A Working Out Loud (WOL) Circle meets one hour a week for 12 weeks. As Working Out Loud author John Stepper points out in his circle guides, this may feel daunting, but it actually represents only 2% of your time. When we commit this one hour a week, we give ourselves the opportunity to create new habits within a fixed period of time. We know we won’t get burned out. We know the end is in sight, only 12 weeks down the road.

But, our lives are busy, and other commitments may conflict with our WOL meetings, despite our best efforts to keep that a “sacrosanct” time. I was out of town this week for several days of meetings, and for the first time, I missed a WOL meeting. Though I was very sorry to miss the time with my group, as we meet regularly using Zoom video conferencing software, the meeting was easily recorded and shared in our private Yammer group for later viewing.

It was a long week away from home, but upon my return I was able to settle in and watch the meeting recording. Usually, I dread the prospect of having to watch a recorded meeting or webinar, but watching my WOL friends and colleagues talk about their goals, their challenges and victories was a real joy. I felt oddly detached and closely connected, all at the same time.

It occurred to me that these people I was watching started WOL only as work colleagues, and now one could only surmise they were all dear, lifelong friends. They were laughing, sharing intimate insights, and encouraging and challenging each other throughout the entire conversation.

It was a real joy to see how far along we have all come. The assumption is that after 12 weeks, we will have developed new habits and be thinking in new ways, and watching the meeting recording, I found this to absolutely be the case. People are blogging, people are connecting with contacts in new, innovative ways, their work and personal lives are being changed for the better through what they have learned in WOL.

It was a real joy to not facilitate the meeting. Don’t get me wrong, I love facilitating WOL conversations, but after facilitating this group for 10 weeks, I was so happy to see the momentum easily continue in my absence. Other participants stepped right in, they kept the conversation on track, and they prepared for the next meeting.

It was a real joy to be tested. Yes, tested. The meeting was liberally peppered with information my WOL colleagues insisted I report back to them to show that yes, I had indeed watched the recording. I love this. It mattered to them that I was not there, it mattered to them that I keep up with the group, and it mattered to them that I continue to learn along with them.

It was a real joy to know that although I missed the meeting this week, I was able to continue making meaningful progress in my goal. Through connections made online and in person, the work of Working Out Loud continues.

Although it is just 2% of your time, one hour a week for 12 weeks is a serious commitment, and from time to time, meetings will need to be missed. But a missed week does not mean missed opportunities. Stay connected to the group, stay connected to the goal, and before you know it, week 12 will be here!

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