Flywheel Identities

Your sense of self can be significantly contributed to by a set of flywheels, each representing different aspects of your personality and values. These can be in-person or virtual flywheels and can have as few as two people, you and one additional person.

It can be as easy to invent as asking someone you like to discuss a topic or two of common interest to both of you to get together regularly. This has happened to me. A person whom I occasionally ran into in a cafe we both frequented before the Covid Pandemic shut it down said we had such good conversations. Why don’t we pick a day and time and get together roughly weekly to talk?

This turned out to be a great reinforcement of our identities. We both spent a lot of time thinking about the creative process. I had another regular conversation on a different day and time with someone else several thousand miles away, during a time when people were not getting together much for fear of infection. These two conversations served to keep alive two completely different aspects of my identity.

Other flywheel situations I regularly participate in have between five and a dozen members. Sometimes they can be a class, club, organization or department, but over time these sets of relationships can contribute a great deal of stability and meaning to a person’s identity. The time invested in my life ranges from an hour or two a month to an hour or two per week. These few hours per week keep me connected to the priorities in my life. Even if I forget what mattered to me because of a crisis or deadline, these flywheels tend to remind me of my identity by exercising what and who matters to me.

This does not have to cost anything but a small time commitment. However, as the pandemic slows, a couple of local groups occasionally get together and have a cup of coffee or break bread. Again this is a nominal investment and surprisingly effective for creative outliers who are not normally joiners of anything. Depending on individual needs and circumstances, there is the freedom to drift in and out.

Neighborhood bars, cafes and other social clubs have played this kind of role for centuries for many people. What is different here is that creative outliers are not generally mainstream people and therefore do not have mainstream identities either. There also may not be a critical mass of them in any particular local, and they may be averse to joining anything as we tend to be go-it-alone kind of people.

Creative outlier flywheels can be surprisingly effective at preserving identity and helping each other accomplish concrete goals. As a fellow non-joiner who is allergic to rules, these are flexible enough to serve and not offend.