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Embracing Strangers Over Dinner: What do you need to let go of?

By Jessica Albon

When’s the last time you invited 50 strangers over for dinner? Unless you’re Jim Haynes, I’d imagine it’s not a regular occurrence in your life.

But maybe it should be.

Each week, 50-70 people (more when the weather’s nice) RSVP and let Jim know they’ll be coming for dinner Sunday night. And, each week, according to the articles, he’s there to make guests feel welcome and to enjoy the community he’s created. I wonder what that’s like for him. I wonder how throwing open the doors to your home once a week for thirty years makes you a different sort of person.

More than that, though, I wonder how it might make me a different sort of person. Would it help me be more at ease with myself under all circumstances? Would it make me a better storyteller? Might it, just maybe, make me a better cook ;-)?

Maybe we’re not all meant to host 50+ strangers for dinner once a week, but doesn’t the core of this idea appeal to you, too–the idea that you’re building a community of people who might never cross paths again but who will, if only for that one night, really, truly, genuinely connect. The idea that you can bring together great swaths of people who seem oh-so-different for a night of hearty laughter and fabulous food. The idea that you can welcome people as they are not for what they’re bringing to the table.

Doesn’t that sound good?

If it doesn’t, and I say this with full measure of kindness, I think it might be time for you to unsubscribe from this newsletter. As much as I’ll genuinely miss you, where I’m headed next will likely frustrate you, and that’s not good for either of us. But, if this does sound good, if this idea of building genuine, tangible community appeals to you, please stick around.

I feel like I’ve spent the last several months tearing pages out of magazines and sorting them into “yes!!” and “bleh” piles, and now I have this gorgeous collage of loose papers… that I’m not entirely sure how to put together just yet. So, while I’ve been splashing the paint of community all over my clothes, I’m not entirely sure how to apply it to the walls, or if I even want to apply it to the walls at all. What I do know, though, is this: it’s time for me to stop working with clients who are only concerned with the bottom line and with what their customers have “contributed” lately. It’s time for me to focus on working with people who are genuinely, proactively, and with dedication committed to their tribes; to helping *their* people thrive.

So, because I’m all about challenging you ;-), here’s your challenge for today: what’s something big and scary that you absolutely must let go of in order to grow into your next phase? And how might that help you build a stronger community? You don’t have to let go of it if you’re not ready, just identify it. If you’re willing to share, email me your ideas. Trepidation loves company, after all.

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