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Gina Bianchini

Community Builder

Palo Alto, CA

If you are going to do something that terrifies you, first find a group.

I learned something really early from my family: Even the biggest challenges are less terrifying when you tackle them as a community.

My brother, sister and cousins (who lived across the fence from us) were my first group. We were all less than 24 months apart, and the proximity had its pluses and minuses. While we came up with more and more creative ways to fight at home, there was never a doubt that outside of our house, if you messed with one of us, you got all of us. The results weren’t pretty for those on the other side.

From school to sports, I was never not in a class project, club, team or theater group. From student government to speech and debate, field hockey, and peer counseling, when I was in a purpose-driven community, I felt safe to push myself and try for things that seemed out of my reach. As a member of a community, I grew because others pushed me; failure didn’t seem so scary because we were taking risks together.

When a drunk driver killed my father, it was our community that stepped in. While I understood the power of groups when things were normal, I soon discovered that when things got bad, it was our family friends, our church youth group, our community theater, and our sports teams that stood beside us. My father had been a high school history teacher and wrestling coach, and his colleagues - now my teachers - began to keep a closer eye on us because he no longer could.

I don’t recommend a parent’s death as the way to learn about the power of small communities, but it did make me realize that, if I sought out bigger challenges with the fellowship and solidarity of a group, I was going to strive for broader goals and build deeper relationships with interesting people throughout the journey.

It has been almost thirty years since my dad died and my life irrevocably changed. If there has been one constant in my life since that day, it has been the power of small groups, of compatriots in my life. I may even go so far as to suggest that failure - while never pleasant - can be fun with the right set of people. Even in failure, I have never gone wrong when rallying a small group of people equally passionate about an interest, goal or purpose around an idea.

As I sit here tonight with my team of five, each of us playing our part in putting the final touches on Lean In Circles on Mightybell, I’m reminded of how much I love these moments - building something we believe in, that we’ll learn from, and that we’ll do together.

If you are going to do something that terrifies you, first find a group.