Natalie Franke is, in every sense of the word, a success. She graduated with honors from an Ivy League school, married her high school sweetheart, and was thriving in her own wedding photography business. From the outside looking in, Franke was living a wonderful life as a creative entrepreneur. But as her network widened, her relationships narrowed. Franke often found herself behind a computer screen, reaching the world by clicking her keyboard, but not really connecting to anything or anyone.
In her first book, “Built to Belong: Discovering the Power of Community Over Competition,” Franke shares poignant, personal and professional experiences to demonstrate that humans long of connection and cannot thrive without community. The concept of the book was six years in the making, and ironically, the isolation of the worldwide pandemic provided the opportunity for the first-time author to pen her remarkably journey, backed up with evidence-based facts and global sociological and psychological studies.
In January 2020, Cigna released a report that showed an astonishing 60 percent of Americans feel lonely, misunderstood, or excluded. Feelings of loneliness and a lack of companionship are a major factor in depression. And this report came out before a worldwide pandemic that required isolation.
At a time when the world is more digitally connected than ever before, and technology is more accessible than ever before, why are more and more people feeling isolated? Using her own life as an example – success and challenges – Franke used “Built to Belong” to break down the social media filters of perfection, dissolving competition and bringing us back where we belong, together.
Franke is a founder of the Rising Tide Society, an alliance of more than 70,000 global small-business owners who, since 2015, have come together in the spirit of community over competition (#communityovercompetition) with a strong belief that people, businesses and economies rise together, not individually. The society now holds more than 400 monthly worldwide events that take professionals away from their computers to come together and share expertise, creative ideas, successes and failures, and most importantly, relationships, to support one another in their unique passions and visions for success.
The exponential growth and success of the Rising Tide Society and the small businesses within solidified Franke’s understanding of the benefits of community over competition to drive success and fulfillment. Franke — like all of us — is not immune to life-changing challenges in her personal life. With each challenge, she again found that there is comfort in community.
In late 2019, Franke put her thoughts to paper in the form of a proposal. By January 2020, she was pitching her manuscript. She signed a book deal on March 5, 2020, two weeks before the world came to a screeching halt.
“I don’t think anyone could have ever imagined a global pandemic,” said Franke, “and that only fueled my fire to write this book.”
Sitting on the banks of the Magothy River at her parents’ home in Pasadena, Franke began writing. “In many ways my book had become even more relevant than it was in 2019,” she said.
The isolation of the pandemic didn’t change the course of “Built to Belong” much. She said that she added more emphasis on digital togetherness and the imposition social distancing put on conversations with friends.
“Built to Belong” confronts “preconceived notions of what being ‘connected’ means,” said Franke. “Today we are more connected than any other generation, but we are not connecting … we are watching each other from a distance. Our brains are wired to thrive in communities that no longer exist.
“There is a cost we pay for living this way. We have to acknowledge this cost and make a deliberate attempt to not just return to ‘normal,’ but to return to something even better,” said Franke.
“Built to Belong” is a book of hope for business owners and individuals.
“We are now in a new season of life. We need to continue to push innovation and leverage technology for good,” said Franke. “Community makes the impossible possible.”
“Built to Belong” was released on August 24, 2021, and is available on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, and at other bookstores.