Photo by Austin Lowman on Unsplash
By: Stella Orange
Nearly a year ago, a woman I’ve done work for and deeply respect asked me to put together a mastermind.
She’d been invited to several other mastermind groups by other coaches, but none of them felt quite right.
“But if you had a mastermind, Stella, that’s one I’d be interested in.”
Talk about being called forth!
There are certain people in this world for whom, when they make a sincere request of me, it might as well be out of the mouth of Life itself.
Anyway, I contemplated whether this was my work to do.
At first, I thought it wasn’t. I’d outgrown the old style of masterminds, with a coach who dispenses business advice in a small group setting for a hefty fee. Someone recently called this a kind of sorority. I’m still chewing on that one.
So while I’d already worked out that I’m not much for vertical authority. I prefer to work laterally, perhaps even horizontally, shoulder-to-shoulder with the people I’m in cahoots with… I decided that convening a group WAS, indeed, my work to do.
Just in a way that felt right in my bones.
I took my time assembling a group of women, all called to community and to exploring our personal routes to leading and being present together. These are colleagues and friends I’ve known for years – many of whom I’ve done business with.
Anyway, this week I asked this group for help.
Reader, I am an independent and self-confident human. I delight in finding my own way in the world. To my eye, being alive is the ultimate work of art. I want my days to be beautiful, full of moments where I feel connected with the people, creatures, (yeah, let’s go full Shinto here) objects around me. Oh, and original. I want my days to be original, shaped by the stuff I love and am called to tend in this “wild and precious life.” My relationship with authority? Let’s just say: it’s complex.
Where was I?
Oh yes. How I built myself a nest of women.
We build ourselves nests of other humans, do we not?
We assemble these portals, these little bowls of being, to hold our idea eggs. To keep them safe. To give us a place to sit on them, warming them and keeping them until they are ready to hatch.
So there I was, this week, after nearly eleven months of convening this group, and I finally was moved to ask for help.
(Mind you, I’m not someone who has trouble asking. I have two toddlers, for goodness’ sake! I might as well have “I always need help” tattooed on my forehead.
I am a living, breathing, walking example of a human who has intentionally bitten off more than she can chew, who has chosen to make a life that she cannot possibly sustain on her own.
Why did I do this?
Because it seemed more compelling than only doing what I could do by myself. I’d done that. It was great. But I wanted new vistas. New experiences. A bigger, more expanded experience.
Because I wanted to see what happened next after I created that sort of vacuum in my life.
Because I had reason to believe when we put ourselves in the flight path of “impossible to do alone,” mighty forces woosh in to help us.)
Anyhoo, I wrote up a two-page brief, with a “focus question” and the context in which it arose. Which was basically a recounting of what Rebecca and I call “the road that brought you here” – an executive summary story of the past seven years.
Long story made mercifully short, that brief was beautifully written and, I’m sure, a joy to read.
But that’s not what we ended up talking about.
We ended up talking about the “bag of snakes” in my head.
These thoughts and beliefs I’d been carrying.
Some of them were known to me. Others, I thought I’d handled – the zombie snakes. Still others were ones that I hadn’t even realized were in there.
“Oh my gosh, I’m showing you my bag of snakes!” I exclaimed when I saw them all wriggling out of my mouth.
At first, I was surprised.
Then I got giddy.
After sleeping on it, it’s now exhilarating.
I have a bag of snakes!
Why am I energized by a bag of snakes?
Because I’d kinda forgotten they were there.
And now that I know that they are, I know what to do.
It’s rarely the surface level thing we say we want that needs our attention and care.
It’s nearly always the stuff underneath it – the thoughts, beliefs, and energy we’re pumping out into the world.
So when you see your bag of snakes, it’s actually a very auspicious moment.
(And if you’re brave enough to let people you trust and care about see them too, why that’s bonus style points!)
Because then you dump that bag of snakes out on the ground in the sunlight.
You sort those suckers—the venomous, the innocuous, and the dead.
And then you decide which ones to bury, which to compost, which bones to tuck in your satchel, a kind of talisman for the journey ahead.
P.S. Every season, Rebecca and I host a series of conversations on topics that are coming up for the people we serve. Last season, we walked people through how to streamline a business that’s feeling overgrown; cultivating business relationships; and the story of the journey (one of our all-time favorites!). Season passes are on sale now!
Stella is cofounder and copywriter at Las Peregrinas, a creative and consulting agency. As our resident word nerd, she writes copy and points out the stories everyone is living and telling through their work. She is also fun at parties.
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