Friday, June 12, 2015

From Book Club to Mastermind

It might be time to start something. To take a concept you heard about across town or across the nations and birth a dream in your space.

Over 18 years ago, we linked up with a handful of families that had formed a village of sorts. They dubbed the little community Parent's Night Out. On Sunday we met to pray and brainstorm and work through a book study. And every second and fourth Friday my husband and I went on a date. Of course the way the community worked is that about once in every 9 weeks or so, we took our turn to love on littles for an evening while the other parents went out. A win-win all around.

When the group disbanded a year later, (schedules didn't coordinate as the seasons of our lives rounded a bend and families diverted to paths best suited for that time), my husband and I longed for a similar community. And our date nights.

So, I asked everyone I knew, "If there was a community you could be a part of that not only gave you and your spouse a date night twice a month, but also provided you with the opportunity to get to know other couples and their children, would you be interested?" The answer was an emphatic Yes! 100% of the time.

Then... I smiled... and enthusiastically offered my support, "Great! You ought to start something like that! And when you do, we'll be right behind you, supporting you all the way!"

After several months of getting nowhere -- beyond confirming that such a community was definitely needed -- I finally listened to that still small voice that I heard during those conversations, "Sharon, you start it."

What? Me?

Well, you and LeRoy and a whole entire community.

But we don't know what we're doing.

Doesn't matter. I do.

Long story, short... for nine years, (until we moved overseas), we had the awesome privilege of being part of a beautiful community of families in which we built lifelong friendships.

Sometimes you have to start something.


When we bought our first house in the quaint little neighborhood downtown, I desperately wanted to know my neighbors. In my mind, in Sharon Land, us homemakers would hang our sheets on the clothesline in the backyard and visit over the white picket fence. Our children would ride their bicycles up and down the street and our husbands would talk politics and literature on the front porch during warm summer evenings. Oh, I'm a let's-sit-on-the-front-porch-and-drink-iced-lemonades gal, for sure! 

Heh. I'm chuckling right out loud at myself as I type these words. Ah well. So SharonLand didn't exactly match up with reality. Our backyard was surrounded by a wooden six-foot fence. And the houses on both sides of us were rentals occupied by college-age guys who loved to play their music loud all hours of the night and throw wild parties on the weekends. But I digress. 

Where was I? Right. Getting to know our neighbors. So, I printed up flyers to invite the women on my block to my house, once a month, to dialogue about a book we had read together. A book club. 

I shook when I walked up to the door to ring the doorbell. To invite them to my table. Me, the one who struggled to make friends in school all while growing up. Yet, driven by deep conviction, I went anyway.
Because, I don't care much what people think about me as much as I care about what they think.

That's how three beautiful friends, Heather, Carol, and Theresa came into my life. Three women in different stages of life -- two of them didn't have children and one had already sprung her one child from the nest while I had four kiddos under the age of six. But we shared a love of reading and dreaming. We went to estate sales together, we sipped wine and talked womanhood and life, and yes, we conversed many, many evenings out on the front porch. 

It might be time to start something.


Have you whispered your dream to a friend? Lately? Perhaps it's time? 

Like the time I attended a leadership meeting during which everyone in the room shared something they're passionate about. And afterwards, shaking (why do I always get so stinkin scared?!), I quietly shared with one of the women that her giftings... well, goodness! if only I knew how to do what came so natural for her. But that's not how it works, right? After all, we're this global community that each brings something entirely unique to the game field. 

She asked me to explain more in depth the passion that I shared earlier... to build community, to invest deeply into relationships while simultaneously simplifying our lives. (Sydney Launder, I have you to thank for planting that seed in my heart!) To seek joy in relationships instead of the woefully unfulfilling stuff we collect. And so, I shared one of my dreams. And I digressed while explaining... oi! Because I was trying to give her background and she totally listened with a ton of grace, overlooking my awkwardness and managed to mercifully look deep right into the actual dream itself. 

She startled me with her response. Her eyes got big as she took my meager offering and blew it right up to magnificent proportions. I mean, magnificent. And she knew someone else to bring on board who was equal to her talent and giftings. And that little whispered dream? It became InJoy

A monthly get together for women to collaborate. Each month a different theme. Kitchen: clean out cupboards and drawers and bring what you don't love 70% or more to the party. One woman brought three nearly new espresso machines to trade! I think she went home with a ladle -- "just exactly what I've been needing!" she exclaimed. 

What didn't end up in someone else's home, went to a charity organization.

Another month, the bedrooms: Goodness! That one was a hit! I have no idea how many women wandered through my living room and front yard, perusing tables and racks of clothing. Arriving with bags of clothes to give away, leaving with a whole new wardrobe. But I have to tell you the highlight of the evening. The moment that time slowed and I stood wonderstruck. 

I was eavesdropping. (I know. Right? Where are my manners? It's this bad habit I don't want to kick. I've added all sorts of amazing intel to my knowledge base as a result of this unruly habit.) Two women sat there leaning in, their knees practically touching as they sipped coffee and took dainty bites of triple chocolate layer cake.

"I'm so glad I finally got to have a conversation with you!" 

"Me, too! I mean, I've seen you at Bible Study all this past year and I've always wanted to meet you and get to know you, but you know how it is with having to pick the kids up from the nursery and rush home for lunch and naps..."

"I feel the same! Let's definitely get together to hang out! My kids would love the playdate with your kids."

They proceeded to write down each other's information. Like, seriously, folks, I don't remember who those two women were, (remember, I was trying to eavesdrop, which means I had to be inconspicuous), but I hope they're best friends who have shared life together ever since that evening. [In SharonLand, that's exactly how it plays out. humble smile.]

18 months, give or take... Deb and Wendy and I convened each month with other women wanting community and the motivation to simplify their lives.

We're wired for collaboration. Someone has a dream and a talent who needs to collaborate with you on your dream and your talent. Together, start something magnificent.


So, ever since learning about Mastermind Groups, I've wanted to be a part of one. In hindsight, I can identify all kinds of mastermind groups I've participated in. Of course, they weren't called mastermind groups. They were called book clubs, steering teams, mom's mentoring groups, leadership, writer's critique groups, and... friendships (my favorite). If you've ever experienced the depth of intimacy that comes from baring your soul's deepest desires, your most impossible dreams, and having another look you in the eyes and ask, "So what is your next action step and the date you're going to achieve it?" you know what a priceless treasure such a friend is in your life. 

Apparently, some people know the value of such an interaction and will invest big into these relationships. I certainly would. In fact, I have a list of who I dream of hiring as a coach one day. And why not? If you want to be a world class athlete, don't you hire a world class coach to get you to the level of peak physical performance in order to win at your game? I have impossible, audacious goals and dreams and I'd love to hire a coach to get me to a level of mastery in my field of expertise.

So, I'm going bold. With a little bit of research, I've discovered that there are other women who live here who would appreciate the same kind of mentoring and coaching that I desire. Together, we'll meet for an hour and a half each month and pour into one another's lives. We'll tackle tough issues and ask hard questions. We'll dream. Brainstorm. Collaborate. Share. Love. Extend grace. Up the ante. Challenge the status quo. 

We'll learn how to lead better where we are. We'll inspire one another to leave a legacy of love. We'll delve into this adventure together.

What action step are you going to take today to bring you one step closer to your God-sized dream?

*[One of my dreams is to invest more into more people's lives. The way that so many people have invested in me; motivating, inspiring, and helping me overcome challenges and addictions and depression. To offer a hand of support for others the way so many have held out their hand and supported me on this journey. 

I'm convinced that life is short. Really short. And... 

I'm also convinced that everyone -- everyone -- has something to teach and something to learn. 

In light of these two convictions, I believe we need to reach out to each other more. Heh, believe me, my introverted soul is reaching out for tangible ways to execute on these beliefs. Honestly, I struggle to love as deeply, as vulnerably, as I want to. I know so many of you who do this naturally -- reach out, keep in touch, love well, are generous with your soul. You're masters at it. Thank you. You're showing me the way.

I'm still very much in the throes of learning the logistics -- and technology... oi! But one day, maybe soon, I'd love it if you joined me in a Mastermind Group in which we met online? I'll keep you posted.]

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