I was invited to a fancy gathering the other day. Thirty of us, chatting amiably over drinks, then invited to sit down to eat.
A little slow on the trigger, I was the last one over to lunch. To my horror, there were only 29 seats at the long table. All of my Jungian anxieties triggered in one moment. No room for you, you don't belong here, you probably shouldn't have come in the first place.
After a deep breath, I walked over, got a chair from along the wall and scooted myself in.
Epic disaster, averted.
It turns out that in the connection economy, where the network effect creates value and abundance in those connections, it's pretty unlikely that there are precisely one-too-few chairs at the table you hope to sit at. And if there are, it turns out that it's easier than ever to bring your own chair.
Even better, start your own table.
In school, we teach kids to try out, to work to make the cut, to suck it up and give up when they don't. We forget to teach them that the better approach (the adult, real world approach) is to just start your own team. One hyper-ironic example: A friend didn't make it past the final try-outs for the improv club at school. Bummed out, he moved on, never realizing that he could start his own improv club…
If you're spending a lot of time worrying about musical chairs, it's almost impossible to be generous and connected. If you've got one eye on the lookout for when the music will stop and which chair you're going to grab, it's inevitable that you're not really focusing on the amazing people you're with. On the other hand, once you stop playing that game, it seems as though new chairs just keep materializing.