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!
Whether sudden or seen coming, it punctuates our story.
Our tribe's story includes us for a time; then, it does not.
Though, regardless of our intent, our story leaves an indelible mark on those that we leave behind.
I have lived through many such punctuations.
The death of a man who was larger than life and more epic in proportions than I had the capacity as a teenager to comprehend.
The death of a son that I only knew while he was in-utero and the brief moments after he was born -- a life unlived that haunts me with all of the untold stories about what he might have become.
The death of a woman whose brilliance was stripped from her in life as she slowly lost her ability to remember and comprehend reality.
The slow death of a friend whose penchant for calling me out on my bullshit was only matched by her hospitality and love through some of the most challenging times of my life.
The sudden loss of a friend and mentor who somehow knew exactly when I needed to be encouraged the most -- he called at the very moment I was sitting alone in my car on a very dark morning wondering how I had gotten to that place in my life.
Holding the hand of the woman who was the center of our extended family for as long as I could remember -- the woman whom I had snuck milkshakes and pizzas in the last year of her life in the retirement home.
Then just this last year, the loss of my dog of 15 years, three moves, and two careers.
He was a rescue and given to me by my wife on a day when I was struggling to find my way as a teacher.
I used to be angry, sad, and flirting with depression because of death.
Repeating unhealthy, self-destructive habits because I refused to allow myself to grieve and heal.
That is until I sat on top of a mountain and just cried.
I was wandering without an agenda and found an isolated place at 13,000 feet.
As I sat and took in the view of what seemed like the entirety of the Southeastern quarter of Colorado, I began to cry.
And the tears did not stop as I began to sob.
It is a unique experience to sob at high altitude.
It is hard enough to breathe already, so the sobs come in waves, and I am sure sounded like seal cries.
For an unclear amount of time, the waves of grief crashed hard.
But after the waves were done, the tide of emotion was allowed to ebb and flowed out.
Left in its wake were peace and perspective.
I am convinced that death is not the enemy.
Not something to be angry at, demand answers of, or rail against.
But it is instead death is the punctuations that amplify our stories.
Just like a run-on sentence without punctuation starts to lose its way, a story without end drags on and on bereft of meaning.
Our stories are punctuated by death and grief as much as they are by anticipation and joy.
Fleeing from the death and subsequent grief of those in our tribe, is like trying to hold back the tide -- at the end of the day, the waves win.
Do not demand answers of death; it is not inclined to give any.
But death and grief can amplify.
Amplify and enrich our stories by punctuating them.
"And then she died."
"And then he was gone."
But their stories leave an indelible imprint on us.
And as we embrace grief, we transition to a new part of the story without them.
The punctuation at the end of their life is not the end of the story, but a poignant transition to the rest of it.
I have worked with a number of leaders, small business owners, and entrepreneurs who are tremendously skilled and talented at what they do.
Many of them pursued forming a business that aligned with their skills and talents.
And just as many of them have come to realize that running a successful business is a whole other skill set than what inspired them to strike out on their own.
There is no shame in realizing that having a vision for a successful entrepreneurial endeavor is not the same thing as having the talents and skills necessary to run that endeavor.
Those skill sets rarely come as a package deal.
Surround yourself with a tribe of amazing people who are better than you at everything you aren't good at.
Then focus on what you are the best at.
If you can do that, you will stop forcing processes and start unlocking potential.
The potential of your vision, the potential of your team, and the potential of what you created to grow into something more than what you could have imagined on your own.
Lead from your strengths wanders!
And call out the strengths of others.
See you over the next ridge!
Most modern day belief systems were founded prior to the rise of the scientific method.
What this means is not only were the writings that underly those belief systems often scribed in different languages, by writers in different cultures, but that the need to prove themselves right or set out a formulation of systemic beliefs were not a priority to them.
It may be our own hubris that says ancient writings must be interpreted thru modern lenses.
We, as denizens of the Information Age, approach the idea of the divine with a different agenda and perspective than our ancestors.
Possibly even with a perspective that was never even contemplated by them.
When story is paramount, proof is rarely even secondary.
Any belief system that espouses the concept that we struggle with evil because of some metaphysical tempter also contribtes to the stripping away of inherent goodness.
We have never needed an outside force to prompt us to act in self-interested ways.
We do a good enough job of that on our own.
The attempt to dislocate the worst of ourselves onto some abstraction of evil only prevents us from taking steps to right the underlying issues that give rise to our darkness.
That being said, by also abdicating the good that we do to only acts of divinity robs us of the best of ourselves.
By saying we do not illuminate light, but only reflect it, we deny our innate spark and smother our inherent goodness.
Why is it that we attempt to deny our darkness and refuse to believe we are capable of emitting light?