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An open letter

10 Jul 2015
by Alex Hillman

In the interest of continued transparency, I’m republishing an email that I just sent to the entire Indy Hall community here, in the open, for everyone to see.


By now many of you know that the last couple of months have been a whirlwind for me, personally and professionally, with a host of new and unexpected challenges to face related to the future of Indy Hall.

I’m keeping my promise to have the lines of communication remain wide open, so this post includes the most recent and important updates! And even if you’re totally up to date on my blog posts…there are two important favors that I’d really appreciate from you.

If you need to catch up on the events to date, these two posts contain a substantial summary of what’s been occupying my mind for the last 60 days:

If you haven’t read either, or both of them, I’d be immensely appreciative if you’d take the time to read the and know what’s going on. And if you have read them, thank you for taking the time!

More recently, we hosted two “Town Hall” meetings to open up these conversations to a group setting. These conversations were incredibly valuable, and you can read a summary of the thoughts, questions, and ideas shared here:

I’d take the time to read both of them, if you can. It’s worth noting that for their similarities, the attendance of both of these meetings was almost entirely different and the direction of each conversation was very unique. The specific questions and ideas that people had were different in some cases, but hosting two separate meetings actually proved very useful for me to get a pulse across two different groups of members…to see what each had in common but also what was different, or said differently.

These discussions have been tremendously valuable for me and helping me understand how to best move forward – so I want to thank everyone who was able to come out and participate. If you couldn’t make it, no need to feel bad, but please do take a look at these notes to see what we talked about so you’re not in the dark!

Personal Favor #1 – Please, talk to your fellow members, ask if they’ve read these posts. Find out what they think.

It’s SO important to me that nobody is left in the dark about what’s going on, and you can help just by talking to your friends and neighbors over a cup of coffee or tea. These discussions are really, really important.

As you read and discuss, try to keep an open mind. If you disagree with an idea, take the time to think…why? This is something I’m personally practicing, too. It’s hard. But it’s forcing me to think carefully. “Strong convictions loosely held” has become my daily mantra for the last several weeks.

Putting this kind of news about Indy Hall out in the open invites all sorts of inaccurate speculation from the press, takes a toll on my daily energy and attention, and has a pretty predictable effect on my inbox.

I’m not saying this to complain or to suggest that I wish I’d done it differently – quite the opposite, in fact. I can’t imagine navigating this alone, or behind closed doors. I’ve seen what that approach brings, and it’s not pretty.

I’m saying this to show that in spite of those known challenges, being open matters SO MUCH MORE to me, that it’s worth the effort. By putting this information out there – risks and warts and everything – does the most good when it prompts conversation among you, the people who make this community worth belonging to.

Indy Hall is a place where YOU can shape the experience, now and for the future. That’s the difference between being a member, vs being a tenant of a shared office.

The good news is that I’m feeling better than ever about how this is all going to play out. SO many of you have come to me with great ideas, thoughtful questions, and a collective confidence that this community’s future is brighter than ever. Thanks to the last month of conversations, I feel like I know enough for us to start taking action, together.

The next 12-14 months are going to be formative for us, and for the next chapter of Indy Hall. We’re ready to take action. I couldn’t be more excited.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I could be more excited.

Cuz right now, I’m pretty wiped out. And I know that means I’m not doing my best work, and at a time when my best work matters the most.

I’m saying this here, and candidly in front of everybody, to help you understand that the only thing limiting my confidence and excitement is the fact that I’ve spent a lot of the last 2 months in a pretty consistent state of overwhelm.

I’m happy, I’m still capable, and I still have my health, or else I wouldn’t be here writing this post to you. But I’m definitely not firing on all 8 cylinders. I need to do something about that now, before I have an actual problem.

So this Sunday, I’m heading out of town for a couple of weeks. The first Coworking Africa conference is in Cape Town (Adam and I are keynoting), and we’ve been invited to potentially collaborate on a project in Nairobi and stay with @Bula’s family & friends. Both are truly incredible opportunities to both see and influence the path of coworking in parts of Africa.

Truth be told, I booked this trip MONTHS ago. And it was one of the first things I thought about when I learned that the future of Indy Hall would need more of my immediate attention and effort. I initially considered canceling the trip to stay focused on the home front.

Even before I knew I’d be in need of a break, I thought about why we were being invited to Africa to share what we’ve learned over the last year of building Indy Hall. Our community’s history is an inspiration to many other communities around the world – and in a way, this is remarkably similar to the kind of impact we’ve had locally.

By a) doing what we do, b) doing it well, and c) sharing it with others…every day’s work at Indy Hall is being multiplied by people around the world who have learned from us. By their hands, our community has a global impact. In remote villages of Africa, there are people that have been inspired by our Indy Hall community to bring their communities closer together. That’s incredible to me, and I hope it is to you too.

If this one trip serves two purposes…

  1. to help some people who care enough to build amazing communities in another part of the world, and
  2. to recharge my batteries and make sure that I’m doing my best work during the critical upcoming months of working on Indy Hall

…and I believe it does, then I’d be a fool to cancel the trip.

In fact, canceling the trip would’ve been exactly the kind of short-term, reactive thinking that I’m working so hard to avoid for Indy Hall, and also for myself. If Indy Hall needs me at my best, then I need to make sure I’m at my best.

So for the next two and a half weeks, your fearless leaders are @Sam Abrams and @Sean Martorana. Just like any other day at Indy Hall, anything YOU can do to help keep things running smoothly doesn’t just help them, it benefits everyone around you.

Which brings me to personal favor #2 – Try doing a “random act of community” sometime in July

This is already one of the most thoughtful, helpful, friendly communities in the city. It’s what we’re known for! This month, let’s turn it up to 11.

When @Adam Teterus and I return to Indy Hall on July 31st, we’ll be refreshed…which is good because we have our work cut out for us. In the mean time, there’s a way that every person in this community can pitch in and help build even more momentum for us to return to.

A “random act of community” doesn’t need to be big, or even cost anything beyond a few minutes of your time:

  • Try to notice when the coffee is running low and make a fresh pot for the next person. Don’t know how to make coffee? Now’s a great time to ask and learn!
  • If you’re going to refill your cup, see if any of your neighbors would like one. Even if they say no, they’ll appreciate you for asking.
  • Try sitting somewhere new, with new people. And when you sit down, introduce yourself!
  • If you see someone you don’t recognize, take a minute and say hello. Don’t worry if you forgot or don’t know their name – it’s okay to ask again! There are so many awesome, interesting, friendly people that you might not have met yet. Even if you just get to know one new person this month, that’s a big win.
  • Ask somebody how their day or week is going – and really mean it. Be willing to take a few minutes to listen…it’s worth it every time.
  • Even if you’re not actually AT Indy Hall – consider joining in on the #daily-goals channel in Slack. Goals + action is contagious!
  • If you’re going to get lunch, invite a couple of people you don’t know very well to come eat with you.
  • Give someone a high five, just because.
  • Get involved in Indy Skillz and share something you know. (another easy way to connect with other members, even if you’re not coworking at Indy Hall for the day)
  • Like @Lydia Martin suggested in this post, “If you know someone cool at Indy Hall, please let them know why they’re cool. It’s so easy for us to overlook the special things we each contribute, thinking they’re too obvious for someone else to appreciate. Help Indy Hall be a place of continuous gratitude.”
  • 2 words: Happy Hour!
  • And don’t forget to check in with @Sam Abrams and @Sean Martorana – they’re members, too! See how they’re doing, and if they could use a hand. There’s always a way to help keep Indy Hall looking and feeling great.

However you do it, try to do it with the goal of getting to know one new person.

This is not a contest or a competition. This is not a demand or a requirement.

I’m not even asking for this because anything is wrong – on the contrary. I think we’re doing some of our best work, and want to keep the bar high.

It’s a favor, and one that doesn’t directly benefit me in any way other than to know that while I take a little time to recharge my batteries for the months ahead that Indy Hall is doing what it does best:

Being a community of people who actually give a damn.

I truly mean that. Thank you.

I’ll be back in a couple of weeks, ready for action. I hope you’ll join me then, too.

-Alex

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Hey, thanks for reading!

Alex Hillman I am always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust and business. I founded Indy Hall in 2006, making us one of oldest fully independent coworking communities in the world. This site is packed with the lessons and examples I’ve learned along the way. You can find me on Twitter, too! 🐦 Say hi.