Close your eyes. Imagine you are fourteen years old again and it’s the first day of 9th grade. Take all that in for just a second. You are panic sweating yet?
A Lonely Island
You're holding a tray full of what they are calling "Monday's Beefy Macaroni." A red jello cup and cardboard encased skim milk complete the USDA-approved ensemble. You're standing, holding your breath in front of the whole cafeteria of chatty teenagers chowing down, all grouped into cliques. It is a wall of sound, teen angst and internal judgment, all rolled into one overwhelming moment. Your face feels hot and suddenly flushed with panic. Whether it's your new acne medicine or just fear setting in, you're feeling like a lonely island. You look around the room for a friendly face, well, any familiar face really. You feel like everyone is staring at you. Ironically, no one seems to be making eye contact or even notices your existence. To them, you are competition.
Then, like a scene from an '80s Rom-Com, the crowd parts, and the light focuses in on a beautiful sight. It's a seemly, familiar face from homeroom and she's waving at you to come to sit with her ! At that very moment, your knees unbuckle. Your lips begin to part into a metal-mouth grin. Your body moves forward without hesitation. You're suddenly part of something bigger than your awkward, adolescent self. You have finally found your community.
Since our youth, all of us have been trying to find our 'communities.' A welcoming place of like-minded friends and colleagues who support, inspire and push us to be our best selves.
The Cafeteria of Competition
As entrepreneurs, business owners, and creatives, the dated, old-school theory that there is a whole, proverbial "cafeteria" of competition in front of us has held us back. Others in the same fields, going for the same things, fighting it out for the same business? They're all competition. Right? Wrong! The idea of competition is ingrained in our brains since the days of those junior or senior high school cliques sitting and (judging) in the cafeteria. What if we took this negative idea of 'Competition' out and added back the positive concept of 'Community' that we all seek and unconsciously long for? By ditching the idea of competition and getting on board with the sense of community, we're working together toward a common goal and with mutual respect. Hence, "Community over Competition."
By changing the dynamic of how we see others around us, we break down walls and welcome everyone to the communal table for lunch. Because, there truly is enough red jello to go around for us all!
Now to most, as entrepreneurs, not having a boss breathing down our necks every day can seem quite glamorous, right? It might even be the reason you took the huge leap and left your 9 to 5 job! Yes AND No! If we're being honest, entrepreneurship can feel, lonely and sometimes alienating. Your friends, with more "traditional" careers, just don't understand you as much anymore. Typically, you don’t go to an office full of other people and a water cooler every day. Sometimes the only in-person conversation we have all day is with one of our pets. Sadly, they never respond back!
Imagine, if you will, learning, growing and benefiting from those around you in the same fields instead of fearing them. As a wedding planner and CEO of Anything But Gray Events in the very saturated Los Angeles market, most of my closest friends are also wedding planners. In the same market. Why? Because who else better to know exactly how I'm feeling on a day to day basis than others who are in the same position? By surrounding myself with peers who I trust, respect and admire, I have grown a community that helps and not hinders me.
The Confidence of Community
Now, close your eyes. Imagine yourself now, as the boss event pro you are. Take all that in for just a second. You're beaming with pride because you should be!
And, finally, you're holding a glass of pinot noir rocking a killer ensemble. You're standing at a cocktail table, smiling with confidence in front of the whole room of like-minded entrepreneurs at a networking event. They all want to talk to YOU. It's a wall of sound, open and honest dialogue, and mutual respect all rolled into one overwhelmingly wonderful moment. By embracing 'Community over Competition' we reject fear, doubt, insecurity and all those other negative feelings that hold us back from being our more dynamic selves.
It's time for you to take a seat and join the party. Your community is waiting for you!
Photo courtesy Julie Shuford Photography