Every few years, I consider going back to school. Why? Because being a student for a considerable amount of time and teaching before, during, and after a global pandemic reinforced an undeniable fact for me: we learn best in communities.
School, although expensive, is the lowest hanging fruit in terms of discovering a like-minded community. The higher up you go in education, the more specialized and interest-based your set of peers becomes.
That, I think, is the thing worth paying for if you ever are considering returning to school: a community of people with similar thoughts and aspirations that has been set up for you in a lab environment to experience maximum learning and growth.
Being physically and intellectually present with a group of individuals with the same general interests as you, but with their own unique spin on things is hugely developmental and expansive.
It enables you to go deeper within a domain, develop and ask formative questions, and become enriched by others excavating with you. But many of us are not in position to go back to school.
My biggest question as an instructor, coach, and community-builder has been:
How do I manufacture the optimal learning environment and support system for my students and clients outside of the confines of an expensive institution?
In fact, all creatives can ask themselves:
How do I manufacture the community I need to be my best self?
It starts with inquiry
I'll start with you can do as an individual. First of all, community-building is challenging-but-essential deep inner work. A search for like-minded and like-hearted people begins with penetrating self-inquiry. You have to ask yourself big hairy questions:
What am I about? What are my core values? What are my aspirations?
I'm a firm believer that we become the people we surround ourselves with, so it's essential to curate friends and thought partners carefully according to this vital information you unearth about yourself.
Focus on habits, not just interests
Something we often fail to examine in ourselves and others are habits. As I've aged, I've realized how important it is to surround myself with people who have habits that support their aspirations and goals.
For example, as a writer, I have cultivated a morning practice of producing words. I now gravitate toward people who maintain a similar habit because it's so hard to make those choices alone.
Knowing I have morning buddies who are tinkering when I am only reinforces my commitment and desire to keep up with my writing. It's something we discuss and refine together.
You can't do it alone
As a business instructor and coach, I have found that communities are essential in business-building. Moreover, it's important to have a strong learning community during the early stages when activities and goals are nebulous.
When I was younger, I used to think I could do it all alone, and that being a part of communities would leech my time. What I have experienced though is that community interaction enriches my time, gives me an audience to test my work with, encourages and motivates me to keep going, and amplifies my impact.
So when you find yourself drained of inspiration, instead of doubling down on your t0-dos, consider searching for a group on the same journey to unstick you.