When I was a grad student at the U of A, I used the public transit system to get me to and from campus. I was a faithful “tan bus” rider. Sometimes I didn’t feel like riding the bus. On such days, I would splurge on paying to park and enjoy the luxury of riding in my own vehicle. The bus was resourceful and convenient, but I really favored my own vehicle because of the peace and relaxation that came along with the ride. Perceptions about the Razorback Transit were substandard. My safety was always a concern if my family knew I took the bus at night. While Fayetteville was a pretty safe college town, there were still reasons to be concerned because, you know, the world is crazy.
I often think about my grad school bus riding experience because it’s where I met the friendliest person ever. I never knew his name, but if we ended up on the bus at the same time, we’d probably sit next to or close by one another so we could talk. He was an elderly black man in his seventies or eighties, a veteran with an artificial eye and a long gray beard. He was very talkative and a lot of people (U of A students) kept their heads down and earbuds in to avoid having a conversation with him. He was always happy, loud, unashamed, and would shout, “Hey, you! Yeah, you!” if he wanted your attention. He’d often say things that would inspire a character or theme in my writing. Most importantly, we could relate to one another about society and family stuff. He elevated my bus experience and even changed my perspective of “the bus”, making me often prefer relatability and human connection over the luxury of being in my private ride.
In my work, I am often reminded of my “tan bus” experience and the conversations I had with my friend. Everything I do now (except writing) involves human connection. When entrepreneuring, I find myself having to deal with people more and more, like all the time.
The thing is, when you are a business, you can’t go at it alone forever. In order to do work, you need people. People are at the heart of making things happen. It’s the only way we can measure our impact. It’s how community works! And we are always in-community.
I’ve been enrolled in “Oprah University” for some time now and one of my favorite pearls of wisdom from Mother O has to do with the energy and interest of those involved in our work:
“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. “ -Oprah Winfrey
I have been blessed with some great people in life and business. I have also had to accept realities and continue my work when people:
A. Don’t respond.
B. Don’t show up.
C. Don’t sign up.
D. Don’t follow up.
E. Don’t have time.
F. Are no longer drawn to the work or the mission.
G. Don’t collaborate well.
H. Don’t see your work benefiting them.
I. Feel like there’s too much labor involved.
J. Feel like there’s too much thinking involved.
They simply lose momentum when the work seems to be happening s l o w l y.
…Those A-K scenarios can easily cause us dreamers to get frustrated and give up on our projects. Because we are supposed to achieve more with people, right?
Just because people don’t jump on the bus with you is not an indication that YOU aren’t supposed to jump!
Cultivate a mindset that releases people when they can’t be all the way in. Most importantly, be mindful of the feelings you harbour when it comes to the people who did not take the bus with you.
When people do join you on that humility bus, you will start to notice who your “ride-or-dies” are. It may be a team of folks or it could just be a single partner, but you won’t be going at it alone. The bus might get hot, raggedy; it might smell of exhaust and not be generating much ($$$), but the right people will be there with you.
Clinnesha is a writer, wife, mom, meta-artist, and social entrepreneur who feels most accountable to southern, black citizen-artists, elders, children, and families. Her work is at the intersection of arts, culture, innovation, and community.