We live in a linear progression moving from what was, into what is, while looking forward to what may be.
What was seems to be clear, but it is often tinted by our perspective.
What is is fleeting, and if we do not pay attention it quickly slips past us into what was.
What will be is barrelling toward us and we are trying to divine what it will be before it gets here.
Because we cannot escape this river of time we have evolved to place significance and meaning on moments that demarcate what was from what will be.
As we approach the beginning of a new year we know that there is no mystical renewal of our world when the clock turns from 11:59:59 to 12:00, but we place significance on the change.
And there is nothing wrong with that.
We have the ability to manifest sacred times and spaces that carry meaning and weight for our psyche and spirit.
We tell stories about what will be and inspire each other to reach for what could be next.
Do not underestimate the latent power of humanity to carve out meaning from the mundane and raise it up to significance.
And do not diminish the spirit of those who seek to create something of significance.
The reality is that time will continue to flow from one moment to the next without us.
The truth is that we create meaning and significance for those moments.
We anticipate what is next.
See you over the next ridge!
I was recently able to spend a morning in Cadiz, Ohio, with part of my team from White Law Office, Co.
We spent the morning working as personal shoppers alongside parents and grandparents as they picked up essentials, winter clothing, and gifts for the children in their families.
I set myself about the singular purpose of imbuing the event with as much dignity and honor as I could.
Whatever this season of life was for the participants, it does not define their value or worth as individuals.
As I escorted a young mother of 5 around the room talking about age-appropriate gifts, I reflected on our humble beginnings.
My wife and I were married young, while we were both still in college.
Despite work-study jobs and regular jobs, we graduated with significant college debt.
My wife had the only degree worth something in the market, Music Education, and I had a less practially useful degree, Advanced Bible Studies.
Fortunately, she found us both teaching positions as a small private academy
While small private academies pay is enough to live on, it doesn't provide for much more.
Those first years we made our daily expenses.
But we were reliant upon family and community for their generosity for those infrequent expenses like car tires, winter coats, repairs, and a lawnmower.
To put it in perspective, we didn't even make enough for our student loan holders to consider us capable of making payments.
I cannot imagine what it would have been like having children to care for during that time as well.
That season is almost two decades past, but I still remember the feeling of walking on a tight rope without a net.
But amid that uncertainty, there were the bright spots of the generosity of those that gave to us when we weren't sure how we were going to tackle the next significant expense.
And even those that gave to us beyond our needs.
I remember the one family that gave me the small standing piano so that I could give it to my wife as a present.
She used it to practice her music and teach private lessons.
That piano is still in our music room today.
When I was helping families pick out essentials and gifts, I didn't see individuals defined by their needs.
I saw people who were having their needs met so they can get through this season, however long it may last.
And I may have, despite being grinchy about the commercialized holiday season, got a little misty-eyed knowing that the kids are going to have something under the tree.
Whatever your season, keep moving forward, you are going to make it!
See you over the next ridge!
Wanderers are always exploring what is out over the next ridge.
Looking to the horizon to see what is next, or sometimes just to see what is out there.
Our curiosity often leads us to work in isolation.
That isolation can be self-imposed, due to the nature of our passions, or community imposed.
The perception of community imposed isolation can rise out of a wanderer's spirit that is always trying to catch the wind and follow it where it is going.
This tendency makes a wanderer disruptive to those around them who are just trying to stay the course.
While we may do our best exploration alone, fundamentally, we can start to feel that we are just that, alone.
Even in the circumstance where we seek out a tribe, sometimes there aren't any available to us.
So we are left to either continue to journey in isolation, stumbling upon amazing views with no one to share them with, or found a tribe and create a place of belonging for others.
What does it take to create a space for yourself and others?
1) A clearly defined vision and mission for the tribe.Without a vision, the tribe will perish.
Originally written millennia ago in the Hebrew's collection of proverbs, the truth remains relevant.
Without a clearly defined vision for what you are trying to create, the tribe you are seeking to provide a place for will be lost.
When creating j3eight, I asked what it was I was hoping to accomplish and wrote the following:
"j3eight is a platform for like-minded wanderers to explore ideas, thoughts, and stories while providing a platform to try out content for speaking, teaching, writing, and storytelling."
The vision was not profound, but it did outline my goal of connecting with others who are also explorers.
What's more, it gave me a defined space within which I could create content.
Not too defined mind you.
But as the platform evolves, it will take on an identity.
Founding a tribe starts with a vision that defines what something is and is not, then it has a mission to carry out that vision.
Right now, j3eight leans heavily into short-form writing, with a touch of storytelling.
As j3eight grows, more forms of content will be introduced, and it will accomplish more aspects of its mission.
If you are looking to found a tribe, give voice to the vision you have, then set about a mission to accomplish that vision.
2) An understanding of what values your tribe holds.The values of the tribe you will found rise out of your DNA as a founder.
Do you value inclusivity, honesty, respect, lively disagreement, honesty, transparency, and the free flow of ideas and thoughts?
Then your tribe will likely begin with these values.
Do you put boundaries on your values?
For instance, if you value the free flow of ideas and thoughts, does that apply to all kinds of thoughts, or do you draw the line at discriminatory, harmful, or belligerent views?
If so, then those boundaries need to be expressed and not just assumed.
Undefined values can give bad actors excuse try and "rule lawyer" you into allowing their bad behavior because it is technically encompassed in your core values.
Understanding the values important to you and the boundaries of those values will allow your tribe to attract the kind of people who are looking for a place to belong.
3) A willingness to ask others to become a part of the tribe.
Such a simple idea that raises up some of the most complex anxiety.
Being a founder of a tribe means willingly exposing your creation to analysis and scrutiny from strangers.
Some of which will be toxic and seek to tear down.
Some of which will be apathetic and not care.
And some of which have been waiting for someone to ask them to be a part of something.
But before you get to any of those people, you have to overcome the fear of "the ask."
I spent years throwing my time and energy in one direction.
After putting myself in a position of almost breaking, I gave myself permission to do other things that I wanted to try.
Things like playing role-playing games.
Imagine being an almost 40-year-old owner of a law firm in the middle of a very conservative and religious community seeking to play games that the community had deemed part of the "satanic panic" of the '80s.
There was a lot of perceived external pressure not to make "the ask."
But I did, stomach in knots, make the ask.
Had I not, I would have missed out on a year of some of the best storytelling, friendships, and laughter.
Being the catalyst to create a place for others takes bravery, the willingness to get told no, and the belief to allow you to withstand potential ridicule.
But there are those out there waiting for the tribe you are going to create.
Someyimes we look for and find a place that reminds us we aren't alone.
Sometimes we have to make that place.
See you over the next ridge!