“Each contribution you make,” I’ll often tell an audience, “is like a pebble in a pond, rippling out and bringing you into contact with more people and possibilities.”
It sounds a bit lofty, doesn’t it? Like an exaggeration? Here’s an example of what I mean.
A simple contribution
After reading Working Out Loud, Andrea could have quietly put the book on the shelf, but instead she offered public appreciation on LinkedIn and asked a simple question:
“Is there anyone in the Munich area who is interested in forming a local #wol circle?”
Though I didn’t know Andrea, I was notified of her post because she mentioned me in it. So I offered some ways she could find potential Circle members and added that, by coincidence, I would be in her city in a few weeks.
“Fabelhaft! :-) One way to find Circle members is to ask in the WOL groups on Facebook or LinkedIn. There are many WOL practitioners in Munich. I'll be there myself in 2 weeks!”
One step unlocks another
Andrea’s short post didn’t exactly go viral, but it did draw a reaction from people in a few dozen companies and at least half a dozen countries. One of the comments, from someone who neither Andrea nor I knew, said he would also be in Munich and perhaps we could meet. That led to a group message with a growing number of people. Soon, we had a date, time, and place to meet for dinner
There were 12 of us, and we had fun discovering connections between each of us. What motivated each person to attend? Did they know anyone else there? How did they even hear about WOL?
If that was all that happened, it would be enough, and Andrea summed it up nicely in a post.
“12 people from different companies with various backgrounds- and one common denominator: an interest in working out loud...It was a pleasure to see you all today! I feel enriched by your stories and I hope to meet you again in a circle, or otherwise :-)”
More people and possibilities
But the ripples kept spreading (and keep spreading). For example, six of the people there were from Airbus. Several of them brought a book, inscribed by their manager who, unbeknownst to me, was giving it to her team members. As we talked, we discovered other connections with Airbus in France, and the team resolved to start their own WOL Circles inside the company.
Stranger still, the woman I sat next, Gleyce, was already part of a group led by someone in Brazil working to translate the Circle Guides into Portuguese. The web of connections and coincidences seemed to grow, and we all remarked on how it all began with a simple post.
Pebbles and butterflies
In Week 10 of the Circle Guides, there’s a contribution checklist to help people become more systematic about what they have to offer. Your gift can be as simple as attention or appreciation, or it can be making your work visible: sharing what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, resources and people that have helped you, things you’ve learned, questions you have, and more.
When I write posts like the one you’re reading now, most of the readers are people I don’t know, and aren't even connected to me, and the ripples take me and my work to some surprising places. Just this week I got a note from the principal of a school in Austria who wants to use WOL to help teachers with their professional development. It's a topic my wife and I are both interested in, and that I wrote about almost four years ago, and the Austrian principal and I agreed on an experiment we'll do together in a few weeks.
How do such things happen? And how can you make them happen more often?
In chaos theory, as a way to demonstrate that small changes can have dramatic and unpredictable consequences, it's said that a butterfly flapping its wings in China can affect the weather in New York City.
What if, like Andrea, you unleashed your own butterflies each day, offering contributions without expectations? What kind of changes could you make possible, for yourself and for others?