Community: A place of acceptance, trust, and support. We all crave it. We all want a place where we can let our guard down, speak our mind, and connect with others. We’re social creatures and isolation is, well, isolating.

A place like this is hard to find, to be sure. By nature, we put our guard up, we’re hesitant to let people in and share that ‘personal’ part of ourselves.

The definition of community between generations is also drastically different. While my parents may think of community as a church organization or neighborhood club, my generation sees community as something less “physical”. Followers on Twitter, readers of your blog, or a crew of entrepreneurs you’ve gathered together to work into the night. Generation Y is redefining community.

In the past year I’ve learned one very valuable lesson – that a community is not only something you can be a part of, it’s something you can create. Start a blog, rent out a space in your community and start gathering people together. While there are a countless number of clubs to become a member of, I find that more often, the best communities are started from within.

This blog? It’s a community I’ve started – it’s a place where I can be at my best, speak my mind, be opinionated, and more importantly provide a platform of discussion with the people who are kind enough to subscribe, stop by, and read on a regular (or even irregular) basis.

My company? It’s a community. It’s something I’ve started with Sam Davidson that gives us the opportunity to do work that matters with clients who do good work. It’s a “place” in which we can gather other people who are great at what they do, cultivate all that goodness, and deliver great results. We get to change the world, in our own little way.

Limit your memberships

Just as it’s important to cultivate the communities you are a part of, or those you’ve created. It’s equally important to think about communities that are holding you back.

Maybe it’s a job you hate – maybe it’s the church you attend that’s preaching things you don’t believe in, a gym you never go to or a city you’ve lived in for too long. It’s easy to feel “stuck” in some of our communities. A steady paycheck, that church you’ve been going to since you were a kid, the town you grew up in – it’s safe, and safe is, well safe – it’s hard to break away from what you’ve always known.

But today, maybe it’s time you leave the bar where “everyone knows your name” and try something new. Today, start thinking about how you can create your own community.

What communities are you a part of? What communities have your created yourself? What “memberships” can you end as we move into the new year?

(Check out the full rundown of my #reverb10 posts here | Photo c/o Rob Williams)

Join the conversation! 36 Comments

  1. Your last point is the most crucial – limiting the communities we’re a part of could actually help us find better community. It’s about depth, I suppose.

    Reply
    • I have a keyring full of membership cards to a million things I never use – a clear example that most of us are probably involved in a lot more communities than we need. Be more selective in your community memberships, or, if it makes more sense, start creating one of your own. Thanks for the inspiration buddy.

      Reply
    • Matt, great post today. Something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately as well. I’ve been applying this in the online circles i’m part of. Anything that doesn’t apply to the mission I’m on is getting cut. It feels liberating to free up time that was essentially being wasted. Thanks for putting it in to such elegant words!

      Reply
  2. Hello, I just found your blog off twitter. This is nicely written, and I think you made a lot of good points. You’ve got me thinking about which of my communities hold me back, if any.

    Nicely done :)

    Reply
  3. Congratulations, Matt. You made me think before I even gotten out of bed this morning.
    Before I even put on pants.

    Reply
  4. Great points Matt. I agree that we’re redefining community. My parents automatically think church or school…. Thats not the case. We are able to not only find community in the seasoned networking ways but online too. Heck, thats how I get to know most of the people that keep me accountable to my work and career goals!

    Reply
    • Great seeing you here, Kristina and your absolutely right. My most valuable community this year was my online community. When I lost my job, when I started MattChevy, when I started Proof, it was the support of my online – turned “real life” connections that showed support and encouragement throughout. How we define community today is drastically different from our parent’s era.

      Reply
  5. Great #reverb10 post, Matt! You really got me thinking even before I finished my morning coffee, which is not easy to do. I have many different communities in my life right now: my family, my coworkers, my high school friends, my college friends, my Twitter fam, my blog readers. However, these communities (while each play an important role in my life) are becoming a bit too familiar, and it might be time to shake things up a bit. I’m working on the “shake things up a bit” part as we speak ;)

    Thanks for the early morning inspiration!

    Reply
    • A cup of coffee and a little blog reading – that’s usually how I start my day off on the right foot :) Like I said, it’s very easy to become complacent with the communities you’re in – shaking things up and trying something new is hardly ever a bad thing.

      Reply
  6. Nice post Matt. I totally agree with your last point about managing your community by limiting membership. Just like a garden, you need to give your plants space for roots to take hold so they can reach their fullest potential, and ultimately share their bounty with others.

    Reply
  7. Love this post, Matt. Being a part of community has always been a focus for me…from the dial-up BBS of the 80s-90s, to living in a commune, working as an online community manager, and giving my working hours to non-profits…doing work that matters with people who matter to me are more important than the paycheck. And in the last couple of years – the community I’ve found online – Brazen, Twitter, LWOP, and the #runnerds…it’s been amazing. Online connections that become offline relationships – that’s where it’s at. Love being a part of your community. ;)

    Reply
    • I love having you here and love that our online networks have led us to being real-life friends. Like you said, that’s the beauty and ultimate reward of investing time into blogging, social media, etc.

      Reply
  8. “Limit your memberships” really struck a chord with me. The one thing I struggle with is belonging to more than one community and trying to be a participant, while maintaining my commitment to myself (to grow, to stay fit, to write), my children and the rest of my family(be available and supportive and chauffeur), my friends, my burgeoning community of writers….

    Really enjoyed this.

    Reply
    • One person can only take on so much, right? We tell ourselves we can handle it all, but too much of a good thing isn’t such a good thing. Figure out what communities matter, and which one’s don’t. It might just set you free.

      Reply
  9. I love this community post, Matt! Very well written. I especially like what you said about a community not just being something you’re a part of, but something you create. In our crazy times of broken families and dog eat dog, I think this is so important. You’re not limited to the community you land in — you can create one that works for you!

    Reply
  10. The “limiting your communities” point sort of rings true to my Day 5 #reverb10 post about what I let go… because I let go of a group that I had grown out of, that was just too safe. Sometimes it’s hardest to know when to let go of a community, either because you’ve grown out of it, they’ve grown out of you (uh oh!), or it’s no longer beneficial to you.

    I love how these are all tying together!

    Reply
    • Exactly, Carlee. All of these are very much tying in for me – that’s the beauty of a retrospection. Reminiscing and being able to connect the dots of the past, present, and future. Cheers!

      Reply
  11. two things resonated –
    1. we are capable of creating communities. i learned that this year too. it’s empowering. i don’t have to wait until my tribe finds me, i can create my tribe.

    and, 2. it’s ok to opt-out of the communities that are no longer enriching our lives. no apology necessary.

    Reply
  12. We all are entangled with communities that hold us back. I love that you articulated that so well. From family to relationships to jobs. Nicely put. Facebook holds me back. I wish I could let it go.

    Reply
    • You can cut the ties, if you really want to. Facebook (and social media in general) can be and is often a huge distraction, but it’s also extremely valuable for me as a business tool and a way to keep in touch with people across the country (and world). Goes to show that we all value our communities on very different levels…if it isn’t for you, or if it’s holding you back, get rid of it and replace it with something more fulfilling.

      Reply
  13. Great read!

    I like the thought of community being a “place where we can let our guard down, speak our mind, and connect with others.” I don’t think there are many places where we can let our guard down, so this was well articulated.

    I also liked the notion of Generation Y redefining community. And that is certainly happening in the online world with social networking tools.

    This year has been a time of rebuilding community for me due to an injury that kept me from my work and personal community most of the year. Social networking has been my mainstay.

    See you on #reverb10. Just posted for Day 1 (a bit behind). :-)

    Reply
  14. Wow, Matt! Just when I thought your #reverb10 posts couldn’t get any better, you throw out this gem. It’s an amazing post. I love the point about limiting communities and especially this line. “Today, start thinking about how you can create your own community.”
    What a great way of summing it all up. Our generation is the first that realizes that communities don’t have to have geographical boundaries. With blogs and Twitter (for instance), you can form your own unique community. You can get just as much, if not more out of it, then a regular church or neighborhood group.

    Reply
  15. I started the month deciding which formal organizations I planned on stepping away from to start 2011. The last point you made is extremely important; it’s also important that you’re the one making the choices and not those that want you to remain involved just because you’ve always been there. Sometimes these folks, while they want you around, are asking you to stay a part of the community for selfish reasons – their own.

    Great post!

    Reply
    • It’s like a magazine subscription that you forget that automatically renews – a huge percentage of people are so used to getting it that they forget they’re paying and never remember to cancel when it comes renewal time. It’s important for us to take a look at the things we’ve signed up for and ask yourself “do I really need this”?

      Reply
  16. I always work on the basis that you are the average of the five people you spend most time with. It makes you think very carefully about what you do day by day. When I worked in an office, albeit one I owned, I spent more time with my employees than my family….

    The thing to take care of, though, is to look at why you join a community. @Andre, above, talks about communities keeping you around for their own selfish reasons, how often do we join a community for our own selfish reasons! We should have our reasons but we should also do it for what we can contribute, even if it means we belong just to contribute.

    We should balance what we do very carefully to avoid becoming simply selfish.

    Reply
    • Great point, Graham – thinking about what YOU can contribute to a community is a great way to assess the value (or lack of value) of the communities you’re a part of – or considering joining.

      Thanks for coming by!

      Reply
  17. Nice post! I liked your insight on re-evaluating communities that may be holding you back. I’ve been focussing a bit on a related notion of how to deal with limiting or unhealthy people within a valued community – how to navigate letting your guard down with maintaining very strong boundaries in a connected community.

    I’m enjoying your posts!

    Reply
  18. The Yakezie Network is a community of personal finance and lifestyle bloggers whose motto is to “selflessly help others.” This is what we are all about, and because of this motto, we have thrived. Slowly but surely, we will grow. We are now accepting the Beta Class of Challengers. In 6 months, it’s the Gamma Class!

    Reply

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About Matt Cheuvront

I empower folks to do the work they want to do and live the life they want to live. Connect on Twitter or check out the work I'm doing at Proof.

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