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Community Building #1: My Whipsaw Journey as a Community Builder

My life-long pattern of chasing the shiny new toy has frustrated me… and my family.

I have a long track record of seemingly unpredictable decisions, starting the next project before the last is anywhere near completion. 

And these transitions have been far from smooth; they were not like a gymnast becoming a dancer or an accountant becoming a CFO.

Steve Fredlund

Instead, I whipsawed between being a college student, to buying a roller rink, to become an actuary, to building a mini-golf course, to becoming an Executive Pastor, to starting a capital markets hedging program, to launching a nonprofit in Rwanda, to becoming a podcaster, to joining Human Resources, to officiating weddings, to becoming a TEDx speaker, to analytical consulting, to building a poker membership site, to becoming a small business coach focused on revitalizing communities. 

I mean who does that? 

My transitions appeared very random and were often quite jarring. In fact, I really don’t understand how it is possible I have been married nearly 30 years. A question for another day.

Until recently, the only common thread I could find over my 50 years is how much I liked creating and innovating, but hated maintaining. Some days it felt like a character flaw and other days like a superpower.

But it felt deeper than just being drawn to new things. So I dug deeper to find more commonality among these eclectic involvements. I found that being new is appealing, but it is not fully sufficient to grab my attention. In fact, many times I have passed on new opportunities, including career options such as being offered a free $100,000 Executive MBA program or a ridiculous financial offer to build an investment function at another company.

These were new opportunities I passed up. There must be something else at work. 

As I probed, I found two other significant clues.

First, I always try to include other people in my process of innovating and creating, even those who might not have the insight I need. I have a constant longing to involve other people in whatever I am doing.

Secondly, I am seemingly addicted to making things bigger. A fun night playing poker with a few friends becomes the Epic Poker League with points, standings, and Player of the Year awards. Discussions about spirituality among friends becomes a podcast with sound equipment and special guests. Throwing a frisbee around in the backyard with the kids becomes the Fredlympics. 

Involving others.  Making things bigger.

Within these truths my current understanding emerged: I am a natural-born community builder. 

What I love about the new and shiny is that it has untapped potential; and if I can develop a clear and compelling vision, and surround myself with the right people, that new and shiny thing can become something larger than life. And won’t that be fun to build and be a part of?

I may need a therapist to help me understand why this is so important to me, but when I realized this common thread as a community builder, it checked every box about my jarring, whipsaw career, hobbies, and interests.

Everything of significance I have done has involved extensive time creating a compelling vision and then uniting others around that vision. No matter what I start, it always evolves into a passion to create and grow a vibrant and encouraging community.

Consider how a personal desire to respond to the AIDS epidemic in Africa transformed into building a “community-wide response to global poverty, disease, and suffering” known as Our Response. My passion to make a personal difference in this world ultimately led to building a nonprofit that raised well over $2 million to bring self-sustainability to Kivuruga, Rwanda.

Consider how a personal desire to improve my strategies as a recreational poker player transformed into building a “vibrant and encouraging poker learning community” known as RecPoker. My passion to personally improve as a poker player ultimately led to building a top 10 poker podcast and membership site engaging thousands of recreational players from around the world.

Consider how a personal desire to help entrepreneurs and Main Street shops as a business coach transformed into building a small business revolution to revitalize communities. My passion to personally help these smaller organizations ultimately led to building a network of business owners, nonprofit leaders, business coaches, and experts from around the world committed to revolutionizing towns everywhere. We call it the Small Small Business Community.

There are so many other examples, such as starting a capital markets hedging program, launching other nonprofits, and creating a workforce analytics department. 

I can’t help myself. 

I love being in a community and am addicted to creating it for others.

In this series of articles, I will share what I know about building effective communities. These communities could be your friends, sports teams, small business, department, classmates, or anywhere else you are connected with others.

In the next article, I will dig into what I mean by “community.” Until then, live your best life!

Steve Fredlund is a business coach and founder of the Small Small Business Community. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Steve worked for a number of Fortune 500 companies in actuarial, investment, and workforce analytics functions. He also has an overlapping 20 years of nonprofit leadership experience including 11 years as volunteer Executive Director doing humanitarian work in Rwanda. He is the host of the Small Small Business Podcast and the RecPoker Podcast.

Learn more about Steve at stevefredlund.com

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