Fluid Leadership and Human Connection: Keys to Community Building

Join Elements of Community host Lucas Root and community leader Janine Nicole Dennis, author and Chief Innovations Officer of Talent Think Innovations, for an insightful discussion on rebuilding community in our fractured world. 

They explore the concepts of fluid leadership, human connection, and community organizing. Janine shares her unique perspective as a business leader, mom of three, and advocate for women and underserved communities.

Don’t miss her thoughts on how we can foster stronger communities through compassion, succession planning, and embracing our shared humanity. Tune in for an uplifting conversation about the keys to developing meaningful community bonds!



Lucas Root: Janine, thank you so much for joining me. I'm delighted to have this conversation. Also for those of you who don't know, Janine is an author. She sent her book over. It's amazing. You absolutely should take some time to look Janine up and find her book on Amazon and give it a read. Janine, would you be willing, obviously, they now know you're an author, would you be willing [00:01:00] to give a brief introduction of who you are, and take as long as you want, doesn't have to be brief, of who you are, and why this conversation is exciting for you.

Janine Dennis: Sure, So Janine Nicole Dannis I am the owner and Chief Innovations Officer for Talent Think Innovations, which is a multidisciplinary business consulting firm. It's my baby. So, you know, we focus on a lot of, I always say we focus on a lot of things that people wouldn't assume go together, but they go together nicely in my world.

We focus on organizational design. I'm very focused on future of life, future of work and doing that sort of forecasting. We do wellness consulting tech advisory, digital marketing and digital transformation. So, I know that's a lot to say, but I feel like there are intersections at the edges of all of those things that kind of connect and fundamentally, I feel like I'm just really interested in [00:02:00] the evolution of humanity, you know, and how we're transforming.

And more so how we're thinking about those things. So that's really been my work for the last 18 years. And then more pertinent to this particular conversation Lucas, I was just telling him offline that he's helped me to see that I am a community organizer, even though I didn't think I was, but I've always throughout my career had these moments in which I was compelled to create communities for, you know, largely what we would consider, I guess, underprivileged populations.

So, I've always been concerned with women's rights and the right, you know, moms, I've had communities where my focus were moms at some point because I'm a mom myself of 3 and then more recently, my talent, think power circle.

Which isn't in session now, but was [00:03:00] focused on women of color, black indigenous people of color in the workplace and trying to provide a safe space for those women to exist outside of the parameters and the pressures of what corporate life, gives them. So, you know, I've done this, albeit quietly, I think, and I think that's also like the essence of a true community organizer is oftentimes they're not the people whose names, you know, or that, you know, that they're doing that sort of work.

It's just a calling. I'm a Jane of many traits. I won't bore you with all of them, but that's just a little bit about me.

Lucas Root: I love it. So, I have this theory, and I haven't shared it in this way yet with anyone, but there's been an evolution of community organizer. So if we go way, way back more than 6, 000 years ago, so, before earth was invented, I'm joking.

So we go way, way back.[00:04:00] The tribe was a community and obviously there might've been additionally sub communities inside of that tribe, but the tribe was itself a community. And so a community organizer, the person who was responsible for creating the connection that made us powerful. Inside that community would have been, you know, the wise woman of the tribe and she was probably at the time the chief as well.

And so there was an evolution that moved that as humanity changed as technology changed. The interaction with that community also changed. So we went from these tribes that were, you know, ethically powerful animals into a civilized being. And as we moved into the civilized being now there was sort of a town center that we would build our farms around and the farms would spread out and the town center would sit in the middle and the community organizer.

moved from being the wise woman into [00:05:00] a different person. It may have been the mayor, it may have been the priest it may have been a combination of the two, the mayor and the priest and then we continued to evolve, and we moved from, you know, town centers with farms into very large cities. And now the community organizer again changed.

It wasn't that the mayor and or the priest who organized the community and again made us powerful by creating connections inside that community. But now it was something else, you know, as we had these huge cities where there are more people within arm's length than you could possibly ever know, the community organizer became somebody new.

And at that point, yeah. And this is where you come in, Janine. At that point, the community organizer was no longer the mayor or the priest. Now it was the business owner. And businesses, through the role that they play, because this is ultimately what businesses do, they create a service to serve a [00:06:00] need.

Businesses fell into the role of being community organizer. But here's the thing. Nobody ever taught us how to do this. If you go to seminary school, I know this because I know a few people who have, they actually teach you how to organize communities in seminary school. It's part of what they train.

But priests aren't the community organizer anymore. That's not their role. That's not what we turn to them for. That's not our expectation as members of the society. We still need community organizers. That is a necessary part of existing as a healthy human, but it's not the priest and business owners do not get trained in this.

So thank you A for stepping into that role and embodying it and turning it into something that you're proud of Something that you recognize when somebody holds it up in front of you, even if [00:07:00] you never knew before oh that I recognize that. Janine, you are exactly who I want here and I want more people just like you here so that we can tell this story.

Janine Dennis: Thank you. I love that. I love that. That's fascinating. The way you broke it down, like, historically, because it's true. And so I wonder if what we need now are multiple community organizers in different ways, right? Because like part of your framework is looking at community through the heart and, you know, through profit and all of these different things, profit not to be misconstrued with money.

I love that part. Is that has an impact, but I wonder if now we need more because there is more because there is more complexity, right. To the way that we're relating to one another as humans. [00:08:00] Because as a, so in my organizing, I've figured out that sometimes like what you're trying to tackle within the community is so it can feel so insurmountable that it feels very lonely.

You being the only one kind of, you know, pulling all the things together. Right. So people are showing up, they see the purpose, they understand it, they're with it, but also like you're the one standing in the gap, you know, and trying to keep the purpose afloat and keep them afloat as people. And so oftentimes I think sometimes you need more than one person to be able to like, help with that, because it can be heavy.

Lucas Root: Yeah, boy is it heavy.

Janine Dennis: Yeah. Yeah. And I'm glad to know that's a shared experience. I was at an [00:09:00] event on Monday. I'm meeting a member of what I feel is my soul family. So I guess a bit of a community don't know her from anywhere else, but this, you know, community that I've been in since May and she said something about feeling she was happy that we were all able to get together, relate and play and that oftentimes she gets stuck in the burden of her purpose.

As it relates to the communities that she serves. And I was like, Oh yeah, I know that well, right? Because. It's a hard thing to put into words when you feel called to something, when you feel called to either state something or to be the voice of reason or to provide a service. It's just this inner knowing.

Right? It's hard to put [00:10:00] into words why you feel so compelled but then with that comes, you know, this sense of purpose when you see that, like, what you felt is now tangible and it's actually something that someone else needed, right? Without you actually having any empirical evidence of And so then it's like, once you realize it's needed beyond what you feel here.

It's like, oh, shit. There's, you know, this is bigger than me. And so now that's where the burden of the purpose comes in because it's, right? You want like, as a community leader, you want people to feel that there's an inherent value in what you offer. You want them to feel seen and heard and you want them to feel like the space is safe.

And ultimately I think fundamentally we all want to leave the people we are galvanizing. Better than we found them. And that's a really big thing to take on, [00:11:00] particularly when you understand how fallible humans are and how fickle they are and how much of that really is so out of your control, oftentimes, right?

And so you really go through quite a cycle, you know, almost a hero's journey of community organizing, where you have to start to learn what's in your control and what's not, and what your real value add is to the community versus what the ego can tell you about it all.

Lucas Root: Yeah. I love it. I love the idea of showing up, connecting, and playing as equals but I don't want to dive into that. I think we should sort of put a pin in that and everybody in the world should come back to that. Like, maybe that needs to be a t shirt that you make, Janine, and sell.

Like, [00:12:00] show up together, connect together, play together. So, I did an episode, the first episode of the year this year and in it I proposed 2 concepts and I think that they're really powerful in the context of what you just shared. The first concept was that menopause and community leadership are actually they are correlated concepts that help us to see, a few different things.

One, that women are absolutely epic community leaders. And two, and this is actually really important. So, if you look at mammals worldwide, you'll see that menopause exists in some other mammals. But, in humans, it's a hundred percent.

Every single woman goes through menopause at some point in their life. Now there's a range. But every woman, unless they die young, you know, [00:13:00] love to them, every woman goes through menopause at some point in their life. And what I see in that what that tells me, that's a biological key to share a story with me.

What that tells me is that we're not supposed to be community leaders alone. We're not supposed to do that. There's supposed to be a few of us that can be community leaders together. And I hear that in the story that you're sharing and she's talking about how heavy being purpose bound can be. And so that was the second piece of that episode that I shared where I talked about fluid leadership.

So we have this sort of hierarchical static leadership idea in modern culture, which is an unfortunate idea. And we can see all the different ways how it's not serving as well. And very few people are looking for ways to create a parallel idea that works better.

And this to me [00:14:00] is fluid leadership. Leadership in service to anything is a very heavy burden to carry. It doesn't mean we shouldn't, but it's very heavy. And what's natural to humans, and this is the third leg of that stool, menopause, leadership and then fluidity. What's natural to humans is actually to pass that and it's not I don't want it anymore.

It's this is really heavy and we do better together carrying that burden together. And the way that looks is sometimes it's me and sometimes it's somebody else. And the result of that is that we all get to rest and we all get to lead and we all get to shine and we all get to chill.

Janine Dennis: Yeah, I love that.

I don't think I've ever heard anybody include menopause in this sort of conversation, but I [00:15:00] love it. It's interesting because I mean, I think menopause is to it's a bit of a circular thing, right? Menopause is to menstruation as menstruation is to menopause, right? You don't have 1 without the other.

Lucas Root: In the name.

Janine Dennis: Right? Like, as a, you know, a still menstruating person. It's only at this stage of my life that I'm also realizing, like, I'm better in certain times of the month, and sometimes in the month, I'm just not going to be and to your point that's where my community, right? That's where I should be able to lean on more than myself in those moments.

There have been many times in my life, and I would think most women would say the same, where we have to keep up the pace, no matter what, which is where you get into all sorts of other maladies, quite frankly, both relationally and medically [00:16:00] and spiritually.

So, you know, I know that during my ovulation period, I'm going to be hot. I'm going to be on it. I'm going to be firing on all cylinders. It's not that I'm not. And any other stage, but understanding the stages, I understand where the lows happen and I'm starting to accept that a little bit more and also allow people to show up for me. There's a huge thing with women where it's like, we want to all be able to say we can do it all.

And it's not just a lesson for women, right? What you're saying is this is a lesson in general for all of us, right? That's one aspect of life we happen to have to deal with, right? But the reality is we all have these cycles where sometimes we're on a hundred, we're on 200, you know, and then there's other times where we may need to take it a little slower.

You know, I never saw before, maybe [00:17:00] this year, if I'm going to be really honest, how it's a value to me as a person to allow people to show up to not have to put on the facade of I could do it all. You know, but it also empowers those members of your community to know they're needed. Right? So it's not just about me receiving one aspect, the receiving aspect, something I have to deal with within myself, but I had to also see it from the other end is that by me allowing people, when I'm at my low to say, Hey, can you come pick up the groceries for me?

Can you take me to go do like, that also gives them something back, right? It lets them know what their place is in my community and how they can be helpful to me. And I also have taken something else. You said, I think it was on another podcast. I believe you were saying something about how this idea of independence.

It's like crap. If I'm not [00:18:00] saying that right, then that's, I affirm it that's what I heard is that.

Lucas Root: I use the different four letter word, but, yeah.

Janine Dennis: For all intents and purposes, you know, you basically were like it's crap and we're all dependent period on something or other. And that's huge, I think, for people to hear because what we're fighting right now as a species is like, how much can I do? How much burden can I carry? Like, you see it all over social media.

It's like, we're literally giving out badges to people for saying, I'm killing myself slowly by taking on all these different aspects of life alone at the deficit for community, right? In a lot of ways. And so. Look at me, I'm doing it all, you know, and I'm not saying that like for anyone that's watching.

I'm not saying that as a judgment. I'm saying that as someone who has had that mindset and is on the other side of it now saying.

Lucas Root: Not sure I'm... [00:19:00]

Janine Dennis: right. I still get dragged into that.

Right. But I mean, you know, definitely not in the no longer of the mindset that like, I don't need people, you know, and so, like, I can see how that's faulty.

I can see the pitfalls of it. I see how it robs you and it robs other people, you know, as well. And in some ways, then creates the breakdown that we're seeing, I think, in so many ways, right? And why maybe a lot of us don't feel like we have true communities because we're all contributing to it in these really light dysfunctional ways. So.

Lucas Root: Beautifully said, that's right, we are contributing in dysfunctional ways. You're like, I'm always giving, like, how come I'm not receiving? You gotta stop breathing out in order to be able to breathe in.

Here's a story that sort of anchors the core humanity into the concept of, I can do it all, [00:20:00] but not everything all at once.

So, we as animals. We are predator animals. We know this is not an argument. However, as a predator animal it's weird to look at us and say, oh yeah, that's obviously a predator animal. I can see it. Our eyes are in the front of our head, but we don't have big teeth. We don't have a huge mouth to be able to use those big, powerful, sharp teeth.

Right? We don't have it. That's not there. We don't have big claws, and we don't have big, powerful arms to be able to use those big, powerful claws. As a predator animal, it isn't obvious to me, looking at us, how we get our prey.

Well, here's the answer. And this is the reason why, yes, you can do it all, is endemic to our species. Because, yes, you can do it all. But you can't do it all, all at the same time. And this is [00:21:00] equally endemic in order for us to get our animal, our prey, we have to actually go to these prey animals, herd animals that run around in large herds of a thousand. And we have to get one of them to commit to running separately from the rest, which is hard to do.

Right? And then we have to keep that animal separate until we can figure out how to kill it. Now, the way we did that before we had rifles, and then a little before we had bows is we use spears. Now, think about a rhinoceros or a Bison. Big, powerful animals. These are our primary sources of food. Like, when we have a choice of what to eat, we're going after a Bison or a Rhinoceros.

How are you going to take down a Bison or a Rhinoceros with a spear? There's only one answer. You have to get it to run into the spear, because we're just not powerful enough to do anything else. [00:22:00] This is a big powerful animal. We need it to use its power to help us kill it. How are you going to do that alone?

Can't be done. I mean, maybe it can like under weird circumstances, I might be able to engineer a scenario where that might work once in a while but look at us. We survived. We did not survive on a once in a while scenario. We survived on something that was consistently replicable over and over again.

And in order for that to be consistently replicable over and over again, we need 10 ish of us hunting all at the same time. And every single one of the 10 ish of us needs to be able to do every single job because we don't know at the beginning of the hunt What's going to look like at every instant of that hunt and where each of us needs to be able to step in and do the work.

I can do everything. Also, I [00:23:00] must be able to do everything. Also, we need all ten of us. I can't do all of it.

Janine Dennis: Yeah.

Lucas Root: And for those of you who are listening, I'm going to throw a little love to the women here. We don't always have 10 men available, which means every single woman in the tribe has to be equally capable of being a hunter all the time. All the time.

Janine Dennis: Yeah, even more so now. Right. And like, for all it's worth, I'm a huge proponent of, like, these sorts of healthy conversations between women and men who have, you know, enough logic and heart to meet it where it needs to be met. Right. But the day is absolutely true. Like, I think, and speaking to my own, you know, community of women and knowing things I've been through.

Like, there's a lot of things [00:24:00] that I wouldn't choose to do naturally if I knew a man would show up and get it done, right? And so

Lucas Root: Listen, when we have 15 or 20 people who can go on a hunt, we get to make a choice about who's showing up.

Janine Dennis: Right. I'd love. Listen.

Lucas Root: If there's only eight of us or nine of us or 10 of us. Every single one of us is going because we need all 10.

Janine Dennis: Right. I mean, I'd love to some days be the woman and back at the village, you know, tending to the clay pots or kindling the fire, right? The softer aspects. But I think that's the part too, is like, none of us can really survive in such a paradigm of aggression all the time, right?

And so the going and getting, I don't think people realize how much of that really is steeped in a certain level of aggression to your point of us being predatorial beings, right? You have to be aggressive to go [00:25:00] out and get and so when you're constantly in a state of going and getting.

It's hard to soften back and remember what's important for individuals or the whole beyond yourself. Right? And that's why I think we've gotten where we've gotten. I also think we've gotten where we've gotten because we are now also gatekeeping jobs within.

Right and I've seen that to, like, in a corporate space when I've worked there. You have a certain small percentage of people at the top for which, you know, the C suite has said, well, these are our high potentials.

And so we're going to pour a lot of resources into them to know some of these higher level things. But then they leave and there's no succession plan and no one else below those people have been trained up to be these sorts of leaders or given a chance. Right? Even. [00:26:00] And so then people wonder why things like succession planning in the workspace.

Aren't as popular as they are, it's because our mentality around it is wrong.

Lucas Root: As leadership.

Janine Dennis: Right. If we were looking at succession planning from your, the standpoint you're coming at it from, it would be way different. It wouldn't be just the small group of people, these chosen ones, you know, at the top that got taught. We would teach many more.

Understanding that if any number of things go awry in the community, someone leaves the community, someone passes, whatever the case is, we're still covered with adequate enough beings who care enough about the shared purpose and can carry on the work as we've become accustomed to, right? Because that's the. .

Recommunity has a, they kind of create this organic matter between them, I feel, and that becomes the way, right? It's not often [00:27:00] the way the CEO or the founder makes it actually kind of morphs. Its own thing once you start to invite more people in and they make it whatever that thing is. So yeah it's interesting how this applies to different things.

Lucas Root: Before anyone gets promoted to C suite, they should go to seminary school.

Janine Dennis: Yeah. Right.

But also, like, we just shouldn't gatekeep the jobs. You know.

Lucas Root: Like that's not natural to us.

Janine Dennis: And we should trust. You know, insofar as we have a capacity to trust other people in the community, right, we should trust more people to be able to step up even the ones we don't readily believe have the chops to, right?

Oftentimes, those are the best ones to trust with the job actually, right? But it's like, it's all this superficial stuff, the [00:28:00] optics and You know, egos and power and control that kind of gets in the way of those things and muddies the lens.

Lucas Root: Yep. If there's only, I mean, to me, the question always is how does it make sense from a natural human perspective?

If there's only 15 hunters, do you know who's tending the fire and taking care of the pots? It's the people who got injured in the last hunt or the hunt before that. It doesn't matter what our genitalia looks like.

Janine Dennis: Yeah.

Lucas Root: So everybody has to be able to take care of the pots and everybody has to be able to go hunting.

And everybody has to cycle in and out of that hunting party, whether you like it or not, because some of the time, some people are going to get injured and they need to be able to sit by the fire and take care of themselves so that they can go hunting again next week.

Janine Dennis: Right. But also if they only ever sit tending to the fire, they become a [00:29:00] liability to the community as well.

Lucas Root: A liability.

Janine Dennis: That's the part I think people miss. They say, well, I just don't want to do that, or that's just not my thing. And it's like, well, that's cool. But also like from a primal perspective, we didn't have a choice, right? And even if we did have a choice and we chose this balanced approach of, well, some will stay and never learn how to hunt and some will hunt and never learn that.

I would argue those particular communities tribes didn't last very long. Right. But if you look at the ones that last long, they probably did something more akin to what you're saying. And in a way, like, this is kind of how I've looked at my business as well. Like, I was one of those people that started their business back when they were like, yeah.

You can't just start a business from home and you can't just be a one person operation like where does that work, but the benefit for me in that is that [00:30:00] I've done every single job there is to do within my company. Right. So now even as I hit 10 years this year, when I.

Lucas Root: Ohh hell, yeah.

Janine Dennis: Thank you. But you know, if I decide to bring on and I am starting to look at that, right, because I'm now at a capacity where I can see the need for more members to come, but at the same token.

Like, I feel like I'm in a much better place to lead them right, in purpose within my own company.

Lucas Root: Not just in purpose. Everybody that shows up for you wants to be great at their job. They all want to be.

Janine Dennis: Correct, but like if you don't have a clear vision.

Lucas Root: That's right, because you've done the job, you actually can help them be great at their job. You can mentor them into that.

Janine Dennis: Exactly. And so, you know, it works no matter how you look at it. If it's business ownership, leading in a corporate [00:31:00] space, like these things are really, they're so clean and fundamental. So like who we are as a species, like, it begs the question why we're not looking at this much more intricately than we have been, right?

Lucas Root: I'm with you on that question. I'm with you. I'm right there with you. Yeah. Let's ask that question. Let's ask it louder, wider.

Janine Dennis: Yeah, I will. I mean, because I think, it's a full circle moment. I think that we're in, I think we've gotten so far from ourselves. That we don't actually understand the function of whatever humanity is.

I'm not sure that we ever really defined it properly to begin with. And so we're like, lost souls out here trying to figure some stuff out. But I think like, if we got back to looking at, you know, what any homo erectus was doing prior to the sapiens. We could have some clues. They weren't the [00:32:00] smartest by most people's estimation, but that doesn't mean they didn't have some things we could take from.

Lucas Root: You know, I saw a mathematical analysis of peak intelligence in humanity.

There are going to be some people who don't want to hear this right now, but it, it was a while ago, years ago. But they went and looked at the genetic sequencing that was available and looked at the genes that were that were required for relatively high IQ. And then they looked at the change in our genetic structure over time using, you know, stuff from bones, et cetera, and modern genes.

And these mathematicians sat down and figured out when peak intelligence actually happened inside the species of homo sapiens, humans. And so I was looking at these sort of mathematician's approach to when peak intelligence happened for humanity. And years ago, I think I remember it being [00:33:00] 86, 000 years ago. So we're nearing 100, 000 years. And let's keep in mind that we have approximately 30 generations per millennia.

So, we're nearing 300, 000 generations. Sorry, 30, 000 generations since we had peak intelligence. Now, all the people who think that we are sort of the cream of the crop today that might be a little bit of it. I mean, this is me saying like, even I'm not the cream of the crop from Homo sapiens perspective that has happened. We're past that. We got to do the best we can with what we got.

Janine Dennis: It's all relative and, but I also think so much of this is cyclical, right? Like I feel like it's cyclical, but we come back to that with a tweak, you know, so we're many tweaks out.

Lucas Root: Does that mean we're all tweakers?

Janine Dennis: I think so. Maybe cosmic [00:34:00] tweakers.

Lucas Root: Yeah. That's been fun. Can you tell me a little bit about the community that gets you up in the morning and brings you joy every night?

Janine Dennis: Honestly, my family, you know, I have three kids and you know, I still have my mom and I still have my brother and those are the people, you know, I have My king as I called him, I call him and you know, those are the people I'm interacting with mostly, you know, day in and day out with exception of maybe like a friend here and there, but they're the ones that, you know, I'm very big on leaving a legacy for my kids.

And also interacting with them in real time in a way that they feel like they walk away with some sort of code of conduct for life. Right. They can deviate from it, of course as they see fit. And as I guess life and society dictates, but I want to give them something [00:35:00] to work with. Right? I think so many people and speaking to so many people, they didn't necessarily walk away from their upbringings feeling like they had a sense.

Of like how to walk through this thing, life, you know, how to navigate some stuff, the bigger things. Right. But like with my kids, I'm like, okay, if I learned something, how can I give it back? How can I break it down and bite size pieces? How can I help them see things better than I was able to see them at their ages?

I feel like that is, that's important. Yeah, you know, cause that also empowers them to step into what's next for them, and I feel like that ties back to kind of what you were saying before with the whole menopause and, you know, leadership things is like, as community organizers we may be at the peak of our leadership at some time, and then there's that time where we kind of become the seer, the wise elder.[00:36:00]

And you have to be accepting and excited about stepping into those roles when that time happens and allow for other leaders to emerge. And maybe our role is more of being a teacher or a listener or what, you know, whatever that's supposed to be. It still holds importance, right? It's just a different phase of organizing.

But also our organizing is then to give back, you know, at that point, not maybe to take as much from the community, perhaps, but yeah, my family that's it. We're all very focused on our lanes and things that we're trying to accomplish. And, you know, I'm a 1st generation American, so, my grandparents are from the West Indies Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago in specific.

So for me, I'm acutely aware of what wasn't accomplished and what they [00:37:00] kind of wanted for us when they came here. And I, you know, that's what gets me out of bed. I'm like, okay, what can I do to further the family? You know, what can I do to keep, to make it such that the generations ahead are better and better, right?

And that's not just financially, but emotionally, psychologically, socioeconomically, right? Because that's what they wanted.

Lucas Root: Yeah. And it's cool too, right? This thing right here is the greatest connection tool ever created. You know, you and I were talking in the green room that our best friends don't live in the same States as us.

This thing is the greatest connection tool ever created, but it takes Not knowledge, but wisdom to use that connection tool as a connection tool [00:38:00] instead of as an addiction tool.

Janine Dennis: That, yeah.

Lucas Root: And that's the gift that I get to give to the people who come to me and step into my life is an appreciation of this amazing connection tool and the lens That it's not just you know, it's not just there to doom scroll through social media.

It's actually a connection tool to deepen my relationships and to make it more possible for me to have more of a powerful impact on things that matter.

Janine Dennis: Yeah, it was this. Was the quantum leap in my life.

Lucas Root: It really was.

Janine Dennis: Right and out of human connection and the reason why I say that is I remember prior to like 2011. I was just. You know, [00:39:00] Janine HR person, locally known, not globally, you know, right. And then suddenly we have like this group come in and they're just like, you need to be on social media. You need to be talking about branding. And like, this is the next thing. But at this time, the only people who are doing branding are celebrities, right?

And so I get corporations. Right. So I get pushed coerced onto this thing called social media. And I don't know anything about what to do with it. I'm like, I'm not a celebrity. Like, what do you even begin to say in this abyss of people speaking?

And that's what it felt like, and, you know, what do I know? I, well, I know HR, well, I know humans, I know psych. I can say something about that and see if it takes, and that's what I did. And suddenly all these people from all these different parts of the world [00:40:00] that I would have never met. Start reaching out to me.

Like, Hey, did you know that we have this community of HR professionals? And

Lucas Root: how cool

Janine Dennis: have you thought about blogging? You should probably do that because you're fantastic. Blew my mind. And, you know, as time went on that snowballed into public speaking and doing webinars and all these different things and suddenly I'm in real life situations where I'm meeting these people and then it's like, well, I like some more than others and those people naturally then hopped off of social, like.

It was no more about doing the pictures and the selfies together at conferences. It became a thing of, no, you're my people. And so like, I want to talk to you on the phone. I don't want to talk to you just on social media. Right. And maybe we should meet when it's not a conference. Maybe we should meet in person.

Right. Maybe I'll invite you to my [00:41:00] family. Maybe you should meet my kids. Cause like, at this point, you know, this much about me and we're sharing these things. So I've always, I say all that to say is I've always been fascinated with how, like in the 2010s, a lot of things were happening digitally that never happened before.

It was like, it took everything we were doing in the nineties and amplified it times a hundred. And yet fundamentally what everyone wanted on the other side of the digital was that in real life, you know.

Lucas Root: Cause we didn't have community anymore. We had neighborhood, but we had so many people within arm's reach that we didn't have a, like, we were, I have a good friend who's colorblind.

And there's apparently three different types of colorblindness. Seems like a non sequitur, but trust me, it's not. There are the people who are born without the right kinds of color receiving tools in their eyes, and they just can't see colors the same way we can because their eyes aren't [00:42:00] there.

And then there's a connection. There are people who have a connection issue between their eyes and their brain. There's a connection issue. And then the third this friend of mine, and I would never have known this except, because of this friend of mine. This third type of colorblindness, they actually can see the colors, but their brain doesn't do a good job of processing all of the information.

Well, it turns out that's universally true. All of our brains don't do a good job of processing all of this information. And we all limit what we take in some way. And some of us have sort of tunnel vision and some of us you know, do a pretty good job seeing a little bit of everything, but don't focus very well.

And then there's this category of people who ,the information comes in and their brain's like, okay, I have to limit this somehow. And what the brain does is it cuts off some of the colors and it just doesn't process the colors. This particular friend of mine who is this particular kind of colorblind.

Like I had such a [00:43:00] hard time to understand. Like it's just a processing thing. I don't get it. Why don't you just probably like why is it that willing, but it is, it just is, and now, you know, as my vision becomes wider, as my experience of the human condition is wider. What I'm realizing is that this is sort of an applicable statement to everything in our life.

And here we are with, you know, thousands of people within arm's length of us all the time. You know, look at being in a city, you know, walk down the street. How many people brush by you every single day? It's thousands of people. And that's just too much information for our brain to process. And just like the way our eyes work, the way that your brain works is it starts cutting off information, just won't take in more information.

So we have neighborhoods, people that we live near. We have to build the construct of community into our brains so that we start to build the construct of community into our life. [00:44:00]

Janine Dennis: It's true. I mean, so, the place where I've been, you know, I guess in this liminal space in New York for the last three years has been just what you said, a neighborhood, right?

A place that I knew coming into it. That I was going to be for a time before I could get where I want it to be. Don't know any, never spoke to any of the neighbors. Doubtful my dad did before his passing, just nice neighborhood. It's convenient.

Lucas Root: Nothing wrong with it.

Janine Dennis: I have every, yeah, nothing wrong with it at all. Right. But like, there's no one that I knew until, and this is coming to your point. A group of people, I think five or six got together and they're called the concerned citizens of Wheatley Heights. And so, their whole thing is they want to put on these events or have these moments, these experiences [00:45:00] that contribute to where they can galvanize everybody to come together.

And so they had one of these things in the summer was like a community day, if you will. And they had things for the kids and a comedian, and a few food trucks. And I was like, we don't have much to do. Like, let's just go over there and just see, you know, even though we're moving, it doesn't much matter, right?

Like, let's just go and see if it's a good time. And honestly, it's one of the best days I've had since I've been here. And it's because These concerned citizens, as they call themselves, you know, are the ones who decided to take this concept of community a bit further than the rest of us right outside of the parameters of neighborhood and said, let's do something tangible.

Where people really could be together and in a family setting where it could be fun for the kids, where there's some things for the adults where there's music. I mean, [00:46:00] they, you know, they had to think of all these different components right in advance to understand who they were serving and it wasn't.

You know, on a grand scale, but for whatever it was worth. It was phenomenal. I learned about a park. I didn't even know it was there hidden right in plain sight, you know, but these are the sorts of people that, you know, make communities what they are and even better, even when they know what they are right because they take the time to hone in on what makes that community what it is.

Lucas Root: Yeah, I love that. Well, you could call this the Concerned Citizen show then.

Janine Dennis: Yeah, I feel like you are. I feel like everybody that comes on is a Concerned Citizen, right? I think and it's like a less haughty way of You know, saying that I'm a community organizer is to say, hey, I fundamentally [00:47:00] I'm concerned about the people that, you know, I interact with, I relate with the people I care about, like, I have this concern of how we relate to one another and how we're serving one another.

Lucas Root: Yeah, be concerned. I want your concern.

Janine Dennis: Right. We all, well, that's the thing, isn't it? Don't we all want some concern, right? We want someone to be concerned with us in specific.

Lucas Root: Thank you, Janine. I like to wrap up my interviews with three questions and the second and third are a little bit of a curve ball, so you might want to sit down. Oh, you got that covered.

Janine Dennis: Wait, let me straighten up.

Lucas Root: Yep. First one is for people who want everything that you have to offer your book, your consulting you know, 10 minutes of ear time with you because you're amazing in this conversation was awesome.

What's the one best way that they can reach you?

Janine Dennis: [00:48:00] TalentThinkInnovations.com. One stop shop.

Lucas Root: TalentThinkInnovations. com.


Janine Dennis: I can work with you If you just want to know who I am, purchase a book, whatever it is, it's all there.

Lucas Root: Yes. I don't TalentThinkInnovations.com. Go there. Question two. What is the one question that you wish I had asked you but have not?

Janine Dennis: Oh, interesting question. He said it was a curveball. I think we had a very good conversation. I guess maybe, you know, what was the impetus behind my book?

Or anything you gleaned from it that drove you to think about something community wise? I guess a question regarding that would have been cool.

Lucas Root: So now I could guess at the impetus of your book because you kind of gave people a hint. You literally said, I want to leave something [00:49:00] behind for my family.

Janine Dennis: Yeah.

Lucas Root: But that's just a guess. What really made it so that you can, because like, seriously, for those of you who are listening, writing a book is hard work. It's hard, it's thankful, it's a drag through the mud and it lasts forever.

It's not just a purpose that gets somebody to write a book, they gotta be motivated by something really deep. What dragged you through that mud?

Janine Dennis: Yeah, I think I reached, well, I had been writing this for a lot of years, so that's one. But I also didn't know how I was ever going to attract a publisher or any of that.

So let's, it was just kind of a shot in the dark. Like I need to do this. I think that I got to a place in my life where the lessons I was learning or the trials and tribulations I was going through was so zany, difficult, bizarre and yet I was coming on the other side of it and seeing [00:50:00] how it all seemed to serve me and I started to wonder, what if I took my life story to date?

And used it as a way to help people see how their lives are just the same, how we're really no different, even though my story is what it is, it's compelling or not, depending on how you feel, but like, it's a story and everyone has a story and what if we all could see some of these difficult moments in our lives in this certain way.

Right. And so, it's very reflective. I'm constantly asking questions throughout the book where I want the person to kind of go on this journey with me and think about how they're treating these aspects of life in their own lives. And hopefully walking away from the book with more compassion for themselves, more compassion for others.

And a better understanding of how life is just this [00:51:00] intricate fabric, right? It's not good. It's not bad. It's just this intricate kind of like compilation of experiences that we ought to just be grateful for, honestly, if we could stand back from it, it's not that we're going to be that every day.

I am not asking you to be mother Mary, right. But like. All in all, it's an audacious undertaking to live and to live fully and to live rebelliously, right? In a certain kind of way without worrying about keeping up a facade. So that's what I hope that's my hope and that's what I hope for generations in the future because a book, you know, to your point is something that continues to live on and on, right?

It's something someone can pick up 10 years from now, 20 years, 40 years from now. And that's pretty cool, you know, to be able to leave little love notes, for people wherever they may be along their journey, whether it [00:52:00] be now or well into the future when I'm no more there's something exciting about that to me.

Lucas Root: I love that.

And if we're going to bother to leave a little love note, let's make sure that it's a love note that really picks someone up.

Janine Dennis: Yeah, that, that's the part. Yeah.

Lucas Root: Amazing. Thank you, Janine. Do you have any parting thoughts?

Janine Dennis: Thank you. I mean, honestly, that I think that's, thank you for this conversation. I think we're in very divisive tumultuous times. And so for me, it's always a blessing and a pleasure to connect with people. I feel like are kin to me, you know, or a kin and, you know, where we can just kind of throw some things around.

You know, as fellow concerned humans, and [00:53:00] maybe come to some conclusions that can be helpful to other people. I think that's the whole purpose of these podcasts, right? It's not to prop yourself up on your accomplishments or, you know, who you are, what you're putting in the world, but it is to get, I think, people to think differently.

If ever so slightly about something that's important to us all right and I think community is important to us all. So thank you.

Lucas Root: Thank you. I don't know about this whole divisive thing. I don't know what the problem is. I don't trust anyone who wears socks.

Janine Dennis: And I don't, this is how I know, and I don't, thank you for affirming me, and my non sock wearing.

Oh my gosh, that's so funny.

Lucas Root: Thank you, Janine.

Janine Dennis: Oh, thank you.

Narrator: Thanks for [00:54:00] joining us this week on Elements of Community.

Make sure to visit our website, ElementsOfCommunity.us, where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or via rss, so you'll never miss a show. While you're at it, if you found value in this show, we'd appreciate a rating on iTunes, or if you'd simply tell a friend about the show, that would help us out too.

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