Almost eleven years ago to the day, EntrepreNerds was born.
I had launched Rosabella Consulting six months prior. At that time, I started to feel overwhelmed by all I had yet to learn about being an entrepreneur and running a successful business. I couldn't fathom where to begin because I was abundantly clear of how little I knew. But I yearned for a chance to replicate my undergraduate experience as a budding business owner, so I placed my focus there.
I went to a small liberal arts college with no tests, no grades and no textbooks - we read primary research, did projects, then wrote self-evaluations for every course. The process of gaining new knowledge, engaging in thought-provoking discussions, reflecting on how that knowledge fits into or changed my worldview and the challenge to grow and better myself was unprecedented. I knew I needed that same kind of environment to grow into my entrepreneurial dreams.
So, I took to Facebook, shared my vision and made a poll for the name.
It was my friend, Ethan McCutchen who suggested the name, EntrepreNerds. It was such an obvious choice all of the other options fell by the wayside like bubbles popping next to a helium balloon.
Armed with a great name, we had the first book discussion the next month. It was fun, invigorating and scary.
I suddenly found myself in the spotlight, leading a business book discussion group yet not really knowing what I was doing. I did my best to prepare, then winged it.
I showed up month after month as did others. The community grew. We had regulars. And I kept hearing the same feedback over and over again, "I love EntrepreNerds, Ariana. It's unlike any other book discussion group I've ever been a part of."
"Different how?" I inquired. Since I'd never actually participated in a book group myself before I was literally making it all up as I went.
"It's the way you facilitate. Instead of arguing about what the author did or didn't mean, we're exploring how the ideas relate to our businesses and struggles. And what we're going to apply to improve. It's the only place where we can all be vulnerable and real together about our entrepreneurial efforts."
This feedback was shocking. To me, the realness and vulnerability were the only way to run a business book discussion group. The alternative, debating the points of the book, had no value whatsoever to me.
I haven't led an EntrepreNerds book discussion in over seven years. And yet, this is still an important part of my story.
Not only did I learn a lot from the books we read and the discussions we had. I graciously received the opportunity to step into and share my gifts. Before EntrepreNerds, I hadn't considered my skills as a facilitator to be a valuable asset in my business. For me, creating a safe space for open and vulnerable conversation on a collective level came so naturally I didn't even realize it was unique.
Having others mirror for me the impact I was creating emboldened me to lean in and cultivate my skills further. I connected with Judith E. Glasser, creator of Conversational Intelligence. She personally mentored me for years as I pursued certification with her and learned about the Neuroscience of Conversation.
What I learned from Judith helped me to crystalize my process with clients - Co-Creating Retreat Experiences. She showed me that I could be a professional, an expert guide without having all the answers or knowing all the things. Instead, my focus could be on making space for and enabling others' brilliance to show up and contribute to the collective. And that's actually a unique and valuable skill in and of itself. One that I joyfully get to share with clients while earning a living.
But I never would have gotten here if it wasn't for EntrepreNerds.
After three solid years of monthly book discussion groups, EntrepreNerds started to wane. There was a plethora of meetup groups competing for people's time and attention. Many regular participants had shifted gears professionally, and some retired. My own interests and needs had changed.
But the group meant so much to me I held onto it like a kid clutching an ice cream cone while the scoops of ice cream lay askew on the ground. Letting go felt like giving up on my dreams. I had big plans for EntrepreNerds that weren't coming to fruition, which sparked a story of failure. After all my effort, it felt like my final grade was a big fat F.
Eventually, I stopped hosting book discussion groups, I had other things to occupy my time and attention. I might have moved on but I'm well aware that wouldn't be where I am today without it. I no longer carry the sadness about what EntrepreNerds coulda or shoulda been. Instead, I'm grateful for what it was - a crucial step in my business and career becoming what it is today.
I have clients who are embarking on big transitions. Their dreams are taking shape much differently than they imagined. It is both exciting and sad. The new opportunities hold tremendous promise. But a piece of their heart feels left behind.
Navigating such tension - dueling emotions - is an important part of being a leader. We must acknowledge and allow our feelings without projecting them onto the people who are looking to us for guidance. This is why it's so valuable for a leader to have a coach or peer group to confide in. Such dueling feelings are normal and valid.
When in the thick of such change - the end of one thing and the beginning of another - it’s helpful to care for ourselves. To tend to our emotional needs with compassion. To allow time and space for healing.
Eventually, the newness will become normal. The sadness of what was left behind won’t weigh so heavily. While it be as prominent, it will still be an important part of the story.