Find Your Tribe

It’s time to shift focus from internal—we’ve done lengthy internal examination—to external.

Herminia Ibarra, in Working Identity, presents nine principles for reinventing a career. Number six is, “Don’t just focus on the work. Find people who are what you want to be and who can provide support for the transition. But don’t expect to find them in your same old social circles.”

In my forties, I thought I wanted to be an interior designer. I love houses and floor plans and renovation, and I thought interior design might be a good fit. I was itching for a change. (What I didn’t realize was that I was in maintenance mode at work and that’s why I was bored.)

There was a home design conference coming to the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, and for one day the building would be open to the public.

When the Merchandise Mart opened in 1930, it was the largest building in the world, with four million square feet of enclosed space. Up until 2008, it had its own zip code.

Old color postcard of the Merchandise Mart

I took a day off from work, bought my ticket, and went to the thirteenth floor to see the Interiors displays.

The elevator dinged as the doors opened to a clamor of voices and a whirlwind of color. I stepped into the crowd and was pulled along in their wake.

The rooms were highly stylized, tumbling one after another, and endless. Artfully-made women surrounded me, women whose lipstick shade matched their belt and heels. My lipstick didn’t match, I wore Danskos and no belt. The further the perfumed throng carried me, the more uncomfortable I became.

The event didn’t energize me. It made me tired. I didn’t want to be there anymore. I turned around and swam upstream to find the elevators.

Back on the ground floor, I took a deep breath. I felt better already. One of the women collecting tickets noted my early departure and asked, “Did you go to fourteen?”

“What’s on fourteen?” I asked.

“Architectural restoration.”

She saw my hesitation, then gestured with one of the $13 tickets she had collected. “You might as well get your money’s worth.”

Ever frugal, I went back up, doubtful.

The air was cooler on fourteen. There were fewer people, most were men, and almost all wore blue jeans. All around were old things and not crowded together. There was space. I could breathe.

I saw rescued parquet flooring from France, old pavers from Chicago streets, tall windows with black metal frames, carved limestone corbels. I walked slowly, enjoyed what I saw, took my time.

I was happy.

I felt like I belonged.

I am having a ‘fourteenth-floor experience’ again. This time, instead of renovators, the tribe is writers. We log in every Monday and get our assignment, then write for two hours. Tuesday through Thursday we log in for two hours and write. On Fridays we have Q&A.

I told a friend about it and the week’s assignment: write a Stranger Knocks on the Door scene. She must have heard something happy in my voice because she said, “You like this? This scene writing is fun for you?”


Yes, it is.

It is good to find a tribe where one of the many selves that you are feels at home. “But don’t expect to find them in your same old social circles.”

What about you? What tribe are you looking for? Where might you find them?

Q1 Reflection

According to financial calendars, Q1 is January-February-March but I prefer to align quarters to seasons:


This is a good time for Q1 reflection.

Think back to March 1, 2020, before we stayed at home. Think about who you were then and who you are now. What has shifted for you?

Spring is the season of directing energy for new growth. What’s new for you? Where are you directing your energy now? What foundations have you laid for Q2 and the rest of the year?

What feels less important, less deserving of your time, talent, or treasure? What feels old, like last Fall’s dry leaves that somehow stayed on the trees through the winter? What have you cleaned up and swept away?

Chewing the Cud of Good

White clouds floating in a blue sky

Thankful for an afternoon nap with the window open and a soft breeze.

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