Our dear old dog Grady got lost for 2½ hours last Monday night, during rush hour in our urban Seattle neighborhood, wearing his new sock-monkey collar (while the one with his name and phone number sat uselessly on our counter). Daniel and I were in a complete panic, meltdown mess. Our home looked like an episode of Finding America’s Lost Children: there were fliers and posters being made, neighbors running in and out, and friends and complete strangers, including other dogs, roaming the neighborhood looking for him. This resulted in a neighbor telling us that his mom found her dog in an hour by writing a “LOST DOG!” story on the Central District News web site. So we did that instantly, without thought.

This resulted in Tom from CD News helping us find Grady. Yea! This also resulted in our dog Grady becoming a bit of a local celebrity (people now stop us in the street to say hello to Grady when we’re out for walks).

This also resulted in me asking Tom about how the CD News website works and him telling me that I should write a story about our coworking space on the CD News Stories page, which I did the next day. This resulted in Tom mentioning us on Twitter. This resulted in about a 900% increase in the reach of our wee little Collective Self free community coworking space Facebook page, and our highest attendance to date (9 coworkers in our new 15-person home-based space) the very next day. Wow.

This also resulted in us recognizing Grady—behind the fur, perpetually smiling face, and constantly wagging butt—as some sort of evil mastermind/marketing strategy genius. Clearly a title change was in order. Grady received his title change, from Director of Exercise & Outdoor Activities to Director of Marketing, with a smile and a wag. I’m so thrilled that he agreed to take over marketing for us, because the word “marketing” itself carries so much baggage for me that it makes me want to run screaming from the room. And he’s clearly a natural.

10 ideas from our space this month:

  1. Cook meals, make desserts, and concoct drinks together in the kitchen, whenever possible, if you have one. For example, this post would have been up Wednesday afternoon, but I prioritized picking early rhubarb in the backyard and then making a cake with/for my coworking partners in crime instead. That’s just how we roll.
  2. Embrace spontaneous play when it happens. This post would have been up last night, but I prioritized laughing and watching old Parks & Recreation episodes with Chris and Tim. Love this coworking after hours stuff. Grady and the cats build spontaneous play into the space simply by their presence and ability to be their whole, true selves at all times. They are guru-level masters of work as play. I’ve been bringing more playful things into the space naturally, without thought. Laughing and playing together is so obviously not procrastination, and it’s teaching me more than I imagined possible. Experiencing deep fun at work—almost all day, almost every day, and falling in love with who you are, who you’re with, and what you do—is a humanity-level game changer. From my perspective today, it is impossible to overdo community play or to overemphasize the importance of play and joy within a community.
  3. Get closer to the people you’re already with. With the people who are regulars here now, I’ve noticed that I openly share what I don’t know—and what I really need help—as naturally and easily and spontaneously as what I do know and can help with. I’ve noticed that I’d forgive these people anything and believe the feeling is mutual. We even told a dirty joke last week. At work. That is CLOSE my friends. Authenticity and vulnerability tango cheek to cheek here. When I feel both within me, and within the people I’m with, we grow as a community because individuals (including us) want what we have as a group.
  4. Visibly reveal your heart. I adore these photos from the ZEN Coworking space in Tokyo. They speak to the heart of the people and the place. They make me long to meet the people that gave him (her?) his/her own cushions and laptop. Look at that smile! That’s how coworking makes me feel. These people have the same heart I have, which is all I need to know to decide I’d like to work with them. The next time a friend goes to Tokyo, I will remember them and recommend them. And if I ever have the opportunity to visit Japan, I will visit them.
  5. Choose fresh, local, seasonal people to learn with. 🙂 I’m learning to prioritize the voices of emotionally close humans over distant others (distant means people not emotionally local to me, I’m not talking physical distance here, see story of me and ZEN Coworking space in item 4 above). I recognize distant others by the “I shoulds” that I hear in my head, such as “We should join that professional organization” or “I should take that seminar” or “We should try to get an ad into that prestigious magazine.” Bleh. That was the old world of work. Who do I love listening to? Who do we love being with? Adore working with? Want in our kitchen for dinner? Can’t imagine our lives working without? The answers are different for every individual—which brings a constant stream of gorgeous difference into the community. I think of these choices as the emotional equivalent of deciding to eat locally grown, in-season food whenever possible. I know a good piece of fruit when I taste it. “Wow!” I trust my wows wherever they show up. Trust the groups and people who inspire them completely.
  6. As you dump the “I shoulds,” show more love to:
    • Yourselves. Whenever I feel too busy, this indicates something is out of whack. I quit working. Start playing. Fastest way to get back into whack. Grady taught me this. So does everyone I work with now.
    • Your own neighborhood. I’m learning to do this now. What do people in my neighborhood really want and need most? Requires walking on my feet. Requires opening my door wide. Listening to my neighbors. Asking my neighbors for help and offering them help. Requires becoming more visible, known. Courage. Also requires swapping and sharing, which, fortunately for me, I LOVE.
    • Your global community. I’ve been doing this for a while now too. Listening to the words and between the lines. What do the people in my online communities really need most? Can I help them in the moment? Same listening, asking for help, offering of help as with our neighbors. Same courage to become more visible. Same swaping and sharing. But you can do all this in your pajamas most days. LOVE!
  7. Just for fun, think completely differently about who you are, who you want in the space with you, and how growth could happen. This is a long story but SO worth it. In January I visited and interviewed (for a book I’m writing) TCB Couriers, a bicycle messenger service in San Francisco. They are thriving during a time when most messenger services have failed. Instead of serving the financial district, like everybody else, they decided to serve their own Mission District neighborhood. They started by doing personal deliveries for people: Nyquil and Orange Juice for someone home sick, sugar for someone out of sugar in the middle of a cake-baking disaster, etc. Their neighbors learned to trust them and eventually the sick guy who needed Nyquil decided his design firm needed them to deliver their important, can’t-be-lost paperwork downtown. Neighborhood restaurant owners started using only them. In two years, they evolved from two broke guys who wanted to make rent and ride their bikes every day, to almost 30 messengers and more than 60 business clients, plus individual deliveries. They grow now when other messengers want to join them and run their own neighborhoods. The organic way they are growing gave me goose bumps when I heard it. I had to hold myself back from bear-hugging Chas Christenson, founder and CEO, during the interview. Their community markets itself. People are so much more than what they do for a living and what they do for a living often changes. TCB Couriers reminded me of this. I owe the ideas for starting and growing our coworking space to them.
  8. Stop doing things that feel draining, immediately if possible.
  9. Can’t just stop doing everything that feels draining? Approaches we take:
    • Give the task to Grady or one of the cats
    • Tackle the work as groups of two or three close friends
    • Bitch about it with friends
    • Find someone who loves to do the tasks that we hate
    • Tap the larger community to learn how to stop doing the tasks that we hate all together

10. Revel in growing slowly, organically, and interconnectedly. That last word may not technically be a word. Yes, there were only 4 people here yesterday, but they were amazing people. People I consider friends. One of whom stayed late to hang out and laugh (I love Tim) and two of whom are coming to dinner next week (I love Kathy and Phil). And this past week two neighbors showed up and are interested in their homes becoming complementary free coworking spaces as well! Holy crap! One is considering a complimentary space for people with kids and/or wanting to swap kid-watching for working away from kids for a while. Another is opening her home as a space near ours for people with cat allergies (like her), since our space is run by 3 cats. Suddenly I can picture a whole network of connected free spaces, and paid spaces, all relying on each other, all helping each other, all naturally and fluidly marketing for each other, and all making this neighborhood/city/planet an even more amazing place to live and work. This is actually happening here already. Wow. Just wow.

6 more “Lori style” tips (aka, tips for the seriously nerdy):

  1. Have more fun together so you can drop your individual fear-blinders and worries for a while and recognize just how amazing your community actually is right now.
  2. Shine a light on how amazing your community is in every interaction you have (note: this happens naturally, easily, automatically when you’re doing step 1 regularly). Forced, inauthentic, “we really should do X” type Marketing died years ago. I’d like to say goodbye to it together and let it rest in peace.
  3. As small “we love being together” groups, support individuals within and near the community by being as visible as possible. Let them see you loving what you do together, let them see you disagree and argue, let them see you evolving and working better together than on your own.
  4. Ask emerging, small, “we love being together” groups for help with things that drain your energy (aka, the things you suck at anyway). Allowing trusted cats and dogs to handle these things also works if you let it.
  5. Recognize that all small “we love being together” groups support individuals in the community in having more fun, and becoming more connected, and support these groups in becoming even more visible within the community.
  6. Have even more fun together, deeper fun than before.

Note: You feel deep fun physically thoughout your whole in your body, and may experience, for example, goose bumps, tears in your eyes, laughing so hard that you almost pee your pants, actually peeing your pants (which will cause an additional level of laughing in those around you like you can’t even believe), crying, saying things that you can’t believe you just said out loud, and/or becoming speechless (wide-eyed and open mouthed) at how lucky you are to be doing the work you’re doing and living your life. Living, breathing, unstoppable stories emerge from deep fun. Stories that persist over time and travel far and wide because they never leave you. For example: “I saw their detailed zombie attack defense plan on the chalk board and, Wow! It was like magic. I just fell in love with them in that moment. This community is prepared for anything.” This is the beginning of a story I tell about Office Nomads, which was Seattle’s first coworking space, I believe. I worked there just one day—something like four years ago—and I still tell that story, doing their marketing for them and extolling the virtues of their space, not the least of which is its amazing defensability during a zombie apocalypse. When the zombies come, only a Shaun-of-the-Dead-level idiot would stay in our space.