(This is a post I wrote for LinkedIn and wanted to share!)
A couple of years ago, I was invited to an unusual dinner party. Philanthropist Jeffrey Walker, the host, assembled the dozen or so guests – who mostly did not know each other – and outlined the rules of the intimate gathering. Everyone would explain who they were and what cause they stood for, and then we would take turns discussing as a table a series of challenging questions about philanthropy, a topic close to the hearts of everyone assembled. No side conversations or small talk. We were going to wrestle with ideas.
This was my introduction to the Jeffersonian Dinner. Jeff models them on the real deal: Thomas Jefferson, president, scientist and writer of the Declaration of Independence. The president liked to invite intriguing guests who shared an interest area and then provoke a stimulating evening conversation around that topic.
The event I attended was among the most fascinating (and pleasantly intimidating) evenings I’ve had. I walked away with many new ideas and several new friends that I still see regularly.
I don’t think we do enough of this kind of stretching of our minds or our networks. As I said earlier this year, we have to put our brains on the right diet if we really want to make things happen in our lives and in the world. That means everything from reading something outside our regular experience to organizing a Jeffersonian dinner of people who have insights on a topic that matters deeply to our work.
Ready to have that dinner party? Read Jeff’s post on how to do it. He has specific advice for people who advocate for good causes. But you can hold one on any topic close to your heart or career. The goal is to stretch your mind and your ties beyond their well-traveled patterns. You will be delighted by what territory lies beyond the old places – and how it expands your view on just about everything.