On Becoming Your Favorite Community Guy Online
thanks for the feedback, more like seeking funding, my background in community, leading through example
This post’s title is a play on On Being That Weird Guy Online. In this post, I will dive a bit deeper and share how I’m thinking about one of my goals:
By September 1st 2024, I plan to be effectively ‘branded’ and actively receive referrals as some sort of “community guy”. I’m not committed to the word community but this is satisfactory for this post’s purposes.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about the future of IndieThinkers. The past two weeks, I have been soliciting feedback and spending hours writing to refine what we aspire to do, how, and why someone should bet on us. We are currently seeking funding through grants and considering various partnerships.
Here are some excerpts from a grant draft that reflects my personal narrative around community:
I grew up in a small, rural community called Honeoye Falls, a suburb of Rochester, NY, with a population of ~2500 people. Throughout high school and my undergraduate degree at the University of Rochester, I was an active community leader, most notably: school president (‘10-’12), class president (‘12-’15), and student body president (‘15-16). My experience in these roles and others shaped my identity as a leader, taught me an immense amount about group dynamics in organizations and scenes, and reflects my deep desire to cultivate a sense of belonging and community in the spaces I inhabit.
Following my undergraduate education, I co-founded an early-stage incubator, Barbara J. Burger iZone, targeted at the undergraduate students of my alma mater. I took the program from a half-baked consultant report to a thriving, active community in a 12,000 sq. ft. space.* I recruited, trained, and coached a team of high-agency undergraduates who accounted for most of our labor hours, designed and taught a course which resulted in 10 undergraduates publishing indie books, and cultivated a community for the definite optimists who were alienated by the rampant nihilism of their peers. During these years, I developed an intimate understanding of the negative externalities of saddling creative, high-agency students with significant debt.
My most influential mentor was a local leader[, Dean Paul Burgett,] at the university who dedicated his life to mentoring college students and stewarding the Rochester community. His example has inspired me to try to create my own community niche in our emerging paradigm. If I had been born 20 years earlier, I would likely be in a PhD program with aspirations to become a dean at my alma mater. We don’t live in that world anymore.
*This framing is for the purposes of a specific grant, the achievements of iZone required the collaboration of our world-class team #iZoneMafia
This kind of work has felt deeply meaningful. And from witnessing the example of Dean Burgett I would assume that feeling only compounds over time. It seems possible to make a career out of this kind of work, so why not give it my best shot?
This post was partially inspired because my friend, Nate, encouraged me to write a bit more about my prior experiences building organizations and communities. If you haven’t read my book, Lead The Future: Strategies and Systems for Emerging Leaders, then you probably are generally uninformed about this part of my background. This will soon be remedied—do any of your friends want to invite me on their podcast?
How specifically do I plan to achieve this goal?
How will I measure success?
Beyond my work with IndieThinkers, these are questions that I’m developing first (and likely bad) answers to.
Potential methods for achieving this goal:
Build and maintain ownership over a financially independent, sustainable community venture, ie. IndieThinkers (*knock on wood*)
Conduct interviews and build relationships with others focused on this topic
Dive into my to-read on the subject and share my analyses: the works of Robert Nisbet, Collaborative Circles by Michael P. Farrell, Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, et al, and more— would love any recommendations, including incisive critique of what people are calling community
Organize and contribute to a scene (or multiple) in my locality
Speak publicly and secure paid consulting gigs on associated topics
Actively interview Seeking Tribe subscribers and others who resonate with my writings and vibes
Launch a recurring cohort-based course on Community Leadership
Publish a second book advancing a thesis on the subject and sharing stories gathered from my experience and those of my peers
Go above and beyond to treat individual people with dignity and help them to achieve their own goals
Run short experiments to see which of these are most: sustainable, worthwhile, and genuinely enjoyable
Potential measures of success:
Partial ownership of IndieThinkers in a sustainable, profitable state
X recorded and published interviews
Friendships with a, b, c people in ‘the space’
X number of monthly-active-users in a, b, c channels
I become overwhelmed by the amount of opportunities to support and invest in people who I’ve developed relationships with through all facets of my life
I am saying no to consulting gigs that are offering me 5-40x what I got paid this last month (more feasible than we both might think!)
Seeking Tribe subscribers are invited to and attend a dope destination meet up, gathering
X students complete my Community Leadership course, receive y testimonials that fill me with a deep sense of purpose and meaning
I am in a position to consider purchasing a private, yet accessible venue to host the events, courses, etc that I would like to bring to the world
Create X personal introductions between people in my network every year
As I said at the beginning, this is essentially a draft. I certainly do not plan to try to achieve all of this in the next three years. Likewise, I do not plan to beat myself up with an arbitrary goal, “You only made three connections this month, not ten!” Many of these ideas likely aren’t even good.
My hope with this post was to share a bit more about what I’m working on and set my longer-term intentions. There’s risks in doing this because it could all blow up in my face. But there’s also the possibility that this post itself connects me to opportunities which will enable me to narrow my focus and achieve subsections of this goal in a shorter time frame.
IndieThinkers is my first and foremost professional priority and I plan for it to continue to be that way. This other goal is designed to be complimentary to that work. In particular, I believe that I need to be leading by example and using the tools and frameworks that we recommend at IndieThinkers. My own experience and results should serve as part of my pitch. Systems where “the chef does not eat his own cooking” will continue to fail all of us.
I hope everyone is having an excellent long-weekend and enjoys their Labor Day off (or holiday pay!)
I have launched a powerful, actionable and free email course on Community Leadership. You can sign-up here today.
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PS: Several IndieThinkers have had their annual subscriptions paid for by their employer. If you have professional development budget and have thought about joining, definitely email me! I have a template pitch.