In 2006, my engagement with the Richmond region went from passive to active -- thanks to my participation in the first Greater Richmond Challenge.
Created by Stephanie Kirksey and her team at the Greater Richmond Chamber, the Challenge was a reverse play around the traditional InterCity Visit. Instead of heading out to see how other cities create success, the Challenge invited a hundred-plus Richmonders to explore successes in their own back yard.
I found myself on a small team exploring some inspiring work in the realm of affordable housing. What we discover ed during our 24 hour blitz was eye-opening and inspiring -- organizations like Better Housing Coalition and Virginia Supportive Housing that are transforming the way our region deals with serious housing issues.
But the Challenge's real lessons weren't strictly educational. They were relational.
Earlier that year at a Creative Change Center event, I had my first introduction to Andy Stefanovich. (Some of you know exactly how much "Wow!" can be packed into a first encounter with Andy.)
Andy said something that night that I've carried around with me for seven years now. "Look around the room," he said. "There are people here who caught your attention. Give yourself permission to have a business crush on someone in the room tonight, and write them a business love letter. Ask them out for coffee or lunch, and get to know them better."
For an introvert like myself, Andy's invitation to be extraverted had remarkable power.
I was just looking at the business crush list I compiled at the end of the 2006 Challenge: Stephanie Kirksey and Betsy Borders Mangum, Robert Dortch, Sam Rugg, Scott Sutton, Lawson Wijesooriya are all now serious, essential friends. I never would have connected with them without Andy's permission to have a crush.
As I head into 2013, and year five with Floricane, it feels like a good time to identify a new batch of inspirational, amazing people with beautiful spirits - and to fall in love all over again with people who make this community sing. I've started working on my business crush list for 2013. I'll leave a few slots open on my calendar for a business crush blind date or two.
Go fall in love with amazing people. The magic never wears off. (Though someone needs to tell Kirksey she owes me lunch...)
Happy New Year, Richmond. You rock, and I want to hang out with you.