Do you know the expression “Be interested, not interesting”? It’s advice that resonated with me more than ever after moving my family abroad for a stint as expats in Barcelona, Spain for a year. Why? Because when you find yourself far from friends, neighbors, and your community, you have to first and foremost listen and learn from those around you if you want to make any progress building relationships in a new environment.

What amazed me about the locals and expats in Barcelona I eventually befriended is that they were deeply committed to getting to know people long before they started talking about themselves. At one of the first networking events I attended— a holiday party— I met dozens of fascinating people but in the three or four hours I was there not one person asked me what I did or what venture I was starting, nor did they seem particularly keen on talking about their own professional lives.

There was a genuine interest in getting to know me as a person, not just as a businessman, and as a result we ended up establishing much deeper and more meaningful connections than we would have had we defaulted to the usual touchstones of job title or business area.  

The experience made me realize that who you are is more important than what you do — a refreshing change in perspective from the prevailing workaholic, career centric culture in the US.

This is not to say that a person’s work isn’t interesting, full of passion, or even something I would love to dig into. As a long time entrepreneur I enjoy hearing stories behind people’s businesses. But I much prefer tackling big questions in my conversations, asking people about their passion, what keeps them up at night, the issues and ideas that energize, frustrate, upset, or inspire them.

So among the many reasons why I started building this Jeffersonian Dinner community was to do just that: engage with people in a deeper and more authentic way. I aspire to bring conversations back to meaningful topics that open with big questions and move beyond the quotidien to other areas of life.

You too are more important than what you do. Maybe you’d like to join us?