Growing up in the south, one of my favorite writers was Lewis Grizzard, famous for his witty take on southern culture. Although I didn’t agree with a lot of his musings, one epiphany he had (and the excitement with which he had it) has always stuck with me. Once, someone trying to insult him, called him a “smart-a** white boy”. With great vigor and zest, he said “FINALLY I know what I am! I’m a smart-a** white boy”. After years of inner conflict, he was now able to put a word to his professional calling.
When deciding to develop a coworking community in Fort Mill, SC, I had to do a lot of self-reflection to be able to explain to others (and myself) why I felt that it was my mission to bring collaboration, community and creativity to our area … all for the benefit of local independent workers. I looked back over my time in higher ed, corporate America, professional associations and even social circles to determine what my talents (or self-professed superhero powers) are.
Odd as they sound, I came up with:
- Lack of the Embarrassment Gene: Sometimes participation results in failure, but you never know till you try. If you fail, you either learn from it, make connections with others via sympathy gathering, or have some darn good stories to tell later.
- Instigation: My favorite quote is “the world is run by those who show up”. Well, the party is ruled by those who dance … especially those who drag other willing (or unwilling) participants onto the floor.
- Volume: Who needs a glass and flatware to get people’s attention at an event when you can shock them into submission with your lungs.
- Eavesdropping: What most people might see as a rude act, I claim proudly as an innate “awareness” of my surroundings and a desire to learn about people, what makes them tick, and how I can help facilitate their success.
Doesn’t seem like a list that was enhanced by 25 years of higher education and professional experience, but stick with me for a minute …..
By far the most rewarding part of my career in higher ed actually took place outside the classroom. Throughout my tenure, I worked closely with student leadership, freshman orientation, career and civic engagement, and the award winning campus programming board. Each of these experiences gave me more and more insight into group dynamics, methods of collaboration, successful program development, helping people assimilate to new environments and challenges, encouraging engagement, and bringing out the best in potential leaders. Managing a coworking community requires all of these, it is just serving a different audience!
Which led me to the epiphany …
One day last fall while listening to a podcast, I learned a new word and everything in my mind started to fall into place … TUMMLER … an old Yiddish word that describe social directors or entertainers who encourage guest or audience participation or one who incites others to action. If you remember the movie “Dirty Dancing”, this was the guy whose job it was to inspire visitors to take part in enriching activities, to get to know them enough to connect them with like-minded folks, and inspire them to make the most of their visit.
Tummling goes so much further than social engagement. It is an essential part of growing a coworking community because engagement and making connections with others, personally and professionally, is the secret sauce that makes coworking the answer for more than a HALF A MILLION professionals worldwide. Creating that requires the ability to instigate participation, to get people’s attention, to quickly learn about others, and to be comfortable with the fact that you won’t always succeed.
Change is inevitable and growth is always a goal … and I am so excited to finally know what I am!
I’M A TUMMLER!