I recently had the privilege of attending the StartingBloc Conference
this year in Santa Monica, LA. Imagine an amazing group of change-makers, each with their unique interests - some finding their way, some well on their way - all in a beach house together for 5 days. Listening, learning and most importantly, being vulnerable together. That is essentially StartingBloc.
Here are a couple of things I took away when I was there.
Vulnerability is power. People often have the impression that social entrepreneurs have to be tough, tenacious and temerarious. We are supposed to define our own reality. But that isn't easy. It's like putting a marshmallow over a fire; soon you get this hardened, slightly charred, crisp outer layer. But really - we are all soft and squishy on the inside. Allowing oneself to be vulnerable though seems more daunting than facing the world at times. Yet, the greatest conversations sometimes happen when one simply takes a leap and allows themself to open up - and gives permission to others to do so, too. And by sharing how you feel, it is amazing just how many people have gone through similar situations or are in the same situation as you are. And because you asked - because you had the courage to be vulnerable - everyone can then learn from each other.
Resilience is a skill. Perseverance is not this innate ability that only some possess. Each experience we go through introduces us to new levels of stress, and challenges us to push ahead. There were so many speakers and even participants who spoke of the tribulations they went through - internal emotional struggles and external societal barriers - and how overcoming these obstacles spurred them on. So, take each difficult experience as a sort of training - a training for your resilience.
Find your ubuntu. It is a powerful feeling to know that at whatever stage you are at, no matter what you are doing - there will always be a community of people that you belong to. The connections I made at StartingBloc are my greatest takeaway; now, 3 weeks after the conference is over, we are still constantly learning from one another through FB, through phone calls, through text messages etc. We teach each other and share with one another. It is the idea of Ubuntu. Not the operating system (though that was probably so-named with the same intentions), but as Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes it:
'A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.'
Don't underestimate the power of community - not just for the mutual support one can get, but also because in a community that shares openly, the possibility of learning and making new discoveries is so much greater. Find such a community for oneself, or yet greater - be bold enough to try to create your own community.
another reason why community is important: because we, the human race as a whole, whether we want to accept it or not, are a community. And how we choose to respond, react and interact with this community will shape how our future will be.