Stefan Bielski has helped individuals create meaning in their work lives for over 20 years. His ventures include 2bschool (2001), for those applying to top MBA programs and CareerDesign (2013), which uses Design Thinking-inspired processes and tools for those considering, or in the midst of making scary and meaningful changes in their professions.
One tool he created, 55 Minutes won Stefan 100 days as Entrepreneur in Residence aboard Coboat, a coworking catamaran sailing the seas of SE Asia, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean. There he launched his podcast beta, Pirates on Purpose Radio. His other effort to help solve the meaning crisis is building FARM: Cultivate Your Life. This algorithm uses an agriculture-based allegory to distill practical wisdom into a bite-sized, visual vernacular suitable for 21st-Century attention spans.
In his professional journey, Stefan has also been a business journalist, a Wall Street banker, a cycle rickshaw driver, NGO manager, real estate agent, sailing instructor, small business coach, think tank management consultant, professor of writing and publisher of magazines in Poland and Argentina. Stefan studied at Johns Hopkins University, The College of Wooster, and Duxx Graduate School of Business Leadership.
With: gift + duty
The root of community is the Latin word communitas.
It comes from cum munas, meaning “with obligation/duty/gift”.
Q: How can munas be both a duty and a gift? One seems like a burden. The other a bonus.
Life’s essentials are dutiful gifts. Children best embody this. And other living things received—a pet or even a houseplant—carry obligations to care for them.
So, do heirlooms. As does the often-accompanying traditions—so this applies to not only things we can touch, but to the abstract.
“With great power comes great responsibility”, Peter Parker (of Spiderman fame) realized—and it took a tragedy to do so. His “Spidey Sense”—like other superpowers—are munas. The noblesse oblige concept is too.
So are our natural gifts and talents, those individual values we cultivate, our tendencies, our ways of being: that is, how we process information, relate to others, and see the world.
· See “profession” as simply something they are paid to do or studied.
· Their identity is given to them by their employer, their education, and/or their certification.
· They are immunitas : “Immune from duty”. They are out of the loop, by their own accord
· Their communities of practice are places to increase status
· Are in this liminal space
· Their identity is torn. They feel ambiguity—meaning “both”: one foot in their existing role, one foot forward tapping, testing in the darkness towards the next.
· They sense calling(s), but not yet sure how to respond.
· They benefit most from Communitas
· See their profession as a response and public commitment to their calling.
· It integrates their talents, values, tendencies, ways of being…
· Their work is a Call-&-Response type conversation
· Communities tend to coalesce around their work. They need this less themselves, but still appreciate it.
an Essential Worker
Munas is a paradox. As is a “calling”, which is also a duty + gift. Such a vocation (a vocatiō) means to “call forth”. It summons our talents and tendencies: both those we embrace and those we seem to be unaware of:
- talents that lay latent or ignored.
- our values we flout
- natural tendencies subsumed by how others dictate things be done.
Such a summons is an invitation of sorts, but as with court summons, we’re obliged to respond to it.
That response to a vocatiō is called a professiō, the root of our word profession. To profess is to commit to our calling. So, “professors” would hone their talents with study. Institutions evolved to ensure those earned a living, so they could focus on their gift/duty. We can see how our modern, common sense of profession, being trained in or paid for work came about. Of course, a true profession is deeper than credentials and paychecks.
“Community” vs. Communitas
Q: So, why not just use the word “community”?
Communitas is a special type of community, both more and less than what we typically think of:
- Most communities are built upon accidental conditions like geography, ethnicity, or even affliction. There’s more intention in communitas
- Though this still differs from declared “intentional communities”. They, among other communities. seek to encompass most areas of its members’ lives. Communitas doesn’t aim to be comprehensive.
- Many claim the “community leader” mantle. Communitas aims to be leaderless. It eliminates hierarchy and bureaucracy. We often see this in examples of pilgrimages, if you ever read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, or talked to people trekking El Camino de San Sebastian in northern Spain or going to Mecca on The Hajj, you’ll see and hear how status differences are suspended.
- Not long-term/permanent; communitas holds “liminal space(s)”. Liminality, as you probably guessed, has the same root as “limit”: limens, meaning threshold. The whole point is that individuals pass through this liminal space, that they “graduate” to the other side.
- Fostered, not forged. People talk of “building community”, often with ample references to infrastructure—both literal and figurative. Communitas is more organic. It grows—around the work we do anyway. That growth can be nurtured.