance of opening rituals in many of my other articles (see how to bring people together in a pandemic). An effective opening ritual does the following: 1. it promotes a sense of psychological safety among participants; 2. it evokes a prosocial and relaxed state of mind in participants; and 3. it generates a sense of trust in the host.
In summary, setting the stage involves building trust before your guests arrive and orchestrating an opening ritual.
The intentions of your guests deserve a section of their own. If intentions are aligned, participants will validate one another’s liberation and expression. If they’re not, participants will not feel safe to let go and release. So, it’s necessary to be very clear as to the purpose of the experience. Ensure that people who are just looking for a fun or social thing to do are not present. This damages the bubble of psychological safety.
Guide participants in their intention-setting by referencing the purpose of the experience: to transform through accessing altered states of consciousness. If you make this clear, you will not have to deal with the confusion of uncomfortable guests.
Incorporate Techniques of Ecstacy
At last, the most juicy part of this article.
Wheal discusses multiple techniques of ecstacy in his book: sex, respiration, entheogens, pain/pleasure, and music. A technique of ecstacy is a means to induce an altered state of consciousness that produces a profound change in psychology. In other words, a technique of ecstacy is a method for producing a mystical experience. And as Wheal references in the book, having a mystical experience is closely correlated with emotional well-being.
So to produce a transformational experience, the experience designer must incorporate a ritual that leverages a technique of ecstacy. I am no professional in the realm of sacred sex, entheogens, respiration, or pain induction. But I am a professional in the realm of music; music, dancing, and singing are my essential tools for electrifying audiences and breaking down social categories.
If you’d like to explore how to design and facilitate music and dance rituals, I have written about it in my newsletter. And will continue to write about it until the end of time.
My suggestion to facilitators is to train in a technique of ecstacy and then apply it in your experience.
This article was about levelling up your experiences. Making them cathartic, ecstatic, and transformational. It’s about time we as experience designers leverage the ancient techniques of ecstacy and elevate global consciousness.
Let’s get serious — I have collected a few principles for thriving.
This document is categorized into four: expectations, principles, algorithms, and beliefs. Algorithms are specific actions that are taken under a specific set of circumstances. Principles are broader categories of actions. Beliefs are cognitive and pertain to how I perceive the world.
Love is the ability to see another’s perspective. Wisdom is the ability to let go of all your perspectives. Power is the ability to get others to see your perspective.
Expectations about the world
I expect things to go wrong, to not go as planned.
I do not expect others to keep their promises.
I do not expect others to be non-conformist, independent thinkers.
I do not expert others to have an organizational system and calendar.
I’m tired of being frustrated that most humans are zombies. They soak in their Netflix and follow the prescribed social norms. I realize that this is how the world is designed. The hyper-capitalist world we inhabit has programmed people this way.
I do not expect others to be present-minded.
I do not expect others to be conscious.
I do not expect others to be psychologically stable and calm.
Here’s why I am an advocate for having low expectations for others: happiness. When you expect others to act consciously, you don’t get your hopes up. Consistently, I have been let down. I have been left out. I have felt alone. No one reaches out to me. This is the lonely journey of being a giver. You are rare. Most humans do not give, do not create experiences for others. It’s unfortunate, but true.
Beliefs about myself
I have limitless self-control.
I have complete control over my body and mind.
I have no control over the moment.
I have control over outcomes over time.
Beliefs about others
Everyone is doing their best with the best available information and cognitive capacities they possess
Humans are quite sensitive and defensive.
Everyone is my coach for enlightenment.
Malice can often be attributed to mere incompetence.
Other people are allies, not obstacles, to my success.
Potential contact is always there for all individuals.
I pick up the trash of my guests.
As a facilitator and practitioner of service-based leadership, I make it visible that I am here to serve. I take pleasure in raising the rapport of those around me. I make it known that I am below my constituents.
I change my situation, not my willpower.
I know that relying on willpower is a short-term and exhausting play. Changing the situation such that there are no temptations, such that the default path takes you to success is much more powerful.
I apply buffers.
Expecting that things will not go as planned, I apply buffers. I have reserves. I have cushions in my schedule but also in my resources. I pay attention to the planning fallacy, so I plan accordingly.
I have no demands on the moment.
However the moment evolves is ok with me. Because I have no expectations, whenever something goes wrong, it does not affect me mentally. whenever I feel frustration with the moment, I remind myself of this.
I avoid the fundamental attribution error.
I know that there are more multiples invisible reasons, which go beyond one’s character, that explain unfortunate events or harms.
I do not attach to influencing how people behave.
When we attach ourselves to having influence over someone, we lose the influence. When we apply force, we become powerless. When we push, people push back. This principle is also related to the reasons why I avoid convincing and recruiting people. Instead, I let their passion come forth naturally.
I am virtue-finding instead of fault-finding.
Humans are fallible, fragile creatures. They are also filled with love and expression. When I look for virtues, I will find them. When I look for faults, I will find them in everyone. I choose to search for the virtues and focus my attention on the beautiful parts of human nature. I want to bring out virtues in others. Until they show me they are not worthy of my trust, I will find and recognize their virtues.
I am curious by default.
When my body starts to feel resistance. When I have an urge to disagree, I default to curiosity. I seek out more information. I broaden my mind and learn more. I diverge. I do not jump to conclusions. I do not act on being triggered. I take a walk.
I take action before I am 100% ready.
The truth is, I’ll never be 100% ready to do anything. Waiting to be ready is a perfectionist’s action. Learning occurs when you are not ready. When you are challenging yourself.
I focus on the 1 percent that leads to 99 percent of the results.
This is simply the Pareto principle, over and over again. The tasks that i focus on are what I call system-amplifiers. They are about creating systems of automation, outsourcing, and employment.
I practice coachability.
This one trait encompasses forgoing being right, de-escalating conflict, absorbing destructive or constructive feedback, and seeing the bull-shit of others as teachers.
I make others look good.
This is about raising the face of others, giving them credit, introducing them fancily, and continually complimenting them meaningfully. I give others the spotlight so that they can become successful.
I seek the truth however much it hurts.
Seeking the truth is about embracing bad news. It’s about going outside your perspective and forecasting the worst-case scenario. It’s about embracing a little healthy pessimism.
I say no by default.
I think things through before saying yes. This ensures that what I am saying yes to is a Fuck Yes. Saying no gives my body the time to be aware of itself.
I speak with a high signal-to-noise ratio.
This world is saturated with ramblers. They say the same thing over and over again multiples times. This programs others to not listen to them intently. I want everything that comes out of my mouth to be highly valuable and succinct.
I celebrate to motivate myself.
Too often we celebrate only at the end. When we break down milestones into smaller steps, we can use celebration as a source of motivation forward. This also applies to when I complete a task that required a lot of willpower, such as a new habit.
I diverge and then converge.
Before making conclusions, i take the outside view. I broaden my perspective. I seek out new information. Once i have collected the relevant statistics, i make an informed choice.
I have faith but confront reality.
Humans are naturally optimists, due to the confirmation bias and our narrow view on the world. Confronting reality is about being a wide-eyed realist. Having faith is about being belief-driven. Knowing that suffering is temporary and that consistency is the greatest determinant of success.
I motivate myself intrinsically and integratedly.
This is about finding the enjoyment in the activities you dread. It’s about re-programming yourself to enjoy an experience, or pivoting to an alternative activity that you do enjoy. Integration is about identification. When we integrate a behaviour or goal into our identity, we are much more likely to be motivated to pursue it.
I have no destination.
The moment is the end. The moment is the end. Meaning, the moment is all we have and when we focus on it, when we focus on the means, the end comes naturally.
I take calculated risks.
I make decisions consciously and slowly. I consider the outside view. I brainstorm what i may not know. I calculate the likelihood of different scenarios.
I embrace intelligent failures.
Intelligent failures are failures resulting from calculated risks. Resulting from experiments that were well thought out and had risk. Preventable failures, i do not celebrate.
I boost others’ sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
(1) Autonomy — the desire to direct our own lives; (2) Mastery — the urge to get better and better at something that matters; and (3) Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.
I recognize more than I criticize, at a ratio of 6:1.
Due to the negativity bias, we need much more praise to offset any criticism.
I present solutions.
Before presenting problems to others, I try to figure out the solution on my own. Often, with just a double-check, I will solve the problem. When we ask questions, where the answer is readily available if we had just looked it up, it illustrates to others that we are incompetent. Look before asking. Don’t just ask. although encouraging people to ask for help is great leadership, we must be cautious to not encourage dumb questions. Dumb question-asking is an act of giving up one’s independent thinking ability.
I source my self-esteem from my progress, purpose, and people.
This is in contrast to focusing on winning instead. The comparative analysis kills joy. It raises our expectations for how we should be living.
I unconditionally accept others.
This means I do not wish that they change. I make suggestions, but I love them regardless of whether they heed my suggestions. I do not resent the people who choose not to evolve. I distance.
I do what I say and say what I mean.
Nothing comes out of my mouth without a commitment to myself and my action. I do not want to be the boy who cried wolf. People adapt gradually to what you say. If generally, what you say is trustworthy, they will see your word as the word of Christ.
I favour the process over the outcome.
Process orientation aligns with the logic that “the moment is the end.” The outcome usually depends on luck. However, when we focus on the process over and over again, the influence of luck dissipates. Life is better when we enjoy the process.
I specify when and where I will do something.
The more specific I can get with my commitment, the more likely it is I will succeed. This principle mandates the use of rigorous scheduling systems.
I say thank you 20 times per day.
I practice gratitude in many ways. But, this way is simple. I say thank you when people do things for me, small or large. When someone fills me with joy, when someone calls me, when someone invites me. I find reasons to thank and recognize the generosity of others.
I spend my weirdness points wisely.
i don’t spend my weirdness points on lookism. I am wise with how I decide to spend them. If I look different, and think different, people will be less likely to be open to my thoughts than if I just thought different.
I spend my money on creating experiences for others.
If there is one principle in this essay that is most correlated with my happiness, it is this one. I live and breathe bringing people together. This is how I want to spend my money. Good company is worth all my money.
I live unrushedly.
Luxury is the privilege of not having to rush. Most of my poor decisions have resulted from too fast of a pace. Slowing down the pace of my decision-making and relationship building has proven effective for long-term thinking.
I identify root causes, not villains.
Often, beneath the villain, there is a cause. Often, the cause is not a human. It is a choice architecture or a system. The sleepy pilot is not at fault. So, when someone makes a horrible mistake, I look for the underlying system or lack of one thereof. Consider the time you crashed your father’s car, Jacques.
I think on a multidimensional spectrum (non-binary).
People are unique. Situations are nuanced. Consider the human body. Gut bacteria can cause depression. If I spend more time identifying the nuances, I get closer to actual reality.
I respond with I don’t know.
Knowledge is constantly evolving. To claim that you know something is to deny the fact that things are impermanent. Appreciating your own ignorance and collecting more data is a good approach to decision-making.
I do not delay crucial conversations.
Lying is the opposite of embracing crucial conversations. These conversations take place because I want to cooperate with others. I want people to regard me as someone who tells the truth in an empowering way. Empowerment feedback is the type of feedback that I practice.
I trust myself because I am accountable to myself.
In David Goggins book, he talks about the accountability mirror. This is his method for holding himself accountable. He asks himself in the mirror, ‘are you one to do that? Are you trustworthy?’ He embraces the reality of his integrity. Although social pressure is stronger by default, relying on others for accountability is weaker than relying on yourself. Your mind. Your voice.
I do what I can do with stamina.
Stamina is the greatest predictor of success. By nature of the compound effect, when an action is repeated consistently over time, luck and chance circumstances fade into the background. It is inevitable that a behaviour will achieve a result if repeated infinitely.
I dig beyond the opinion.
Beneath every opinion, there is a human experience. Humans have opinions because of their experiences. once we identify the experiences, we have a lot more patience in understanding one’s (potentially alien) opinions. It would make sense for someone to believe in conspiracies if their parents had been wronged by the justice system.
I make it fun to make it consistent.
I tap into intrinsic motivation to keep my habit and project engines churning. When we sincerely enjoy the journey, the activity no longer requires motivation. We look forward to doing it. Finding a means to enjoy or gamify monotonous tasks is one of my favourite life hacks.
I do not manufacture consent.
Manufacturing consent is about pressuring or manipulating people into doing something that they really wouldn’t want to do if they were left to themselves. The opposite of this is to allow people to be attracted to your project, community, or just YOU.
When judging whether to trust an expert, I evaluate whether they have skin in the game.
If someone is eager to say something, I implore them to share it and validate them.
When someone shares good news with me, I practice active constructive responding.
This is the story of a different type of community. It’s a long, arduous, and emotional one.
Read this if you are passionate about In-Real-Life community building and bringing humans together in healthy ways. This is written for facilitators of human connection.
In this article, I chronicle my process for building and launching an online learning community in three months, scaling the community to 50 members and igniting a global value-based movement.
VYVE is a global human connection movement about empowering more humans to access the benefits of the elixir of life that is Community. Apply to join here.
In 2017, I started throwing sober parties and gained my craft in facilitation. In 2020, I started building conscious communities. It was in October 2020 that I woke up to the power of community building.
Building a community will scale my impact, raise my sense of purpose, and create passive recurring income.
Amidst the pandemic, my co-founders and I were scrambling. Our event model was being torn to shreds by the new restrictions in Vancouver, Canada. We had planned a bunch of dis-dance events with the goal of creating an outdoor health phenomenon called vyving.
We were crazy. Winter was coming. The pandemic was raging. Regardless, we dived in. Thanks to my biz partner’s courage, we believed we could make it happen. We believed we could popularize an intense biohacking practice based on the health benefits of human connection.
We were not wrong. But outdoor events became illegal. This led us to pivot.
After our final event, a secret mission on Halloween, we were back to the drawing board. When would we launch our vyving classes? When would events become legal again? What would we do in the meantime?
It was around this time that my self-doubt started to increase. One of my business partners decided to leave two weeks earlier. There was a lot of uncertainty in the air. Momentum was stalling.
Toper, my other business partner, and I spent the month of November in reflection and learning mode. We spent the month finalizing some key documentation about our movement and community. Toper was transitioning to a new job, so we had a lot of time to read, write, and synthesize our philosophies.
During this time, the bedrock of the VYVE manifesto was constructed. But also, the bedrock of the VYVE community. In November, we determined who our niche was and identified dozens of people who we wanted to enroll in our movement. This is before we saw VYVE as a community business. We still saw VYVE as a class-based model like CrossFit.
We used the template from Belong by Radha Agrawal to identify the core values of our community, the purpose, and the brand. In one epic brainstorm, Toper and I came up with the 5 V’s of VYVE. You can find them in the manifesto.
I totally geeked out and learnt all that I could about community-building. I read countless books and started to follow famous community builders. I joined Discords, discovered Circle, and started to play around with Slack. I read the Art Of Community and started writing an internal document called Community Infrastructure.
All my lessons I applied in a community I had started spontaneously for my friends in August of 2020. The Slack group had continued until it was shut down in December. This group was not intended to be the product. But it served as a learning ground for the launch of the VYVE movement.
Key Lesson #1. Launch before you launch.
I had launched a community on Slack and used it as a testing ground for different apps and engagement strategies. This group, called the League of Revyvers, was where my introduction template, core channels, and central activities were invented. I learnt the hard lesson that community-building is a long-term game. Especially if you’re migrating your community off of the main platforms.
Also, the community has to be reallllyy good for people to stick around. Meaning, the signal-to-noise ratio must be verrryyy high.
Key Lesson #2. Maximize the signal-to-noise ratio.
In December, I ramped up my community-building efforts while my business partner started his new job. This is where I dug my heels in and wrote the first iteration of the VYVE manifesto. It came across as quite judgemental toward people with materialistic values.
I sent it to my most critical-thinking friends and received tons of feedback on the core philosophy and values. Before the critique, I was demonizing materialism and wealth. I soon realized I did not want to exclude people who like nice stuff. So I re-edited it. Largely thanks to Ashton Addison.
Thanks to Christopher Ravadilla, who had recently read Dancing in the Streets, the manifesto incorporated the history of community and ritual. Positive psychology was also emphasized in the manifesto, based on my revelations from reading Lost Connections, given to me by a good friend Brad Lancaster, a master community philosopher.
It was in December that I clarified the future of VYVE. This happened organically. As I learnt more and more about the exciting community-building space, I realized there was no reason VYVE could not be a global collective and identity. Plus, in 2019, I had returned from an international party research expedition and had met hundreds of international facilitators, such as Adam Wilder — who I regard as my greatest ally.
I had the network to make this happen! Given that our vyving class was not going to be possible until COVID was over, I made the decision to make the community the product, not the practice of vyving. This is after I learnt about the relationship between the people attending and the event experience.
Who shows up at your event dictates the quality of your event.
After deciding to start a global community for facilitators of human connection, I followed my instinct to reach out to people like that.
I remember a call with Adam where I pitched the idea to him. This is after I had drafted the first proposal of the community published on December 14. He was not too receptive. He gave me a lot of feedback. I implemented it and sent it back. Multiple times.
Get down a written proposal. Send it to people that its intended to serve.
The proposal that I had written was essential for communicating the value proposition of VYVE. It was my key collateral that I sent to my network. It is embarrassing to look back on it now.
Throughout December, this is what I did: I sent the proposal out to my community-builder/human connection friends and solicited feedback. I iterated the community proposal again, again, and again.
Over Christmas, I spent the days reflecting and cold-plunging. More importantly, I read Healthy at 100. And this reinforced the VYVE philosophy ten times. Excerpts from the book are now included in the manifesto, and I have considered sending all new members of VYVE the book. My greatest takeaway is encapsulated by this snippet.
In Okinawa, Hunza, Vilcabamba, and Abhkasia, there is a deep sense of human connection and social integrity. People continually help one another and believe in one another — John Robbins, Heatlhy at 100 (pg. 284)
With a renewed confidence in the VYVE philosophy and my purpose in life — to bring back the depth of community characterizing centenarian villages — I asked myself. What now?
— A founding member launch.
I had learnt about the founding member launch from a friend and mentor, Jan Keck, founder of Ask Deep Questions. He was in the middle of launching his own membership community for facilitators. He told me about Stu Mclaren, and I read the guide on tribehub.com.
After a wonderful NYE parade in the rain co-hosted with the supportive @Charlotte.rhythms, I started to plan my founding member launch.
Before this, I finalized a new proposal/invitation (likely the 20th version) and published the VYVE Community Code. All my community infrastructure had to be set up before I started recruiting members.
My community infrastructure included the following:
An onboarding procedure.
A community platform — core channels and apps for the slack community.
A code of conduct.
An application form.
An acceptance form.
I built the full customer experience and had my friends go through it. Thank you Pierre for the wonderful feedback.
The customer experience began with the letter of nomination. From there, readers clicked on the application form. They received an email from me which rationalized their application and conveyed exclusivity. Then, they received an acceptance form. The acceptance form contained expectations, standards of participation, and terms and conditions.
Afterward, they received an email from me with the onboarding protocol. Back then, it was wayyyy too complicated. So it has been massively simplified since January.
Emphasis: The application form was an extremely important touchpoint. It went through five rounds of feedback. I designed the form such that it showed off the value of the community to the applicant. Why did I implement applications?
In December, I finished reading Priya Parker’s book called The Art of Gathering. In it, she introduces the idea of Inclusive Exclusivity.
Inclusive exclusivity is the act of excluding people who do not align with the purpose of your gathering for the sake of including those who do.
In other words, for your niche to feel fully included and authentic, you have to exclude people who would dilute that feeling. I often don’t feel like I can dance at fancy nightclubs. It’s because the people there are not my tribe. And they’re drunk, I’m sober. When the people there are not your tribe, it’s not easy to express yourself authentically.
Based on this, I decided early on that I wanted my community to be inclusively exclusive. This meant that I had them go through multiple application forms to get in. And then an onboarding procedure.
I even had them read the manifesto before applying.
BACK TO WHAT I WAS SAYING —
The acceptance form was just as important as the application form. When members were accepted, they were offered a position within VYVE. The acceptance form was conveyed as an offer and agreement. To accept their offer, applicants had to acknowledge the community code, the 5 Vs of VYVE, and the shared responsibilities of being in VYVE.
My network likely expanded 3X in January. After finalizing all the community infrastructure, I started identifying people in my network who I would want in VYVE. I had already a massive network from travelling the world.
My outreach approach was collaborative. I asked for feedback. I asked if they wanted to be involved in building the VYVE Alliance. I sent them the proposal letter and requested a meeting with them. What I found to be effective was meeting with them first, before even inviting them to be a part of VYVE.
Humans love other humans. Show off your human nature before pitching them.
A lot of the lead identification had already been done. For years I had been creating a network database containing people with my beliefs and passions. So, all I had to do was look at my excel sheet and reach out to them. Network management comes in handy.
I followed up ruthlessly. I recruited a bunch of high-profile movement builders such as Peter Sharp and Nicole Gibson. What I soon realized is that I recruited them. They did not organically choose to be in VYVE.
This was my greatest downfall in creating VYVE 1.0. People who didn’t want to be there, or who could not benefit from being involved in VYVE had been recruited into the community. More on this later.
By the end of January, I had 27 members of VYVE. They had all gone through the acceptance form. And they were all signed up for the opening ceremony.
How I designed the opening ceremony and the first month
I wanted the opening ceremony to show off the awesomeness within VYVE. So I drafted a presentation with one slide for each founding member. During the ceremony, I personally introduced each member with their slide and they followed a structured introduction to the group. Then they led a short activity to their favourite song for the entire group.
The intros went overtime because some people did not stop talking. So the second half of the opening ceremony, which focussed on public commitment to the mission and values of VYVE, was rushed. In this section, I explained the mission of VYVE and every member signed the slide digitally. There were numerous slides. This was the mission slide.
After the opening ceremony, VYVE kicked off with a weekly event. There were four types of events: learning discussions, human connection labs, peer support circles, and ask an expert Q&As.
In retrospect, there were way too many events.
With all my infrastructure in place, February was about getting as many members as possible to events. And collecting as much feedback as possible. Every week, there was a different event, at the same consistent time. This maximized attendance.
I spoke to members regularly. I scheduled an optional community infrastructure meeting. I setup committees. I solicited feedback. I prodded people. I sent voice messages.
It was very difficult to keep engagement high. In all this, I learnt that people are overwhelmed easily. So, I reduced the number of channels on Slack to the bare minimum. I set the expectation that events are the most important form of community participation.
It didn’t work. People did not show up at events.
Then, I had a really important call with Jan Keck.
If it’s not on their to do list, they won’t show up. — Jan Keck
This is when I realized that my events were not helping people make a livelihood. VYVE events were fun, but nonessential.
Near the end of February, I collected 20 feedback responses that reinforced this realization. One of the questions was about a fair price for the month of membership. Some of my best friends told me they had not received any value. Zero dollars. It really hurt. I took it personally.
But it helped me come back to consciousness.
In March, I came to the uncomfortable realization.
I had convinced people to join who really did not want to be there, and who really could not benefit from being there. This was a difficult realization. Because people didn’t want to be there, it destroyed the sense of engagement in the community. I actually discovered that I had to restart.
Screen people for dedication, not expertise or followers.
After reviewing the feedback responses, I realized the importance of committedness. Community members will not experience any benefit from your product if they are not committed to trying it out. I had numerous community members who just didn’t have the commitment. They wouldn’t participate because they had no reason to.
If you have successfully targeted a niche, they will be naturally committed to trying your product.
I had invited people who were not my niche. They were not in a place to benefit from participating in my community.
So here came the great revival. I realized I needed to relaunch. I needed to remove the community members who didn’t care at all. I needed to build a program that actually got members to commit. So, I built the Try-VYVE program — a four-session program intended to showcase the benefits of peer accountability, learning, and support — the three pillars of VYVE value proposition.
In March, I took off the throttle on the actual community and refocussed on program development and outreach. A few community members were integral in building Try-VYVE. Melanie got me to simplify and crystallize the offering. Emily got me to use more inclusive language and practice more transparency.
New community infrastructure was built. The most important document was the welcome letter — this included a roadmap, a checklist, and some welcoming words. Every participant would receive it, and it would be their program guide.
To relaunch, I used Hunter.io to send out personalized ‘prelaunch invitations’ to my newsletter list and all the previous applicants to VYVE. I sent about 3000 personal emails. I made the recipient feel like the prelaunch was not public… and it wasn’t.
I designed new Typeforms for accepting and evaluating applicants. Both of which blatantly laid out the necessary commitments. I even turned on the ‘force to click all’ function.
I hired a virtual assistant to direct message people on Instagram, post on Facebook groups, and collect email addresses. This was likely one of the best investments of my life. It led to around 5 booked meetings with facilitators every week. These meetings went very well. I showed off my human nature before officially nominating them to join VYVE.
My goal was to onboard 50 members for the first cohort. From my pool of existing and new applicants, I got 57. In this process, I had numerous existing revyvers leave. It forced me to learn an important principle.
When people who are not your niche leave, it’s a positive signal.
Ever since learning this, I have made it very clear. VYVE is intended for facilitators of human connection who are building purpose-driven communities. It’s not for Instagram influencers who like selling things to their audience. It’s not for filmmakers. It’s not for actors.
I sent the new 57 member the welcome letter and the checklist that they must complete to be eligible for revyver status. How I framed the checklist is that joining VYVE must be earned; to become a revyver, you must complete the checklist in full. If you don’t, apply again and good luck.
I subtly communicated this over and over again: you have to earn your membership to VYVE. Unlike most communities, where you can just buy your way in, VYVE requires an application and commitment. Being an active participant is much more important than paying more, in my books. This is why the pricing of VYVE will accommodate lower income levels.
During onboarding, I set up phone calls with new members Lucy the self-declared Co-op Nerd and Marco the Authentic Relating Master. I got to know my new community members and found out the stage of their community-building they were at.
Before the opening celebration, I filmed special dance videos for all the new members. In the introduction template, it featured ‘favourite song.’ I took the song and filmed myself dancing to it. Then I posted it publicly in Slack.
Design of the Opening Celebration
Compared to the first opening event, this one got way more positive feedback. I designed it to maximize interactivity. So, I created speed vulnerability sessions — every participant would go through 5 five-minute sessions where they were paired up to pay a game called “If you really knew me, you’d know…”
Before the speed sessions started, I shared the story and passion I have for VYVE. I talked about the origins of VYVE in my experiences leading hundreds of sober parties.
I even made an April fool’s joke that Facebook and VYVE were entering a strategic partnership. It got everyone laughing.
After the speed-vulnerability sessions, we ratified various codes. We digitally signed the manifesto, core beliefs of VYVE, and the program expectations. Finally, participants were assigned to breakout rooms of three to complete their ‘hive check out.’ This is a ritual a part of VYVE where peer groups regularly share their goals and gratitudes.
I developed five principles for relating, which will transform how you connect with others.
In my community VYVE, we practice peer empowerment. Peer empowerment involves peer support, learning and accountability. In all our interactions, whether we are teaching each other something or sharing a personal crisis, we subscribe to a methodology for relating.
A principle of relating is a rule for engaging in human connection. The methods of relating I describe here come from the practices of improv, therapy, and authentic relating. They deepen our connection to ourselves and others.
Often, it does not matter what people say that makes us feel close to them. It’s the quality of their presence and authenticity; they are being fully human. For this reason, I decided to make these principles of relating a standard within my community. VYVE is not a typical networking or mastermind group. VYVE is here to empower, connect, and nourish us in ways that other entrepreneurial communities cannot.
In this article, I simplify relating into two core practices: Sharing and responding.
Sharing is when one person has the floor to share a situation or challenge they want to discuss. In VYVE sessions, they have 5 minutes to do so. Sharing is an opportunity to explore and express what’s really going on in our personal or professional lives. Sharing may be a request for help, or may not.
Responding is about communicating the emotional impact of the person’s share. Responding is done by the people who heard the share. Responding is about relating, affirming, and reflecting on what was shared. If the sharer asked for something specific, responding is about giving the sharer what they asked for.
Here are the five principles of relating within VYVE.
When someone is sharing, we give them space to share. In our sessions, they have up to 5 minutes to expand and explore their feelings, uninterrupted. After this, we respond to what has been shared. When we are responding, we are aware of how much space we are taking up. We practice pausing to let others in. We avoid rambling. We are not the only ones talking.
Beyond the sharing and responding dynamic, giving space is invaluable to intimate connection. Pausing and allowing others to respond to what we have said is what promotes emotional connection.
When another is sharing:
We give them space to share until they’re done.
When we are responding:
We are aware of how much space we take up.
We challenge ourselves to speak in concise terms.
We practice pausing.
When we are empowering our peers in a VYVE session, we are doing one thing and one thing only — fully hearing the individual who is sharing. We are noticing their emotions, body language, and choice of words. We are noticing where we feel resonance, or resistance. We are writing down suggestions or perspectives so they don’t fly away. The quality of attention that we bring to our sessions determines the quality of connection we experience.
When another is sharing:
We do not respond until the person sharing has indicated they are done.
We take notes if something valuable comes up for us.
We listen with our full attention.
Feel Your Body.
When we share our situation with our group, we practice being fully human. We go beyond the intellect. We don’t just explore the what, how, and why. We explore the impact it had on our emotions and mental health. We describe how we are actually feeling in all of this. Not only that, we are not afraid to feel it right then and there and be witnessed by our peers.
When we are sharing or responding:
We get real.
We practice courage by sharing our authentic feelings.
We give others the benefit of the doubt if their authenticity triggers us.
Validate and Relate.
After someone has shared in the circle, we validate what they’ve shared. This can occur in different forms. We can echo something they have said. We can share how our experience is similar. We can describe a shared feeling. After validating what they have said, we can share our perspective — this is about supporting them as an entrepreneur.
When we are relating to the sharer, we prefer the word and over the word but. We build off each other within VYVE instead of killing ideas. Creativity and curiosity are not fueled by disagreeability and criticism. We never begin sentences with: “I disagree.” It just isn’t constructive. We add to the discussion or deepen the discussion with a discerning question.
When we are responding:
We share personal experiences and feelings relevant to what was shared.
We practice curiosity.
We are constructive.
Ask and Receive
When we share, we make it clear what we’re looking for: emotional support, entrepreneurial perspectives, feedback, or ideas. Whatever the sharer asks for guides our responses. When someone shares, they may not be looking for advice. They may want to be witnessed in their situation and its difficulty. They may want to know that they are not alone. Until the sharer asks for advice or wisdom, peers are there to relate, witness, and facilitate exploration.
When someone does request support, we share our own experience or we ask questions: “Have you tried X? It worked for me in Y situation.”
When we are sharing:
We ask for what we want.
When we are responding:
We share our personal experiences.
We do not use SHOULD statements.
We relate as humans AND as entrepreneurs.
And for virtual settings! Show and Tell.
It’s easier to understand someone when they show us visually what they mean. This is why screen-sharing is encouraged in VYVE sessions. If there is something you want to show the group, do it. When you combine visuals with verbals, you increase your clarity.
When we are sharing:
We may use screen-sharing to show the group.
The five principles of peer empowerment are to be practiced in our weekly VYVE session. I am looking forward to relating to you on a human level 💕
I thought it was impossible. Here are my hard-learned adaptations.
In this article, you will learn principles for bringing people together regardless of the context. Near the end, you will learn some hacks for COVID human connection.
My name is Jacques. Before the pandemic, I travelled the world with a giant speaker. I started singalongs, group hugs, dance parties, and huddles among strangers. Sometimes on planes.
In the last three years, I discovered my life purpose: to advance public health by normalizing new forms of socialization, particularly ecstatic celebration.
I feel an electricity through my veins when I bring people together. If you want to feel this too, read on. I will show you how.
On the news, they called me a self-proclaimed party expert. Although I go by The Party Scientist internationally, the principles of bringing people together through parties apply to most gatherings.
The importance of greeting. Having an opening ceremony. Priming your guests. Role-modeling vulnerability. Introducing people to one another. Creating space for people to be seen. To name a few.
“We, as young people, need to learn how to socialize differently” This is my favourite quote from the segment. It explains why I am stoked to write this article. How we currently socialize is way too unstructured. We bring people together passively and expect magic to happen. Typically it doesn’t.
It doesn’t happen because hosts are too chill. Priya Parker talks about this in her book. Chill hosts don’t want to intrude. They are afraid of bothering people. So what do they do? They let the gathering evolve organically. They wait for magic to happen instead of making it happen.
And then they call themselves spiritual: “I don’t apply force, I surrender to the flow of my gathering.” Really, their kicking themselves in the shin. If the thousands of rituals I’ve facilitated for others has taught me anything, it’s that epic experiences require active curation.
I am going to show you how to make magic happen. Not to wait for it. But how to actively curate magic in your gatherings. If you would prefer to be a passive host, then stop right here. These principles are not going to work for you.
Ready to learn how to be a VYVACIOUS host, as I like to call it?
Vyvacious (adj):// active in unleashing energy and vulnerability in the human interactions at a gathering.
Principles of Bringing People Together
How do chill hosts and vyvacious hosts differ? For all these principles, I will contrast the two styles of bringing people together.
Chill hosts say a minimal hello or do not notice when someone arrives.
Vyvacious hosts get everyone in the room to welcome them with applause. They introduce the newcomer to others. They embrace the newcomer!
Recommendation: Welcome people enthusiastically when they arrive. Make them feel seen and loved.
Chill hosts name a time and place for people to show up.
Vyvacious hosts describe the purpose of the gathering, encourage their attendees to set an intention, outline what they need to bring, and build anticipation for the gathering.
Here is an example of a script I wrote for one of my gatherings.
ATTN: Covid 1 Year Anniversary Troops!!
This is one of your Chief Commanders here. You have been selected for this secret mission of spreading joy through the streets of Vancouver on this monumental day that entered us into unprecedented times.
Your mission is to elevate the mental health of all of those we encounter. Below is some vital information to make this mission a success:
Recommendation: Prepare and build excitement for your gathering. Spend some time creating a video or letter for your guests to watch before they show up.
ROLE MODEL VULNERABILITY
Chill hosts are straight-faced and formal.
Throughout priming, greeting, and the opening ritual, vyvacious hosts laugh at themselves and express themselves. No formality here! They are vibrant and alive. They may stutter, they may dance, they may joke. They are their goofy authentic selves.
Recommendation: Exaggerate your emotional expression. Vulnerability begins with full emotional expression.
FOCUS THEIR ATTENTION
Chill hosts never bring the group together. There is never focused attention on a shared activity or person. This means there are no rituals, because rituals require shared attention and intention.
Vyvacious hosts focus the attention of the group on a single person or activity. This is what I am doing when I get everyone to line up and participate in a crowdsurf train. Everyone is working together to create an epic experience for the crowdsurfer.
Out of all the rituals, the most important ritual is…. Bazinga! The opening ceremony.
Recommendation: Design rituals for your gathering. Do a toast. Make a speech. Tell a story. Bring the group together through shared attention.
Chill hosts don’t start a gathering. The gathering just fumbles its way forward. There’s no start gun. There’s no official welcome. It’s just BLEH.
Vyvacious hosts begin their events by activating prosociality. This is twofold. They first ground their participants. Then, they get people connecting.
There’s a diversity of methods to accomplish these objectives. Meditation, silence, and eye-gazing are a few for the first. Dancing, singing, and think-pair-sharing are a few for the second.
The bottom line is that the opening ceremony has the objective of activating prosociality (for social events) and of reminding people of the purpose of the gathering. We want people to be peaceful and joyful. This neurophysiological state enables relationships to form.
Before all my U-HAUL Missions, I give a speech at the beginning. Then I invite everyone else to share with the group what they’d like to give to strangers.
Recommendation: Form a circle at the beginning, say a few words, and then do something together as a group that puts people into a state of peace and joy.
Let’s now discuss COVID. Here are some COVID modifications for real-life gatherings, because… let’s be real, that’s what we crave.
Choose an iconic, majestic location.
For the Hike Rave, we chose the lookout above Vancouver.
Incorporate an activity that everyone can do.
Don’t make conversation the activity. People will get bored, and they won’t physical distance. Some examples of activity I have incorporate: biking, hiking, dancing, games.
Remind people about consent.
There are different levels of COVID comfort. Some people hug. Some people wear masks. Others kiss. Whenever my participants arrive, I remind people to be conscious of others safety levels. As an event organizer, I have researched the risk levels, and it’s still very low without distancing.
Host an experience, not a hangout.
Talking creates aerosols. Especially when people face one another and talk toward one another for long periods of time, the risk of transmission goes up. By designing an experience involving exploration, physical activity, and novelty, the risk goes down. Movement reduces transmission. Conversation increases it.
Are you still a chill host? Or have you become a VYVACIOUS host? I hope I have given you the tools to step into your power and start leading your participants to unity and exhilaration.
Most social gatherings are unstructured. Drizzling a little structure onto them through your leadership can amplify the benefits that your participants reap.
It may be edgy, but may we continue bringing people together in this bizarre time!
Recently, I gave up on a few friends. Then, I realized I deluded myself.
The story of being human: Telling yourself a story and then realizing it was a false reality. This was my recent experience leaving an accountability group I had started 8 months prior.
This article will offer you dozens of perspectives on maintaining transparent, nourishing relationships. I will share a personal account of the greatest ostracization I have experienced in my life — worse than the time some influencers didn’t like me at a music festival in the Alpes.
Ready to learn about healthy, reciprocal friendships?
I was meditating in a float tank. Some uncomfortable thoughts kept coming into my head. “Do my friends actually care about my mission? Would they reach out if I did not reach out to them?” This last question stung. I didn’t feel like they would. I knew they were busy. I knew they had lives. But I also knew that my relationships with them would die if I did not put the fuel on the fire.
The next thought: “What relationships should I be focusing on?” The answer immediately came to mind. Deep, reciprocal ones, where I feel empowered. And the ones that directly support my life mission.
In that float tank, I realized how often I felt ignored by my friends. I decided to leave the weekly accountability group I had started 8 months earlier. The accountability group was comprised of my “best friends.” But after all of them left my movement (or so I thought), called VYVE, I realized, that my definition of best friend differed from theirs.
I sent them a letter a day after one of the best meetings of my life. Hosted at the beach, in the sun. We danced, laughed, and meditated.
Yesterday, in my float tank, I was reflecting on my relationships and all the groups I am a part of. During periods of my float, I was not comfortable.
Recently, I have learnt how to dissolve my expectations on my relationships — To completely release the pressure I put on them to be a certain way. I have realized that I applied pressure on a lot of relationships, on all of you, and certainly on this group.
This learning process was difficult. But my hero dose did it for me. It taught me how to surrender to the evolution of my relationships and peer groups.
This process has led me to a difficult realization: I am way too overloaded with personal growth groups. I need to take a step back and chill, take off the throttle on my relationships.
With the prelaunch of VYVE attracting more people than I anticipated, I have made the hard decision to leave this group, to prioritize the three new groups I have with the new VYVE cohort.
I will always be including you in the experiences I create. I love all of you. I know you will understand my decision. I also know that this group will get stronger and stronger, regardless of who’s in it.”
I soon learnt that I had divorced my wife over text. Not a good move. It was shocking to all of them. Uncalled for. This was my first mistake. I did not honour the group. Nor did I explain fully why I left.
In the wake of this message, two of them reached out to better understand why I left. The largest factor was that I had started three other accountability groups related to my community, VYVE. I needed to spend more time nourishing them. The other factor was more complicated.
Do you pay attention to actions or words?
Throughout 2021, I observed a pattern in my relationships with the men in the accountability group. They’d often not return my calls. They would ignore my texts. They would never reach out. I wondered if it was me.
I took the actions to mean more than the words. Even though I had reached out to them earlier to check in with our relationship, I knew the actions spoke louder. They would forget to invest in me if I took the gas off. That was an accurate conclusion, but it didn’t mean anything about the depth or longevity of the friendship.
The story I was telling myself was that they didn’t care about their relationship with me. I was wrong. They did. They were just stressed and dealing with their own stuff. After a long call with one of my earliest friends, I got the message.
Friendships transcend regularity of contact.
My friend Brad explained it well. He showed me that the depth of a friendship does not depend on the frequency of contact. Friendships evolve in form, but not in-depth. I was feeling excluded because I felt that my friends didn’t want to see me. I realized that the lack of reaching out or reciprocal contact had nothing to say about the depth or caring of the relationship.
They were still there for me.
Brad told me that there were many alternative explanations for why my friends were neglecting me. Here are some he mentioned.
They want to hang out with me casually, but I always invite them to events and parties that they’re not really into.
I always reach out to them about my project, instead of our friendship.
They are not in any position to host events and invite me to them.
They often get swamped by their communication channels, because they are busy people.
My biggest takeaway from the phone call — sometimes, people really do care. They just don’t show it. They will only show it when you really need them. They are there for you, but the relationships themselves are low-touch. Whether a relationship is high-touch or low-touch is the form. The depth is experienced in the moment.
When I am in the moment with my friends like Brad, I feel like I am their best friend. That’s what matters more than whether or not they reach out.
The quality of the shared moment defines a friendship. Not what happens outside of that, such as text communication or invitations.
I was placing too much of an emphasis on the technical details of the friendships. I was keeping score in other words. Keeping score is when you pay attention to whether your actions are reciprocated. It goes hand in hand with giving with an expectation of return. Keeping score is not fun. Often, the availability bias results in skewed judgements about the score. We miss what really matters in a ‘friendship score’: the quality of company.
Keeping score goes against one of my core beliefs. Company is valuable. I would pay for the company of my best friends. And so anytime they show up for me is an added bonus. I do not need them to reach out to me or invite me to something.
Keeping score is a cognitive process. It occurs in the head. Thinking about relationships and how imperfect they are will lead to disaster. Instead, I opt to think as little as possible about my friendships. I would rather evaluate the quality of the shared company, in the moment. Again, here it is again.
It’s not what you think about them. It’s how you feel in the moment with them.
What I aspire to do, is evaluate all my relationships based on the quality and depth of the company the last time I was present with them. I do not want to make global assumptions about a relationship because they didn’t return a call or text. Or they decided to leave my community.
I have learnt to measure the friendship score based on how often my friends call me out on my biases and tunnel vision, and how I feel when I am in their presence.
Was my story wrong? Yes. Was I defining friendship in a flawed way? Yes. Was my feeling of exclusion based on reality? Probably not.
Unfortunately, the story is more complicated. In the week after my departure from the group, the above answers were questioned. I found out my sense of exclusion was based in reality and it did objectively redefine my friendships.
A week after leaving the accountability, I had my best friend reach out to me to borrow my speaker. He was hosting a retreat. My thought: “Hmmmmm. A retreat. Where? With who? Am I invited?” I intentionally held off. There must be a good reason why I was not invited. Maybe it was with a new group. Maybe it was not my vibe.
Then. I learnt that all my best friends had been invited. Every. Single. One. Ouch. You think a best friend would communicate why you were left out, hey? No. Instead, he asked me to use my sound system. And so I did.
Because I love empowering people to host dance parties. Anytime. Anywhere.
The action of leaving me out spoke louder than any word. My vibe was not welcome at this event. Message received. Friendship redefined. But being excluded was not what redefined the relationship. It was the excuses.
After speaking with my best friend on the phone, he made a dozen excuses. It wasn’t my event. It was only for these people. It was not for your vibe. I am so thankful he showed me what he meant to say through his word — your vibe, Jacques, is just not appreciated here.
Go where you are celebrated. Not tolerated.
I have completely let go of this relationship. I have taken the throttle off entirely. Of course, it is still a very deep relationship. This friend and I have shared some of the best moments of my life. We had gone on the craziest adventures together.
It was not being excluded which hurt. It was what this friend’s actions said about our relationship.
CHECKPOINT. Is this story I am telling myself correct?
After speaking to my other best friends and stress-testing my story, they all told me that the situation was fucked up. So, sometimes, friendships may be deep in the moment. But, this does not mean you should not pay attention to the actions, which often speak louder than words.
My friend’s actions told me an important message — Jacques’ vibe is not welcome here.
I do not want to be a friend whose actions don’t align with their words. I want to tell my friends exactly why I am leaving them out. I want to tell them exactly why I haven’t been able to respond to them. I want to give my friends a story to tell themselves which is accurate. I want to tell my friends that they are celebrated. That I do care for them.
Leaving the accountability group and then getting excluded from a retreat hosted by my ‘best friends’ showed me how I want to show up in my relationships. I want to be the greatest source of empowerment. I want to be there, reminding them of their power. I want to be their unbiased guide. I want to love them with critique and communication.
This has been a blessing. I have been blessed with great realizations.
I want to show up differently in my relationships.
Low-touch relationships can still be deep and nourishing.
Don’t think about friendships. Feel them.
Moving forward, I am going to keep less score for one thing. I am going to catch myself when I am thinking of relationships.
Lastly, I am going to continue to live and breathe the 10:1 Lifestyle — if you are not reaching out to your friends ten times more than they are reaching out to you, then you can be a more empowering friend.
I am personally addicted to empowering my friends.
There’s a lot of reasons to be pessimistic about the future of humanity. Here’s why I am an optimist.
Read this to give yourself a dose of optimism and to learn about the potential of community to save humanity.
Let me tell you about a legend in the pharma industry.
There was once a medicine with infinite healing capacity. It had an infinite supply. It was free and accessible to all humans. It required very little technical expertise to manufacture or administer. Every human, regardless of their age, could naturally manufacture it at any point.
Sounds unrealistic, doesn’t it?
Well, it’s not. This medicine exists today. The research still suggests its superiority. And, all humans still have access to it.
That medicine is called community.
Community is a type of a social network characterized by regular and supportive human contact, and a feeling of mutual care and cooperativity.
When I studied pharmacology in school, I didn’t believe in such a legend. I thought drugs had no replacements. I thought prescriptions were necessary for optimal longevity. My classmates and I listened and absorbed what our professors taught. We had become indoctrinated.
Then, I started leading street parties. And my life changed. I had discovered a phenomenon that was much more powerful than any medication I had taken. That phenomenon was mass emotional connection.
Emotional connection is felt. It occurs through touch, eye contact, and shared expression. Emotional connection can also occur through intellectual connection, or ‘knowing’ someone.
Ecstatic partying aside, I had discovered the power of unified human expression and synchrony. And, my path took a turn. I started exploring public health and substance use, and the role that human contact plays as a preventive. There was no going back to conventional medicine after that.
During my study of public health, the seeds of my current life philosophy had been sewn. Never would I have known that I would be such a community geek after 5 years had passed.
Never would I have known that my life’s mission would be to restore human contact in western culture, because of the strong-held belief that it’s the most effective health-hack on the planet.
How I have evolved… 😅
I believe community can solve the societal problems of our time. When you study these problems, it’s difficult to not catch the pessimism flu.
Let’s take a dive into the societal problems of western culture (modernized, urban life in most of the world). Let’s focus on America, and begin with the leading causes of death in America.
Cardiovascular diseases, Cancer, Alzheimer’s. These are all lifestyle diseases. And accidents? Well, what if I told you that this category is dominated by motor vehicle accidents. Hmmm. Sounds to me like these deaths might also be related to our lifestyles. Hint: Alcohol consumption.
Now, let’s talk about suicide, loneliness, and depression. Yep, let’s go dark. The statistics are dark as well. Even before the introduction of the iPhone, all three have been going up.
In summary, the American way of life has a problem. Mental health is declining rapidly and the greatest leading causes of death are inactivity-, diet-, and alcohol-related. We’re not a very healthy culture.
But there’s more to be pessimistic about, isn’t there? There are gender wars, racial wars, pay-equity wars, privilege wars… and these wars are pretty much happening between two political poles.
Finally, there’s the war waged by technology. What I mean by this, is the constant struggle between our discipline and intentions and the allure of social media and screen time. We are being sucked into their devices. Our happiness is being dissolved by the commoditization of attention.
— wow. Lot’s to be unhappy about. Preventable diseases, tech-addicts, and seemingly un-bridgable divides. Western culture sure is great.
There’s a solution to all of this.
Community is the antidote. Community is the medicine. Community is the solution.
Well, not the root solution. But an intermediary for sure.
Let me tell you why.
Community has the potential to cure our culture’s preventable diseases, tech-addictions, and political divides. Sure. But how do we create community?
To create community for all requires communitarianism: a shift in our cultural values from individualism to collectivism. From ego to unity. From personal achievement to group achievement. It takes a systems approach. To make community the default way of life requires an overhaul of western culture. Then, community can work its medical magic by reinforcing the social bonds, peer support, and social trust in our cities.
This is another article entirely. So let’s focus on how community can heal the big three sources of pessimism for humanity.
Relationships reduce our stress, a factor in all the leading preventable causes of death. Close relationships are the greatest protective factor against mortality according to research in Growing Young by Marta Zaraska. Specifically, ‘committed romantic relationships’ have almost twice the effect of diet or exercise.
Human contact, both physical and emotional, releases oxytocin. And this is a stress-reducing neurotransmitter.
There’s a lot of research about the links between mortality and relationships. I am not going to bore you. All I will say is that relationships are good for preventing lifestyle diseases and recovering from them. The mechanisms involve stress, leisure time, time outdoors, and likely many more!
Community is the bedrock that naturally creates these protective relationships.
The opposite of addiction is connection, said Gabor Mate, the renowned addictions physician from my hometown of Vancouver Canada.
When we have peer support, we can cope with cravings. We can rely on others in difficult periods when we’re likely to relapse. We can talk to people about our issues.
Not only are caring relationships a means out of addiction, but they are also a means to prevent it. When we spend more time with others, we spend less time on screens. When we are enjoying the company of others, we are less likely to give into the instant gratification machines. Being alone can lead us into a downward spiral. Social connection is a much healthier distraction from any discomfort.
The mere exposure effect: The more we see someone, the more we like them. Interacting over social media breaks this rule, because we do not experience the emotions and humanity of others.
The more we hear each others stories in real life, the more we cooperate and care for one another, the more we learn about each other, the more we feel each other’s emotions, the less likely we are to label, accuse, and stereotype “the other.”
Community and cooperation go hand in hand. And cooperation leads to the breakdown of hatred and othering. When we come together in person, we see the virtues in one another more than we fault-find each others’ dogma.
For all of this to happen, community must be face-to-face. This is why I define community as involving human contact! It is very difficult to hold contact with another through the internet.
I guess this means that we community builders need to spend more time building REAL communities, instead of merely online ones.
More technology is not the solution. More money is not the solution. More GDP is not the solution.
The solution is simple.
Design our societal systems to foster community, not competitiveness. To cultivate understanding, not stereotyping. To boost social trust, not cynicism.
Community is the antidote. It is the medicine we have been waiting to develop. It is the penicillin of the 21st century.
They’re not equals. One is desperately needed, the other is overwhelming people’s lives.
The questions I answer in this article:
Can we apply the philosophy of essentialism to human connection?
Which forms of human connection are essential? Which are trivial?
Essentialism is the approach of focussing on the vital few instead of the trivial many. It’s about saying yes to things that are a **** yes, and saying no to the rest. It’s about identifying the factors that lead to 99% of the outcome you want — by nature of the repeated Pareto principle (the 80:20 rule).
The answer to the first question is yes. We can. And in this article, I argue that we should. We should prioritize certain forms of human interaction more than others. For our health, life satisfaction, and sense of belonging.
Look for a second at how most humans connect with one another.
1. They’re quite distracted, aren’t they? It’s absent-minded. People check their phones. People get distracted by the physical environment or their thoughts. Very little attention is put on the interaction.
2. That’s not all. There’s also a fast pace to it all; people are scheduling their connection time and have ‘agendas.’ Because of the obsession with career and work in western culture, people have put end times to their connection. They’re checking the time constantly. They’re worried they’re going to be late for the next appointment. Our obsession with doing takes us out of the moment with the people we love.
3. Finally, there’s the superficiality. This is a natural outcome of the two previous features of most human social interactions. Due to the lack of attention and time-stress, it’s difficult to fully understand, feel, and relate to what our conversation partner discloses. In other words, people are not embodying their interactions with others. They’re just in their heads.
Human connection may be rushed, absent-minded, and superficial. This decreases its impact on our well-being.
What perfectly demonstrates where socialization norms are going is an observation I’ve made repeatedly: teenagers have conversations with one another without taking out their AirPods. They’re connected to some form of stimulation 24/7.
This freaks me out.
So I have trained myself to engage in human contact instead.
Human contact is emotional, physical, and spiritual.
Emotional: both humans in the interaction notice and echo each other’s emotions, through eye contact and paraphrasing.
Physical: it involves supportive touch or affection. Hopefully, there’s a hug at the end.
Spiritual: the context of the interaction is about what matters in life and what matters to the individuals.
Human contact is deep and nourishing. Human connection is not guaranteed to be.
How do we create more moments of human contact in our lives? I have contemplated on this, and have made these adjustments to my life.
I use two phones. One has no data or apps.
I consciously look people in the eyes and feel what their feeling. I am intensely present.
I have a ten-second hug policy.
I ask questions about how people are feeling, not how they are thinking. About their well-being. About their life lessons. About what enriches them.
I surrender to the surge of physical resistance that comes up when I am frustrated, triggered, or criticized. This means I relax into the discomfort in my body.
Please. Tell me yours.
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What’s the difference between building a community and building a strong one? Read on.
Read this if you want to learn how to build a stronger-than-average community. I will be explaining how I have implemented positive and healthy features of cults with the objective of building a strong and interconnected community.
You cannot avoid it. If you build a strong enough community, it will be labelled a cult. This is why I regard the word with positive connotations.
Think about some examples: The CrossFit Cult, the Soulcycle Cult, the Peloton Cult. All these companies have built amazing communities around their brands. Their customers are loyal. Their customers subscribe to their values and show them off.
As community builders, I think we should aspire to be labelled cult leaders.
Sure, there are definitely negative features to cults: the discouragement of dissent, power imbalances, groupthink, authoritarianism, lack of transparency, exploitation of members, and the degradation of members’ self-worth. To name a few. I do not advocate for these. These are manipulation tactics, not community-building tactics.
What I do advocate for is going beyond community-building. Giving members identity and unity. This is what cults succeed at.
So, what are the positive features of cults that community-builders should emulate?
A strong life philosophy.
An identity for members to adopt.
A strong ritual infrastructure.
A ceremonial onboarding procedure.
Socially-enforced norms, such as love-bombing.
A declarative manifesto.
High EQ community leaders.
Ready to dive in?
1. A strong life philosophy.
I have spent years and years developing the life philosophy for my community. A life philosophy defines the criteria for what a good life is. A good life, according to VYVE, is encapsulated by one sentence:
The authenticity and vibrancy of our personal relationships is the strongest indicator for a good life.
This is based on countless books I have read. Underlying VYVE’s life philosophy is a swath of research articles and historical texts. For some cults, religion is the underlying bedrock for their life philosophy. What I have done instead is based VYVE’s life philosophy on the science of human well-being.
When a philosophy declares what a good life is, it attracts people with shared values. It polarizes people. This explains why there are no hyper-capitalists within VYVE.
Cults have strong belief systems. They declare what a good life looks like, they declare behaviours and goals to live a good life, and they make a statement about how the future should be.
Stories are one way to communicate the life philosophy of a community. In my case, I share stories of spreading belonging and joy in public. The goal is to demonstrate the 5 V’s of VYVE in a visual way: vulnerability, vibrancy, venture, vibe, and vitality.
A strong life philosophy defines what a good life is, the behaviours for living a good life, and how your members should serve humanity in a way that promotes those behaviours. Cults have defined life philosophies.
2. An identity.
I came up with the word Revyver to reinforce my members’ sense of identity. I want them to identity with a movement. A movement about reviving a sense of community in western culture. I want them to regard themselves as making a huge impact in the world.
Cults create an identity around a life philosophy. They have titles for their members. They have secret terminology. They know what it means to be a part of the cult.
I have cultivated an identity for my community members by:
Giving them a name: revyvers
Giving them a shared mission and reminding about it.
Publicly reinforcing behaviours that align with the life philosophy.
Designing an opening ceremony with verbal affirmations.
Throughout a community’s documentation, the identity should be reinforced. The shared mission and values must be referenced in the code of conduct, in the onboarding, and in meetings. This is why I always include the mission statement slide at the beginning of my community meetings.
This deserves some emphasis. The WHY of your community is central to the identity. For VYVE, the WHY is to give more humans access to deeper forms of human contact. Humans thrive when they have a purpose. They thrive when they are serving humanity. This is why I have spent a lot of time thinking about the larger picture for VYVE.
The last thing I want is my community being regarded as ‘just a membership business.’ I want to create a movement.
3. Ritual infrastructure.
The power of ritual. It’s rarely applied. I have been to thousands of events. I have participated in hundreds of communities. Very few of them leverage the power of ritual. Cults do.
I regard rituals as pauses in an event where everyone’s attention comes together. Rituals are unifying processes. They often involve group-witnessing and structure. There is a shared intention in rituals. Participants are doing the same thing to achieve the same result.
Rituals reinforce your community’s sense of belonging. They strengthen the life philosophy and identity. They cultivate psychological commitment to your values. They bond your community members.
You can design rituals to open and close events. To welcome newcomers. To recognize contributors. And to celebrate milestones.
My favourite ritual of VYVE is called vyving. My hope is that vyving becomes a normalized practice for all community facilitators. Vyving is defined as spreading joy and belonging to strangers in public. It is a radical act of vulnerability and vibrancy. Often times, it involves music, dancing, and funky outfits. The best moments of my life have been vyving.
Vyving to me represents a temporary dissolution of social distrust and demographic differences. It is the ultimate unification.
My recommendation for community builders is to develop consistent traditions in their communities. How do events begin? How do events end? How are people recognized as becoming moderators or leaders? How do you remind your community of its purpose?
And what I will leave you with is this: You can achieve a lot more emotional impact when you synchronize human effort and attention through ritual.
4. An onboarding ceremony and protocol.
Speaking of rituals. What is the most important ritual? Your first impression on your community members! The onboarding process is essential to cultivating excitement, belonging, and identity for your newcomers. With VYVE, I created an entire checklist and event for this process.
The checklist details steps on how to receive and offer value within the community. Don’t keep your members wondering how they can contribute. There should be a path that members can follow.
What’s by far more important than an onboarding checklist is the onboarding ritual. For VYVE, I designed an opening ceremony. It was structured. It involved dance. And at the end, we all signed the VYVE manifesto. Yep, over zoom.
One thing that cults excel at is their structured onboarding. More and more commitment is asked of members as they go through the process. How cults design their opening ceremony is intentional. They leverage ritual and social proof. All members do something at the same time. So, if you don’t do it, you feel left out.
Incorporate ritual and your community’s core beliefs into your onboarding process. You may just match the loyalty of a cult.
5. Social norms
Cults have codes. There is an implicit or explicit understanding of what behaviours are acceptable and what are not. One behaviour that is often socially-enforced in cults is love-bombing. This is the enthusiastic welcoming and accepting of new members into the cult.
For VYVE, I have explicitly described the social norms I wish to reinforce in my code of conduct. I want my community members to welcome one another. I want them to attend events instead of participating in messaging. And I want them to refrain from sharing anything from VYVE with the outside world, without explicit permission. These are social norms, and you bet, I have to remind people of them all the time.
I would recommend detailing a list of social norms (behaviours) explicitly and sharing it with your community for feedback. Taking the lead from cults, you can reinforce those social norms through rituals. One thing I am considering at VYVE is to start meetings with a confidentiality ritual to remind everyone that vulnerability and authenticity are possible in VYVE.
This is about values. What does your community prioritize? What does your community wish to accomplish? What are the underlying beliefs that explain these objectives?
Your manifesto should turn some people off, and turn others on. For example, the VYVE manifesto turns off people who are hyper-capitalistic and who prioritize material gain.
Cults do a great job of communicating how they see the world, how the world should be, and what a good life is. Explicitly illustrating these worldviews and life philosophies in a manifesto is a fantastic way to cultivate your following. You can also design rituals around the acknowledgement of the manifesto.
I am considering sending my member a paper copy!
7. Emotionally-intelligent Leadership
In the case of cults, leaders leverage their EQ for their gain. In the case of strong communities, leaders leverage their EQ to strengthen the bonds with their members and among their members.
Emotional intelligence is the basis for deep relationships. Emotional connection is a natural source of psychological safety. If we cannot respond consciously to our own emotions, they will tear apart our relationships. If we cannot respond supportively to others’ emotions, they won’t feel heard or included. Bonds stay superficial without EQ.
High EQ leaders praise their members. They validate their members’ emotions. They do not let their emotions rule their relationships. A single bout of anger does not lead to the exiling of community members.
Cults often have very charismatic leader, too. This is a plus for community leadership, as well. When you feel fully and understand clearly someone’s devotion to a cause, you’re more likely to trust them and believe them.
We can learn a lot from cults. They have advanced community infrastructure, including rituals, social norms, belief systems, and onboarding. We can learn a lot about what not to do as well. Don’t hide information from your community. Don’t repress dissent. Don’t shame people. Don’t foster elitism. Don’t isolate your community from the outside world.
A lot of people are going to be alarmed that I wrote this. It’s perhaps a little provocative, but I hope you go out and become an aspiring “culty leader.”
Yes, I am serious. Party science is a field of research that I am trailblazing. I created it for the sake of public health.
In high school, I was a lonely, stressed-out, video-game-addicted ass-hole. I had so little emotional intelligence that I lost my first job, my first girlfriend, and all sense of belonging. I had very few real friends.
This all changed after I arrived at University. I started partying. A lot. Putting myself into new social situations changed me forever. Because during every party, I faced my fears and forced myself to develop social skills… I was doing it all sober.
It’s a long story, but while attending my first music festival, sober-partying became part of my identity. This was before I knew about party science, its ancient history, or its positive effects on the brain. This was before I was convinced that it was a solution to many public health problems.
It was in 2015. I found an artist pass while volunteering back-stage at Squamish Valley Music Festival. With encouragement from my side-kick Julien Hart, I decided I would do something crazy with the pass.
At prime time that night, I went to the main stage, entered back-stage, positioned myself right below the DJ, and launched myself off the barricade into the crowd. Not a single drop of alcohol in my system, I crowd-surfed for almost a minute. I lost my phone and both IDs.
I had never felt so alive and connected to everyone in my life. Thank god I have a video of it.
This experience was my first experience of flow state, and it led me down the path of becoming a party scientist. I wanted everyone to feel as alive and accepted as I did. And I knew it was possible sober.
During my pharmacology degree, sober partying was my classroom for learning how to release stress, get into flow, and overcome self-consciousness. I would literally be so ‘High’ on life at some university parties that people would ask me what drugs I was on, sometimes the whole party would cheer me on, and other times I would get the whole crowd following my lead while smiling and laughing.
I loved partying so much that I decided to work as a festival medic for 4 years. As a medic, I realized that most people did not know how to release their inhibitions or get high-on-life without drugs and alcohol. I realized that party culture was plagued with disconnection.
In one instance, I arrived on-site to respond to an alcohol poisoning in the campground. I found him after charging through a sea of tents, unconscious, face-down. In his vicinity, there were fifteen people taking shots in a circle and no one cared to check to see if he was alive. It disgusted me and showed me how unconsciously people were partying.
Responding to overdoses, suicidal episodes, and fights traumatized me, but also inspired me to change how people were partying. Partying for me was an antidote to stress. It filled my life with meaning and electricity. It gave me a sense of belonging. It was healthy. It helped me thrive.
For so many others, it did the opposite. It was unconscious. It was superficial. It was inauthentic.
With a new mission, I started studying public health. I forsook the path of becoming a doctor and launched a renegade party company called Party4Health instead. The mission was to create a world where partying was healthy.
This is when things got interesting. Under Party4Health, I led renegade sober parties. Hundreds of them. Hike raves, beach parties, barge parties, train raves. I got to the point where I was leading thousands of strangers through the streets. During these parties, all demographic differences dissolved. The group harmonized. This was group flow.
I honed my ability and techniques for giving people healthy highs. Running parties became this laboratory for me to experiment with all the ways that humans can reach a flow state by connecting with each other.
After two years of throwing massive parties, getting interviewed by VICE and Global TV, and partnering with festivals like the Vancouver Pride Society and Shambhala, I decided I wanted to think bigger.
So, in 2018 I did something crazy. I planned a grand tour, called Party Sober All Over. I took my best friends with me and we traveled through the US in a big RV. In every city, my friends cheered me on as I threw a party at the local university.
But, there was something wrong. People were not resonating with my message. They kept telling me to stop judging people for drinking. On this trip, I learned that I was judgemental, and that I was preaching sober partying. I was alienating the people I wanted to serve.
This hit me during a meeting with one of the founders of SOUNDBOKS, Hjalte. My mission was not to promote sober partying. My mission was to develop a new form of partying where the connection was more meaningful, the energy higher, and the egoism lower.
In this realization, the VYVE movement was born. I embarked on a new mission: invent a new form of mental health practice based on partying, but different. I called it vyving.
The new mission attracted another mad party scientist, Christopher, whose passion for mental health motivated him to join as a co-founder.
You may be wondering. What the hell is vyving? At this point, it was still in its infancy. I still didn’t know what it was. Chris didn’t either. We still didn’t know much at all about human connection or party science.
All we knew was that we craved the flow state we experienced when we led massive parties. It gave us a high that lasted for days.
This was not for long. With the birth of VYVE, I started researching partying seriously. I read books, interviewed party starters, and did experiments. I learnt that humans are hard-wired for sharing joy with another. I learnt that even cavemen did it. I dived into the mental health implications of a practice of ‘vyving’ and I was convinced it had the potential to transform our emotional well-being.
With my aspiration to become the world’s first International Party Scientist, I embarked on my first international party research expedition.
And this is how I earned my Ph.D. in party science. I stayed with locals, ignited hundreds of parties, researched hundreds of others, got invited to private retreats, and met dozens of professionals facilitators and researchers of human connection.
One facilitator who had a massive impact on my trajectory was Adam Wilder, whose retreat on the mediterannean island of Malta accelerated my maturation into a party scientist by years.
My lessons, interviews, and adventures laid the foundation on which vyving is based, a framework for reaching flow states through human connection. I was slowly figuring out how to hack peak states by leveraging group celebration.
Returning from expedition, the pandemic hit. And it was a blessing.
I took the party science insights collected during 400 parties in 13 countries and distilled them into a full framework and belief system. The philosophy of vyving was created because of COVID.
It took over three years for vyving to crystallize into what it is today. The experiments took place on the mainstage of festivals, the subways of New York, the streets of Amsterdam, the beaches of Vancouver, and the airplanes of west-jet. Too many party starters to credit. And an unknown number of hours of silent reflection.
Today, vyving is its own form of practice that leverages concious partying to hack the well-being benefits of group flow state.
to vyve /vīv/ (verb): to reach a state of flow through dancing, singing, and playing with other humans.
Everyday, people ask me what is vyving. I get a flashback to the moments of flow states with hundreds of others. Then I respond: “Vyving is a practice for your health and happiness. A weird one.”
— — -
In our world today, the quality of our human connections is being attacked; we’re growing addicted to screens, we’re rewarding fakeness and materialism, and we’re working ourselves into depression.
Toper and I started VYVE to revive the joy and life in our human connections.
And this is why Chris and I will be building the movement until the day we die.