July 25, 2022

A version of this essay first appeared in Midlife Cues, a weekly newsletter about intentional living in our middle years. Get it in your inbox; you're going to love it.

“Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others” — The Dalai Lama

Paula Adler prioritized nurturing her network before she retired from her corporate career.

Mary Beth Simon did something similar, focusing on building new connections locally and online.

In both cases, their actions helped Paula and Mary Beth transition smoothly from their long corporate careers into their post-retirement work-life.

I wasn’t as smart.

As I listened to their stories, I thought to myself, “Ahhh, these women are smart! I wished I had done that.”

Paying attention to my network — nurturing connections I already had and building new ones — wasn’t something I prioritized when I left my corporate career.

Honestly, part of this is due to my introversion and private nature. And part of it was because I didn’t realize (until much later) how intentional I needed to be to maintain a healthy network.

Disappearing social bubbles

When I was in corporate America, my network grew organically. The very nature of my work and my roles facilitated the building and the warming up of connections.

But life outside of that corporate structure — especially if you tend to be introverted — can drastically change the landscape of social interactions.

And running a solo business, where you work from home and you’re not naturally in contact with people on a daily basis, can exacerbate the problem.

It is very easy to go into your (man or woman) cave and plow ahead, working on your projects, all by your lonesome self.

Obviously, this isn’t good for your business (if you’re in fact building one).

But it’s also not good for our mental health as we get older.

“Everyone needs social connections to survive and thrive. But as people age, they often find themselves spending more time alone. Studies show that loneliness and social isolation are associated with higher rates of depression.” Source


It’s increasingly important to be deliberate about building and nurturing social connections as we get older. You can call it networking or not if the word doesn’t give you the warm-fuzzy. It’s good for our careers or for our businesses. More importantly, it’s necessary for our sanity and mental health.

Building On This
  • We all know that making new friends once we’re outside the social bubbles of school, corporate life, etc., becomes increasingly challenging. It requires intentional action, yo. And Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist who studies friendship at the University of Oxford, suggests that activities requiring us to move in sync with others help us feel in sync with them too — thus, producing feelings of social bonding and a sense of belonging. This quirky activity is the best way to make friends, according to science.


A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Midlife Cues and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on exploring how to navigate, thrive, and turn midlife into the best phase in our life.