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Sweating the Small Stuff

Purpose or prestige? We're choosing our path.

In the midst of the hustle, I had a lovely brunch on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Baltimore with my son. One would think that the world is not completely falling apart. And maybe it’s not, if we can compartmentalize what’s happening in Nebraska, New Zealand, Yemen, California, Ethiopia, Baltimore, Capitol Hill…

Maybe it’s time we sweat the small stuff.

The future is small.

There a few versions of the story behind the famed Baltimore restaurant where we dined today, Woodberry Kitchen, and its chief founders, Spike Gjerde and Amy Gjerde.

One thing is for sure: the economic and social impact on the region of this picayune, and some muse, "purist" farm-to-table restaurant, part of a larger restaurant group, Foodshed Restaurant Group, is a strong argument for aligning with Purpose.

Farmers, vineyards, brewers and distillers around the Mid-Atlantic region have benefited enormously from expansion of the Gjerdes’ “crazy” idea that there are better food and beverage options than those from BIG food and farm monopolies. The Gjerdes and their team have created sustainable jobs and opportunities that contribute to the local economy as a result of purposeful, organic growth (pun intended).

The restaurant business is not easy, but the Foodshed group, still based in Baltimore, is now exporting their great idea, presumably with their humanity intact, beyond Baltimore.

In fact, we’ve noted that a few made-in-Baltimore restaurants and bakeries are being summoned to other cities and suburbs because people want mo’ better options.

Yup, quietly while many of our now painfully exposed local politicians are concerning themselves with re-election and aligning themselves with BIG, sans meaningful and impactful investment in the city, our more humble and honest makers are exporting what is great about Baltimore.

It really is the little things. Communities matter. The stronger they are, the better we are.

It’s hard here and out there:

At Baltimore-born Mixolo, we like to talk about togetherness and community and all the warm and fuzzies and good health you get from human connection. We see going out with strangers as a better option to internalizing some of the coldhearted stuff that occurs in our world. Are we talking crazy?

This week has been hard for many of us, not to mention those exposed in the endless scandals and violent acts, directly or indirectly, for their part in some pretty messed up situations.

As humans, we are vulnerable to corruption. Aren’t we more drawn to the victor than the fallen? Being on top has distinct advantages that appeal to our basic human need for love and belonging. But, what we do with that power when we are in charge is another thing altogether.

In my view, fundamentally, we humans have a prestige problem. It makes us lie, cheat, cut corners and marginalize others. If we are being honest, we’ve all contributed to the problem at one time or another with our inherent tribal tendencies and our history of elevating BIG as the standard for success.

National and local governments, and the recently exposed hallows of academia, seemingly the institutions we should trust, continue to work on the old model that claims meritocracy is the way we ensure we promote the “best and brightest.’” The obvious results: an us vs. them mentality. And when the “best” feel threatened, they often become their worst selves.

What’s Mixolo got to do with it?

Though we are small, we are determined to pursue Purpose and not Prestige, whether infamous or honorably bestowed.

While we believe in our mission to connect people and make the future more inclusive, we understand that it’s going to be a long road for people to embrace that tenet. We hope we can stay above the fray and actually continue to operate and expand on our crazy idea.

The road is often bumpy to BIG because of many barriers often inadvertently placed by whatever “powers that be” in whatever context. "Smallness” is often perceived as unworthy of opportunities. We’re not alone; startups are often perceived this way. Especially those that seem to fly in the face of harsh realities.

We persist.

Is bigger better?

We’re not anti-BIG. We believe bigger is not necessarily better. Better is better.

Latching on to the model of success as BIG and dominant can be blinding as we put our trust and our sense of security in something or someone who eventually usurps our personal power, or worse, wellbeing. We are now rethinking the trust we place in many tech unicorns and other institutions after endless revelations on data breaches and compromises.

We believe a better future is small. It is local. In fact, “acting local” can be espoused by any size business or organization. It involves re-investing in the local community and the people in it. All of them. The minute we marginalize people, we simply create an enemy that will likely later be perceived as a menace to the “best.”

Mixolo, by pure accident, is supporting local businesses and organizations, particularly in the hospitality, arts and entertainment industries, who are the backbone of the communities where they reside. We want to take that model to other cities.

The power to choose:

Before you consider giving more to businesses and individuals that do not regenerate dollars in your community, consider that those dollars kept local could improve your schools, your streets, the health and wellbeing of you, your loved ones and fellow citizens, your streets and thus your sense of safety in your city or town, school, office or place of worship.

We’ve been torn apart by rhetoric from all directions and we are beginning to believe the hype that humans that don’t align with our beliefs are less than human. Think local. Act local and change the world.

We are so grateful that Mixolo is resonating with so many of you. You’re embracing the power of solo, without bias, open and curious to all of the good things we humans have created. Our hosts are rising to the occasion to welcome you. All of you. We are redefining community by encouraging people to step out of their social bubbles and seek common ground first on the things that they love or are passionate about.

We can be better.

All of the amazing technological advances from the unicorns should be making our lives easier, right? Granted, many of them simply perpetuate some of society’s ills like conspicuous consumption, or unequal access to opportunity, but, for the most part, we are now capable of solving many of our problems, many of which we created by following BIG.

We often wonder with all of the prestigious academic institutions and advances in technology in our Beta city why so many people are homeless and left behind. Are we solving the right problems?

With many jobs disappearing, a creative economy is emerging where we can choose to support and enjoy each other. We’re hopeful. We know there are still honest people, out there, not perfect, but working in earnest to make a life for themselves AND their community. We’ve met them on our Mixolo journey.

If we can look at change in a more positive light, embrace the idea that we can live together and we can do it by staying connected and engaged, not isolated and fearful, perhaps we can begin to thrive on the purpose path.

We believe the future is small AND inclusive. Getting strangers to do fun stuff together where their interests intersect may seem trivial, but we think it makes people happy, not destructive.

The challenge:

You can start small, like Mixolo. We're re-examining our mission, vision and values to ensure that we clearly define our purpose in our pursuits and measure the impact of our actions.

Not everyone has to believe that it can get better for things to get better. One person, one gesture, one affirming act that makes another person feel they matter will spark a revolution. What if acceptance were the new obsession?

Talk to one stranger today. And every day. Post ”talking with strangers” photos, if you’re social media savvy; tag @mixolo_gosolo. Let’s make human connection viral!

Think twice at balking at the price of your local farmer’s fresh chicken or strawberries and then supporting a non-tax-paying entity that will make your dinner or smoothie cheaper and your local public school’s budget smaller.

People aligned with purpose sweat the small stuff.

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