Introduction from Alana:
Erik Wullschleger is absolutely one of my favorite human beings. It was my privilege to originally get to know him when we worked together on the Wireless Data Team at Sprint many, many years ago. Now, Erik is leading a number of efforts to make Kansas City a better place to live, work and play. By day, his work as the Director of LiveKC has spanned everything from iconic parties, creative “placemaking” initiatives and a mobile app that helps Kansas Citians discover something awesome to do, tonight. During his free time, Erik is improving access to risk capital as a co-founder / general partner of a seed stage venture capital fund and a passionate advocate for advancing the KCMO public education ecosystem as a board member for Show Me KC Schools. He’s also a heck of a nice guy and has a perspective on the world that is innovative, forward-thinking, so cool and, as you will read below, quite neighborly. Meet my dear friend, Erik Wullschleger…
Guest Blog from Erik Wullschleger:
It was almost 6pm and I was headed down the last leg of my commute home from work. As I crested the small hill on our street I could see that my neighbor, Dave, was outside inspecting his front lawn, watching his two-year old son run around and holding his five-month old daughter. I parked the car, grabbed a couple beers and walked over to say hello.
We caught up from the weekend, exchanged pleasantries with some joggers, shared thoughts on current events and joked how traditional lawn care somehow confounds us. Interactions like this in my neighborhood are extremely typical because our houses were designed for it. Our homes sit back from the street, the garages are hidden in the backyard and outdoor porches give you a view of what’s happening on the street.
Somewhere in our history, suburban neighborhood architecture started to prominently feature a garage door on the front elevation and soon electric openers allowed you to move seamlessly from car to couch. In exchange, large backyards started to take on the shape of a second living room complete with comfy chairs, outdoor kitchens, pools and privacy fences.
There’s nothing wrong with an amazing backyard…I’m the first to admit that, sometimes, all I want when I get home from work is a cold beverage and some solitude. The comfort of a shade tree and the privacy granted from a 7ft fence can be good for the soul; but it can also isolate you from what’s happening in the real world.
The front porch was designed as a welcoming place. You could grab the morning news, catch up with the neighbors and keep an eye on kids as they skipped around from house to house. Sitting on your front porch was a signal to those passing by that you were open to chatting or hoping to connect with what was happening in your little universe.
When you host a networking event are you the kind of person who hangs out in the comfort of the backyard or are you enjoying that front porch swing with a friendly smile and an ear for someone who wants to chat?
Are you minding your own business or are you jumping into conversations happening around the room?
Do you circle around a table with people you typically hang out with or are you welcoming strangers as they walk by?
Whether you’re new to the neighborhood or a longtime resident, adopting more of a front yard mindset in your community, networking event or even a simple happy hour will expose you to the amazing people, places and things happening around you. Hiding in the comfort of your own private backyard can be comfortable but it won’t do much to change your world view. Give it a shot next time; shoot out a welcoming smile, bring someone new into the circle, go seek out a new crowd of people and enjoy the experience of life in the front yard! @ejdub