And the Award for Community Goes To…

On the occasional summer day in Miami, a hurricane comes through and disrupts normal life. Once the winds subside and the all-clear is given, neighbors come out of their shuttered homes and survey the damage. They greet each other. They commiserate about the lack of power and speculate about when it will be restored. They volunteer assistance. And then when the ordeal is over they invariably say something like:

“Let’s not wait for another hurricane to get together.”

They go back into their homes and forget their sincere pledge. Intuitively they know that the idea of Community is a magnificent one. But daily life gets in the way of the grandiose, sometimes.

For a city like Miami, the spirit of Community seemed elusive, save for the occasional natural disaster that brings people out into the street and shows them that they just might belong to each other.

That’s changing.

The Food & Beverage Community is leading the way.

If you had moved away from Miami in the last few years, you would have missed a resurgence in the Food & Beverage scene here that has been nothing short of world-class. We are living an incredibly lush moment. We have a number of creative mixologists and serious Somms. Our specialty coffee and tea community - that didn’t exist pre 2010 - is growing in both depth and options. And chefs have embraced the region’s roots, fruit, myriad cultures and growing season in a way that makes for a dizzying array of options on any given night.

That story gets told and posted about frequently.

But the real story is Community.

Forget comparing dishes and drinks from Miami with the rest of the US. Forget the award nods and snubs. Forget the almost obsessive fawning over NYC and San Fran and whether Miami can go toe-to-toe. We’ve got something amazing in its own right.

Miami’s most outstanding product isn’t found on a plate or over ice. It’s found, for example, when Community comes together to honor and mourn the passing trail of a really bright star behind the bar. It’s found at a Latte Throwdown where contestants legitimately express happiness for the winner, regardless of whose shop they currently work at. It’s found in the camaraderie of chefs at one of the many local food events as they share grills and ingredients and praise for each other’s work.

This kind of supportive Community is an award of its own.

The Tenets of Community

Community happens - in any industry and in any city - when people embrace some fundamental tenets:

  • Tapestries are beautiful because you don’t notice single threads

You may be a uniquely brilliant and creative individual, but you could never accomplish what the entire Community can. Whether it is raising money, expressing concern, fighting for legislation or coming together to solve problems, you’re only one voice and one set of experiences. Community gives us all a chance to listen and learn and harness the exponential power of a group of people who care. Communities are larger and richer and more beautifully complex than any individual.

How do you know if you grasp this? You’re grateful for your Community and you express it. You shout out your peers, your city and people who are not from your same ethnicity or gender or orientation and you do it sincerely.

  • Communities work when you give, not take.

Communities don’t exist to be worked. Don’t use your relationship with the Community to pimp your own brand. The only universally reviled folks in the Food & Beverage Community are PR firms or influencers who want everything comped and don’t care about anything but their needs and deadlines. It doesn’t work like that. Community works when there’s a healthy dose of other-centered behavior. In communities we learn the truth of adages about the blessing it is to give instead of receive. Communities enrich when people are willing to mentor and teach and others are willing to listen and learn. The Community has a collective wisdom and experience that far outweighs the brilliance or depth of any one individual.

How do you know if you appreciate this? You quote and credit others for ideas that you learned in Community. You regularly practice active listening and don’t assume your opinions or bias are gospel.

  • Everybody is somebody’s OG.

The Community you build will outlive you and honor your contribution long after you’re gone. (I’m not suggesting your demise, just maybe a geographic move or a career change). Whatever the reason, your long-term commitment to a Community will live forever in the memories of those you have inspired. Your contribution will live in an exponential number of professional lives as the advice or practice you passed on is adopted by others and then by those who look up to them. I think it’s fair to say that many creatives woefully underestimate the impact they have on others. For millennia, Communities were where traditions were passed down from the Elders to the young. It’s still going on.

In Conclusion, Jump In.

For many people in creative fields, they feel an almost spiritual sense of obligation to their craft which includes the idea that their passion chose them.  Somewhere along the way they stopped resisting the call and embraced their destiny. Choosing to become an active member of a Community is a much more deliberate exercise. But you can do it. Find one. Or build one. And jump in with both feet. Listen, support and encourage. Participate, honor and express gratitude. The richness of your life and your inextricable connection to your Community will mark you and your city forever.