There is not yet a Lonely Planet guide to The Fluent Self, Inc — Pirate Ship At Large!

And yet, everyone who interacts with my business or the blog gets a visceral sense of what things are like around here.

Over the past few months I’ve been obsessively considering the elusive thing that is culture, and what makes spaces feel a certain way.

And wanting to put thoughts here, but they’re jumbled and disorderly.

So. Still processing the process on this one. But I’m convinced it’s one of the most vital elements of mindful biggification. So we need to talk about it.

A caveat.

I’m wary about the word “culture” because of its use in business circles to mean “how to force your employees to behave a certain way”, which is not what I mean.

Something more organic and less top-down. I mean the qualities, aspects and experiences that come together to form structures that contain this elusive something.

In my own business.

Just some of the qualities that the culture of this place includes:

[+ playfulness]
[+ mindfulness]
[+ curiosity]
[+ safety]
[+ sanctuary]
[+ support]
[+ silliness]
[+ joy]
[+ hilarity]
[+ healthy skepticism]
[+ wonder]
[+ unconditional love]
[+ self-inquiry]
[+ acknowledgment]
[+ spaciousness]
[+ quirkiness]
[+ ritual]
[+ freedom]
[+ belonging]
[+ trust]
[+ fluidity]
[+ flexibility]
[+ sovereignty]
[+ groundedness]
[+ intelligence]
[+ movement]

Some of the ways you might experience the qualities of this culture:

The comment space is welcoming and accepting.

There isn’t meanness. There isn’t arguing.

We state what we need. We appreciate each other. We make room for each other. Safety is a given.

People constantly remark on this phenomenon. And this is one of the only places I’ve ever been on the internet where this is true.

It is extremely rare that a tourist wanders in and can’t figure out how we behave and how we interact.

This also holds true at the Kitchen Table and on the Chattery (that’s the chat room) when I hold my wild bohemian salons (uh, teleclasses).

We agree to be mensch-like instead of having rules that force us to.

So, for example, confidentiality and not-giving-advices are always essential parts of any program I do.

But never presented as a rule — it’s just a thing we all care about that we agree to commit to.

I don’t do rules or guidelines. Qualities, yes. Rituals. Ways of being. Stuff like that.

No boringness.

A business like this requires certain things that are standardized — dastardly autoresponder messages that tell you what you need to know when you buy or sign up for something, for example.

My lovely First Mate and I have spent many a Drunk Pirate Council rewriting templates and forms to make them personalized, kind, loving, sweet, funny, alive.

Instead of a school or a studio, I run a glam pirate zen magical preschool-for-adults.

Even the “I promise not to sue you” release form at my Playground is pretty entertaining.

My partner is a duck. She’s on my card.

Special names. For spaces and experiences. But really, for everything.

We spend a lot of time with Metaphor Mouse. There’s even a Glossary.

I have a Pirate Queen Anthology instead of a business manual. We go on Rallies. We use The Log instead of Basecamp.

Stone-skipping instead of journaling. I decorate HATS instead of writing sales pages.

Instead of an application page to try to get into my Week of Biggification* program, there is a pickle page. With a pickle on it.

This makes everything better.

Also it gets things done. Because I would rather poke myself with sharp sticks than write sales pages, but actually decorating a HAT is kind of fun.

* password = pickles

Living what I teach.

This is how I transmit what culture looks and feels like, by modeling without explaining what I’m doing (except, you know, right now) .

For example, in the comment zen thing I model the culture by a) asking for what I need, b) stating clearly and lovingly what I do not want, and c) being clear about how we talk to each other here.

As always, there is a marked lack of prescriptive language. Everything is framed in terms of “so this is how we tend to do things around here.”

And I try to teach less by explaining concepts and more by sharing my own process with stuff I’m working on, including the parts that are hard, challenging and not fun.

Principles.

This is more subtle and hard to describe. But for example, I refuse to do emotional pressure/manipulation stuff in HAT pages. And it’s really important to me to always make clear that my people are my people whether or not they ever buy my stuff.

Or: when I play at the Twitter bar, it is play for the sake of play. Not once have I said anything remotely motivational or coach-ey.

Part of the culture of my business involves not having to act like an expert as well as the all-important if it’s not fun I’m not going to do it, dammit.

Yes, that’s actually on my dammit list.

Rituals for mindfulness, playfulness, curiosity, hilarity and acknowledgment.

Without saying “this is what you should do”, and just creating a space where it happens. Like the Friday Chicken. Or the Very Personal Ads.

These rituals are simple, pleasurable, meaningful, not-too-intimidating (I hope), and doing them together gives us a way to casually cheer each other on. Or up.

To give and receive comfort and reassurance but in an extremely informal setting.

Of course, there are other ways as well.

Like the look and feel of stuff we do (oh the fabulousness that is the Monster Coloring Book).

Like the clear explanations about how I connect with people, which is a way of demonstrating strong, loving, flexible healthy boundaries.

Or the things we do to maintain uh … I guess it’s called “brand integrity”. Gah. What a despicable word. I will invent a new one. But you know what I mean.

And then I haven’t even begun to cover how valuable and useful it is to have a culture that — even if hard to describe — is easy to sense.

I’ve never had to consider killing the comments here, the way so many biggified people have. We’ve had the same site design for five years. We don’t need policies.

Here’s the point:

The culture of this amazing place holds it all so that I don’t have to.

The culture of the pirate ship that isThe Fluent Self is so established, clear and filled with safety and permission for me and my people. At this point, it’s self-sustaining.

We can definitely talk more about how this works soon. For now — a useful theme.

And comment zen for today.

Talking about business and biggification stuff can be uncomfortable. I hope it’s clear my intention is to examine the culture here, not imply that yours is not good.

I am sure this theme will require some posts of explanations and reassurances. For now I will just say two things about culture:

  1. It’s not like yogurt. There is no way to contaminate the culture of your business.
  2. It’s is a reflection of qualities you already have. So even if you don’t have readers or customers yet, the culture is still a thing.

We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. We try to let people have their own experience and meet each other with love.

p.s. We’ll be covering the how of building a culture that draws and welcomes your right people (and keeps mean people away) at the Week of Biggification in Asheville, November 3-10. I have not announced this yet. Most of the seats are already taken. Password: pickles.

*blows kisses to everyone*