The people around you affect your life. It’s you’re job to select the best people who will make you creative, boost your confidence, give you honest feedback, and help build you into a better person. Of course, science is proving this now with obesity and smokers and that people can drag you down. But looking even broader at the flowering communities in history, you can pinpoint it to specific centers, such as in the 1400s of in Italy, especially around the Medici of Florence and Federico da Montefeltro in Urbino. Also, in the 1500’s around Weimar and the massive personality of Goethe as well as his circle of Schiller, Herder, Wieland and Bertuch. And in the small town of Concord in New England in the 1800s where Emerson was widely known and respected along with other luminaries such as Thoreau, Prescott, Hawthorne, Dickinson, Quincy Adams, and Webster to name a few. And I’m sure you can also name your own circles historically or in your own life from school and work where people just flourished together.
Your job is to create that centre. Sometimes this is your family, other times teachers and mentors. Other times, you’ll need to find your own community or build one.
If you’re lucky enough to have a supportive family, then pour your heart and soul into that area of your life. Many families fall apart just because the time spent chasing other dreams impact the family. There will be private things that you need to do. For example, I write and that is a craft where I need the time alone to practice. Luckily, my wife and sons understand and give me the time and understanding. I also try to steal bits of time early in the morning before everyone wakes. However, rather than spending other times with other people, I prefer to put the time into my family and building a friendship around them. As they support my creativity, I want to help build bridges with them. And like all relationships, it takes effort and time. There has to be planning to build memories, be it a day out, a lunch together, making dinner, or playing a board game. Regardless, the time with my family builds for me a support center that helps in all other areas of my life.
Of course, not all families support each other. In those cases, you need to actively seek out other members of your pack. Teachers and mentors generally guide and challenge into positive directions. Seek them out! Teachers come from a variety of places. The ones that had the greatest impact on me came from both school and outside of school. I happened to love studying history and found a tutor that helped me and he became a close mentor for many years. Another came from taking an acting class. Another from an art class. Keep a lookout for teachers. The best way is to sign up for a variety of classes, either physical classes or online. If you want to learn a new craft, such as French, cooking, wine tasting, photography, hip-hop dancing, Excel, or filming, then a teacher will help you quickly grow. And the ability to have someone that will challenge you and keep you focused and hold you to deadlines that help develop your skills.
If you are still facing scars and trauma from teachers you faced in school, then maybe you can seek out a group that supports your growth. I joined a running club that meets at the track on Wednesday nights. Also, I joined a book club where we read fiction and get together once a month for lunch at a restaurant that reflects the book we just read and discuss the merits of the book. I’ve also created my own clubs so that I could learn with others. For example, I have a group called Malts & Men that gets together and drink single malt scotch and studies the biographies of great people in history (yes, the name is sexist, but we do have women in our group and have studied the biographies of great women—the name just rolled off the tongue like an aged Glenlivet). I also have a group that gets together and we read our fiction and poetry to each other and critique. The point of all these groups is to keep engaged, build new ideas, and keep a supportive pack of people that challenges and helps me improve.
I understand it takes time and sometimes it is difficult to find the time. But some groups can be built around the life you lead right now. If you’re a busy parent, how can you build a group around your children? If you are into water colors, is there an opportunity for you to have a group with parents and kids who water color together? When my sons were small, parents joined karate and could help in the classes, but also participated. The mix was fantastic. I know others that have joined in with dance, swimming, rugby, and Boy Scouts.
Many flourishing communities can be built virtually. The challenge is to create a community that creates and builds your life in such a way that helps you blossom and bloom.
This week, take a look at your community. Who is in it currently? Who would you like to be there? What small steps can you you take to meet the people who would help you improve your life, be it mental, physical, or spiritual? Take small, easy steps. The easier and smaller, the better. The point is more towards consistency, rather than size. If you can find one other person to learn a craft and share ideas, you’ll grow exponentially!