Individuals immersed in a productive scenius will blossom and produce their best work. When buoyed by scenius, you act like genius. Your like-minded peers, and the entire environment inspire you.”~ Kevin Kelly
For as long as I can remember, the image of a secluded cabin in the woods has caused my heart to skip a beat or two. In my mind’s eye, I immediately place myself inside the cozy space and imagine how the fireplace, the bookshelves, and the writing desk would look. I see the well-worn, impossibly-comfy chair where I would read, nap, and edit my work. I can even smell the pine needles that have fallen near the open window.
It is a haven against the crowded and noisy world; my symbolically-moated defense against others’ energies that threaten to drain my own.
My version of Thoreau’s cabin is where I sink into myself, and let my words and thoughts rise like bubbles from overturned rocks where they pop in slow motion when surfaced and ripened. In the silence of my space, I have a bucket (in the form of pen and paper) ready to capture the nectar falling from the bursting bubbles. There’s nothing to erode my attention, awareness, and flow. Hours ease away without notice.
Solitude nourishes my creativity and cells; it fills my lungs and opens me, petal by petal, toward the sunlight. I am at my best when I have had my introvert’s tank replenished with no other agenda or inquiry other than those I have created. Once filled, I have something to offer the world, and I am eager to engage—fully, completely—once more.
Given my proclivity to solitude, I used to think that the only way I could do my best work was on my own. Other than the occasional, small group work during both my undergraduate and graduate years, I hadn’t had much experience working shoulder to shoulder with other like-minded souls who were striving to create something extraordinary and support one another in that quest.
I had met lots of wonderful people via my work experiences and in the entrepreneurial sphere, but never had had that sense of being “bunker buddies” sharing a vision filled with so much passion, it threatened to overwhelm us.
All of that changed when I had my first “scenius” experience in a leadership program.
Kevin Kelly, in his post entitled “Scenius or Communal Genius,” notes, “Scenius is like genius, only embedded in a scene rather than in genes. Brian Eno suggested the word to convey the extreme creativity that groups, places or ‘scenes’ can occasionally generate. His actual definition is: ‘Scenius stands for the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene. It is the communal form of the concept of the genius.'”
Two decades ago, I was invited to join the William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations, along with 24 other leaders from across the state of North Carolina. The Friday Fellowship’s circle of committed, fiercely-brilliant and devoted leaders opened the world of shared cause to me; we were brothers and sisters united in purpose and passion.
The Friday Fellowship taught me that the whole is certainly much greater than the sum of its parts: we were effective in our neighborhoods and communities, one by one, but when we linked together and leaned into each other’s strengths, magic happened. Ideas exploded. Passion beget passion. If I did not know how to find a certain resource, answer, or individual with whom I wanted to connect, someone in that group did.
I did not have to know it all—do it all—on my own. The realization of that was equal parts energizing and a huge relief.
Since that program, I have been fortunate to have belonged to many sceniuses. Some were in the form of entrepreneurial masterminds. Some were informal groups that met on occasion to support one another during creative retreats. Some were fostered online. All have been essential to my development as an entrepreneur, a leader, a writer, and a creator.
History is replete with stories of fascinating scenius episodes: the Bloomsbury Group, the writers and artists in Paris in the 20s, the Algonquin Round Table, etc. Each powerful group offered something unique to the participants that they could not have enjoyed on their own. And each gave rise to an untold level of creative output that had an enormous impact with ripple effects across cities, countries, and decades.
I believe the best of all possible worlds is balancing solitude with scenius—balancing one’s withdrawing and retreating in search of quiet contemplation and renewal with that of charging forward with the support of those in your enlightened scenius.
We need both energies (and both kinds of support) for our best work and our most inspired creativity.
P.S. I am curating the mother of all sceniuses this fall for my 90 Days to Escape Velocity Mastermind that begins in January!!! Check out the details of this adventure (limited to only 8 people) here.
Ask yourself: What if you freed the most creative and rebellious parts of yourself that have been hidden (and pushed the limits of what you think is possible)? Mastermind details.