On rediscovering, and creating, active communities: places that people miss.

transcript and notes:



Hey, everyone. Thanks for tuning in.

So as many of you know, I have moved. I was in Berkeley, and now I'm in Portland, Oregon. Which is to say, I have moved back. I lived here a long time ago, a lifetime, many lifetimes ago. And there are things that I love about this city so much. And there are things that I'll have to figure out.

We were fortunate enough to be able to find a house in our budget to rent. And that has been all by itself a blessing, I will need to do a piece at some point, on giving people space, enough space. It is transformative.

But today, what I want to talk about is solving problems in a way that works. I'm going to start by saying there is no answer. This is not something that comes with a tidy bow. The house we found is across the street from the back of a shopping center. And on the street, behind the shopping center, we have several neighbors who live in motorhomes. And one of them, one of the motorhomes, has a generator on the back of it. Which I'm sure is a great boon to the people who live there.

Trying to live without electricity is really hard, not impossible, but really hard. And trying to live in a city without electricity is much harder. So for that reason, I'm glad they have the generator. But the front windows of this house are single-pane, vintage 1955 windows. In that respect, they're not that different from the windows in the apartment that I just moved out of. Although the apartment building itself was much older in this house is the same age as its windows.

And the back of the shopping center is a flat, hard wall, and the front of our house is a flat, hard wall. And so what that means is that the sound of the generator echoes back and forth between these two walls. It's a challenge. It's a challenge for a lot of reasons. But mostly because constant auditory input is really hard for both me and the partner I'm living with. And there are a bunch of things we can do to make it easier.

But for example, it's a little trickier to record now, not only because the post-processing has to include eliminating the background noise, but fortunately, it can do that. Thank you artificial intelligence. But also, because I have a harder time thinking. I have a harder time being coherent. I have a harder time putting ideas together in a string of more than like two with that kind of sound in the background. Which points to privilege.

The ability, the freedom to choose to function in such a way that I I can do things that require me to think, means that I have variously found ways to eliminate noises like that. Or to avoid them entirely.

But, you know, hoping that there was some kind of assistance program, intermediate something, we called the the city information line. It's not a police line, it just a phone line where you can find out things about how the city works. Which is great if you're new in town.

So we called them and we said, "here's the situation, we absolutely do not want to involve the police. What are our choices?" And the person on the other end of the phone said "really, unfortunately, we don't have any other options other than calling the non-emergency line." And we said "that's still the police. That's not what we're doing. That's not how that works." And so he said "really, unfortunately, not much."

And so we turned to other solutions. I got on Facebook, and I said, "Hey Facebook, how are hedges as a sound break?" And folks seem to think that hedges are pretty good. I'm considering the kind of hedge that comes in a box because we're renting, we don't have permission. And I don't want to spend the money to plant plants on this property. But surely, we can find a way to put them in a box. So that's one option.

The other option is that we draw on the various people we know from Burning Man and get help and suggestions and assistance in building a surround for the generator, if our neighbors are willing to have us do that. Which would mean that we would need to develop a relationship with them, at least to some extent.

We are both very slow to weave those kinds of connections with people. I have never had good luck with neighbors. So I'm a little skittish. But we might try that too. It's certainly a more compact solution than installing a hedge, it's probably a more effective solution than installing a hedge. But this is the thing about solving problems. Our principles and values, and what we know about the world, mean that we are not willing to call the police. That's just not an option.

So we have to find something else. And it is entirely likely that that something else will be something that we do to ourselves or to our property, rather than to or with the people across the street. Because we're trying to meet all kinds of needs, we're trying to meet mental health and physical health needs for ourselves. We're trying to figure out what the best solution is.

When we first got here, we got here in the middle of an ice storm, basically, and the generator was running a lot, now it's running less. So maybe this won't be as much of an issue, as the weather turns. Maybe this is only a winter issue. Maybe it's a winter and summer issue since summers have gotten so hot here.

But as leaders- you knew I was going to come back to business eventually- as business leaders, this is our job, this is... you know, it would be simple or obvious or easy to decide that our principles, our beliefs, didn't have a place in a situation where we are under significant stress. Where we could prioritize our comfort over someone else's. Except that that wouldn't be easy at all, because it would feel really terrible. And it would put us out of alignment. And that's not going to serve us or anyone else in the long run.

So instead we're wrestling with it. We're trying to figure out how we can shift our own cadence inside the house. Sometimes we just use more of that privilege that we have, get in the car, and leave for a couple of hours to give ourselves a break. I imagine that as we settle in, we'll find our various kinds of earmuffs and headphones and earplugs that we've used for other things at other times, and we will apply those again. And that will help.

The vibrations are physically present, too. I can feel them in my body. So that's something to manage also. But again, as leaders, it's on us to take the time and energy to do the wrestling. That's the leadership part. I think sometimes there's this idea that when you get to a certain level of leadership, you don't have to wrestle anymore, that's not your job anymore. But in fact, I think it's exactly the opposite. The further into leadership you go, the further into leadership we go, the more important it is for us to engage the depth of the reality of our principles and beliefs and values and how we want the world to be broadly. Because we have so much impact.

And sometimes it's something that's personal and individual and maybe it's just you and one other person. But sometimes it's something else. Sometimes it's big, sometimes it's complicated. Sometimes it's big and complicated and hard and uncomfortable. Sometimes it's something like racism, or ableism. Sometimes it's expensive. Sometimes you have to figure out how to straddle that divide between cost and efficacy, or cost and ideals.

And yet at what point do you just cut it off and say, "I can't do this at all if I can't do it at least this well?" And at what point do you say "I have to do this because I am also marginalized, disabled, struggling. And so I'm going to do the best that I can and acknowledge that it's not what it should be. And lay out a plan for how we're going to get from here to there?"

Right now my business is in that liminal space. I have room for more clients. I have room for more creativity. I have room for more something. I am not fully occupied in a way that would mean that I was all the way at capacity. And I don't exactly know which something is going to need or want to be developed more fully.

The membership is beautiful, but small. I would love to have more people come in and be members, and give me more to work with in terms of how the membership should develop. Who else do we want to bring in and how? What else would serve intensives as a group and how? Especially leaders, how? What would serve you?

On the other hand, I have a half written book. I should probably finish that book. On the other hand, I really need to do more to promote this podcast.

On the other hand, on the other hand, on the other hand, but: right now everything that I'm doing is at a reasonable not ideal, but a reasonable level of accessibility. Everything that I'm doing is at least approaching where I want it to be in terms of my ideals. And I don't want to overextend too much. I don't want to go too far beyond that. I want to make all of my spaces be spaces that I can feel proud to promote, that I can feel proud to share. That's why this podcast comes with transcripts that are cleaned up by human being. Because auto transcription is not there yet. It's getting there. But it's not there yet. And everyone should be able to access these words if they want to.

That's why I try to make all of the membership features accessible in some way or other. That's why I'm still wrestling with people about how the salons can be more accessible than they are. And also, I'm still holding the salons, I've still got the membership website up and running. I'm still doing everything that I can.

And I'm a small business. I'm like one and a half people, maybe two. I have some folks waiting in the wings, who will be happy to come on board as contractors if I exceed my capacity with consulting. But right now, it's me and my assistant. That's who we are. And all of you. And all of you are part of it. Not in the employee's sense, of course, but in the engagement and development sense.

And so together, we're figuring out what is needed and how to get there. What would make this better? What would make this more engaging? What would make this more nourishing?

I just did an episode about how we're all making decisions about what we need and what we want. Based on a much tighter set of criteria. We're being more discerning, we're taking more rest, we're expending less energy and things that don't matter to us. So as an intensive, what matters to you matters to me. That's, that was the whole point at the very beginning. And that continues to be the point now. How do we get and give what we need, what we want, what matters to us? How do we be who we want to be? Because that matters to us.

And so I don't know if we're going to bring in a hedge in boxes. That's an expensive endeavor, but it's a beautiful one. Or if we're going to have a conversation with our neighbors and build, or collaborate on a build, for a baffle box. Or if we're going to use hypnosis so that it just doesn't bother us so much anymore. Or if we're going to find the best, most amazing, lightweight, noise canceling, non-bluetooth headphones ever. I don't know. I don't know what's gonna happen. But I do know that I want to feel good about living here and good about how I am with the people around me.

Integrity is so important to intensives. It's so important to me. And I know it's important to all of us. That's why you're here. This is not a podcast that attracts people who are not into integrity.

So, in the places where you have power, in the places where you lead, in the places where you are the influencer, where you are the decision maker: what supports do you need, so that you can make the decision you need to make to stay in integrity? To continue to create the world you want, even in the tiniest little ways?

The other day, I needed rose petals for something. And my partner is allergic to roses. So it wasn't like I was going to buy a bouquet and just filch one of the flowers. Instead, they suggested I go over and see if there was someone at the flower counter and ask if they had, you know, a rose that had been discarded, that didn't work out, that was kind of ugly. Because all I needed was the petals.

So I went over, not expecting to find anyone at the counter early in the morning. But there she was. And all of the roses in the display were in bouquets, big bouquets. I didn't need that many I couldn't use that many. I can't even have that many in the house. So I asked her, "hey, I just need a few rose petals for an art project. Do you have one that's like ugly or discarded?" And she's like, "just hand me one of those bouquets and I'll just charge you for one flower. I'll just pull one out." I said "okay."

So I pulled a bouquet off the display, and handed it to her and she clipped the rose off. And as she was getting ready to hand it to me, she's like, "this is ridiculous. The number of flowers that I break in a day.... I'm not charging you for this." And she just handed it to me.

That pretty much- that kind of thing- pretty much never happened where I was living last. But it keeps happening here. So far, we've had someone volunteer to shovel our walk in the middle of the ice storm, we've had people give us stuff, we've had my friends and partners come and set up the house for us, meet the movers, deal with helping us find a house.

We've been welcomed robustly and generously. And I am so looking forward to being part of active community. again. I've missed it here. And that's the kind of thing that I want to create as a leader. That's the kind of thing I invite you to create as a leader: a place that people miss.

Thanks for tuning in. I'll talk to you soon.