Radha Agrawal on Creating Connections and Community
Entrepreneur, DJ and author Radha Agrawal is on a global mission to catalyze community and connect people meaningfully through shared values, talents and passions. Driven by her love of movement and music, Agrawal founded Daybreaker—early morning yoga sessions followed by live-music, alcohol-free dance parties that are being held in 26 cities worldwide—which are helping to break down the loneliness and isolation increasingly common to urban settings. She also co-founded the THINX line of period-proof underwear with her twin sister Miki and friend Antonia Saint Dunbar, and is now launching LiveItUp, a virtual “life school” featuring 21-day challenges from renowned guides such as Whole Foods CEO John Mackey and functional medicine specialist Mark Hyman, M.D.
Her recent book Belong: Find Your People, Create Community and Live a More Connected Life shares her personal journey of finding her place and people in life, and offers hands-on exercises to help others do the same. Agrawal lives with her husband and daughter in Brooklyn, New York, where she still loves to go out and celebrate life with friends several nights a week.
What inspired your journey to bring people together?
I grew up in a community-driven town in Montreal. My dad is Indian and my mom is Japanese, and I had a built-in sense of community within those two cultures. Yet I sleepwalked through my 20s; at 30 years old, I woke up realizing I didn’t feel a sense of belonging anymore and started on an intentional journey back to community.
I was also shocked into action by the statistics around our lack of community. One in four Americans report having no friends to confide in; the number jumps to one in three for those over age 65. Another study showed that not having social ties is as harmful to our health as being an alcoholic, and is twice as harmful as obesity.
What steps can help people that are feeling isolated start to find community?
It starts with an internal journey of self-exploration. Make a list of your values, interests and abilities, and see where they intersect and how you can use them to serve your community. They may be bringing music to a space, asking questions or hosting, which is my particular gift. Then find 10 communities that align with those interests and explore them in a light-touch way until you find the ones you want to participate in more deeply.
What is the key to cultivating nurturing friendships?
Again, start by taking a self-inventory: the qualities you seek in a friend, the qualities you don’t want and the qualities you need to embody as a friend. Take stock on how you are showing up for your friends, and note if you are making excuses for yourself or your friends. I realized in doing this that I was often triple-booking myself and prioritizing everything but friendship, and made an effort to change. Now I look for friends who love adventure and lean in and say yes to life. Now, at 40, I seem to meet new people every day who come from the same star and make friends so much faster having done that hard work in my 30s.
What are the key components of a healthy, thriving community?
Community is built on safety and sustained on mystery. With Daybreaker, the mystery is not knowing the next theme or DJ or “Wow!” moment, but our members have the safety of knowing it will be a wellness-oriented event and a safe space where they will be hugged upon entry and can dance with reckless abandon every month. It takes effort to keep the excitement alive, but as a result, Daybreaker is scaling and gaining momentum.
How do we find the proper balance of commitments and interests?
Developing boundaries is key. When I first started Daybreaker, I would say yes to everything, and I was exhausted all the time trying to please everyone. Now that I have a daughter, my time is even more precious. If I ask myself if something is giving me energy and fulfillment and the answer isn’t a deep yes, then I know it’s a deep no.
Celebrate your abundant energy, though; it’s a blessing to have lots of interests and friends. Stay curious to where you are in life and what the world has to offer.
April Thompson is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C. Connect at AprilWrites.com.
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