In retrospect, it started with a comment made at a seminar I was attending. At the start of the session the facilitator asked people to share their intention for the day. One in particular, from a man I later came to know as Lawrence Katzman, struck me deeply enough that I wrote it down.
"My intention is to expand my universe of like-minded friends."
What a wonderful intention.
My seminar experience fulfilled Lawrence's (and my newfound) intention. I met people with whom I built connections, people who are already assisting me in reaching some of my goals, people who I have been able to assist in reaching their goals, and people who will probably be business collaborators. Not surprisingly, my spirit was lifted and my energy level soared - both during and after the event.
More recently I attended the conference for a professional organization I have been a part of for many years. Our conferences have been a great source of learning for me. However, as the nature of my business shifts over time, I have asked myself increasingly in recent years if this is a conference into which I should invest my time and money.
I thought about attending most carefully this year. I delayed my registration. I had many other things I could have used the time for. In the end, I went, in part, to fulfill some obligations to which I had committed.
All during my time there I was reminded of Lawrence's quote, and made it my intention as well - to expand my universe of like-minded friends. I succeeded in my intention. I also deepened my relationships with many long time friends who were there. Additionally, I developed what appears to be a new client!
Both of these events were meant to be an educational experience for me - I planned to learn new skills, ideas, and techniques. This happened in both events, but that wasn't what made either of them most valuable. What made them valuable were the connections I made with people. Like minded people. Like-minded friends.
Within the last week I have had the opportunity to serve my alma mater in two different capacities. I sit on the Advisory Board for the Department from which I received my degree. In a meeting there last week, Bruce MacKenzie, a fellow board member (and one of my professors) said that Purdue helps people succeed because it "Puts people in a position to make things happen."
Then, this week I began chairing a committee to build a strategic plan for the Purdue Agricultural Alumni Association. In both of these meetings we talked about what makes our University special. The words used were culture, friendship, common goals and connection. As I drove home from the last of these meetings, all of this began to coalesce in my head - Like minded friends. Connections. Being in a position to make things happen.
The word that summed all of that up for me is Community.
As humans we have a need for community. Family is a community. Neighborhoods, religious and service organizations. Bowling and softball teams. In business now organizations are identifying "Communities of Practice" to allow people with a common professional skills to learn from each other. All of these groups can be communities.
I've been reminded of the importance of these communities over the past few weeks. This probably comes as no great revelation to you. If we see how important they can be then we can accept the responsibility for developing these communities for ourselves.
Does this mean we all need to join a Rotary or Garden Club? Probably not (though these and hundreds of other groups might be a part of your personal community building plan). One way to build communities in our lives is to create them. That means actively looking for opportunities to be with smart, fun, optimistic, creative, motivated (insert your own adjectives here) people.
Community can be created at a weekend conference or retreat. Community can emerge at your Optimist Club lunch or in your Sunday School class. Community can be seeded while standing in line for your table at a restaurant, or talking to the person in the next seat on the airplane.
Community can and does enrich our lives. Given that, as we expand or grow the communities in which we participate, we will flourish as individuals and be of greater service to others at the same time. Creating community is a conscious choice. It is about discovering like-minded people (friends!) and connecting with them. It is about carrying a spirit of collaboration and learning with you.
Take time this week to identify the communities you participate in. Ask yourself if they are feeding you and giving you a large enough opportunity to serve others as well. Perhaps this will lead you to make new choices about participating in some of your existing communities (or lead you to change how actively you participate in that community). Maybe this introspection will lead you to create new communities for yourself. Either way, it will be time well spent.
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