When I graduated from college, I was in a weird place. I accomplished everything I had set out to in college and some things I didn’t expect to. I also learned lessons that can only come from stepping onto a big stage and taking big falls. I stepped into the world with the optimism that came with a feeling of a job well done. I was now taking on the world with a mixed bag of opportunities and I was going to take advantage of every one. I was simultaneously building a company with friends, preparing for another voyage on Semester at Sea and embracing opportunities of a traditional career with a globally respected organization. The best part was, this was not uncommon for many of the people in my micro-community. We all had some sort of blended reality for the life we were told to lead, and had earned, along with a hunger for creating and building another reality. It isn’t easy to live that life, which is probably why I am often up at all hours working to meet the demands of my aspirations. I don’t like being boxed in – I would rather make my own rules and do what I believe should be done – how I believe it should be done – with the people that believe in the same vision for the world. This is simultaneously the reason why I succeed and I fail. But over time I have learned to “fail better” a great phrase shared by @JasonWGriffith with me the last time we talked.
Jason and I met in college. We both ran in a lot of the same circles but bonded through so many different ways when it came to politics, leadership development, philosophy, service, entrepreneurship, and big ideas. We have always been able to throw out super crazy made up ideas and vet them in the space of our imagination – learning some sort of lesson along the way. It is not uncommon for Jason and I to have conversations on the phone that last anywhere from five minutes to five hours – naturally slipping in and out of meaningful and trivial topics. But this post is not so much about what Jason has taught me – but more about an idea he persists to implement and the results that are realized over and over again. Being able to watch this pattern he implements naturally is quite remarkable to say the least.
Jason consistently conceives creation through others by putting them in proximity with each other to achieve a simple stated goal – seek to understand and then do something with what you learn. Shortly after my graduation Jason called a few of his friends from different circles and were all cut from the same cloth, open to experiences, ideas, and imagination. He presented an idea of a 1-hour conference call every week to discuss a host of topics for the purpose of learning and intellectual stimulation. We all agreed and formed a new micro-community.
In addition to Jason and I, we had four other team members:
Kasia Kaminski: Lawyer, Big 10 Athlete, and amazing at everything she does
Each of us would take turns leading the call on a topic that was of pressing interest, personal passion, obscure imaginings, or fun for us personally. We talked about everything from the financial crisis, poverty and Middle Eastern conflict to the beauty of art and the books that have inspired us.
This model matters – a lot. In a world where everything and everyone is at our fingertips and within our grasp we no longer have to rely on the “leading expert” in any host of topics. We can find people with varying opinions, compare them, and engage to learn more and discover our own truth about a subject matter. In the year that we had the calls, before we all somehow got too busy with our passions, I learned a lot. I was consistently inspired, found myself questioning some of the things I thought I understood, found joy in learning again, and was challenged by a group of peers that took life as an opportunity to be lived. I got heavily engrossed in a couple topics that led to some awesome and challenging experiences that I will tell you about this week.
I believe there is nothing that compares to the power of putting people not only in proximity with each other, but also in proximity with shared values. The intersections impact innovation and creation – moreover, impact the quality and depth of relationships that are created as a result. Whether you are thinking about individual relationships, building organizations, movements, or leading a company – figure out what you believe then find those who believe the same thing about the world and begin to share your worlds, your offices, your teams, your visions – the creation that comes as a result of intentional community and proximity will make a real impact.
For now, I encourage you to put yourself in proximity with people who believe what you believe about the world.