By: Lauren King, 36 Degrees North
Like almost every other Tulsan, I ventured into The Gathering Place on Saturday afternoon for its grand opening. The park, as I’m sure you’ve heard by now, is 66 acres of stunning playgrounds, gardens, sports courts, dining areas and walking trails. And the grand opening was done right, complete with a parade, a pseudo-skydiving mayor, music from The Roots (Jimmy Fallon’s house band), a light show, and thousands and thousands of people.
And while that was all quite exciting, something about the day impacted me on a deeper level. And I haven’t been able to shake it.
There’s no argument. The Gathering Place is a game-changer for Tulsa. But even more so, the essence of The Gathering Place is a game-changer for Tulsa. And entrepreneurs, we can learn a great deal from it.
These are the thoughts that have resonated with me since that day. I share them with hopes of fostering dialogue and furthering the transformation of our city.
1. Diversity is strikingly beautiful.
When I first entered the park, I was struck by the diversity of the crowd. This is Tulsa, and you just don’t see various cultural groups interacting very often. Especially not in mass. And yet, here they were.
White, African-American, Asian, Hispanic and Middle Eastern children running across bridges and playing in sandboxes and literally squealing with joy as they took turns on the zipline.
And it wasn’t just the kids. Near the playground a fun, Latin band performed on a small stage as an audience clapped along. On a bench in front of the stage sat an older Asian couple, a black mother with the most adorable baby on her lap, and a young white boy- all enjoying the music (which was completely in Spanish).
During The Roots’ concert, I saw middle-aged white men, young black women and teenage girls in hijab all dancing- right next to each other- and having an absolute ball.
The sum of all this moved me. And from what I’ve heard, the same is true for many others.
I think it made us realize what we crave for our city.
There’s beauty in diverse people coming together and enjoying life side-by-side. And entrepreneurs, you have the power to foster more of this. Yes, the Gathering Place is sparking unity, but you can also fuel that fire by being aware of who you choose to do business with and who you hire and where you set up shop.
2. Humility is underrated.
About five minutes before The Roots’ concert began, we (my friends and I) spotted him. White polo. Khaki pants. White tousled hair. Red sweatshirt tied around his waist. George Kaiser. Casually walking into the crowd. A couple people approached him to say hello. A smattering of people gave him a round of applause and shouted, “Thank you, George!” But honestly, most people didn’t even notice him. They had no idea that the old guy walking right past their picnic blankets was the billionaire who made the park possible.
How cool is that?!
George never made this the George Show. He was rarely featured in news stories about the park. We’ve never seen his face on any official printed or digital material associated with project. To be honest, if he wasn’t one of our organization’s main funders, I probably wouldn’t have known who he was either.
There’s something special about the humility of this man. It somehow makes his generosity even more impactful, knowing it’s not self-serving.
Entrepreneurs, if you’re aiming to make a lasting impact, take a note from George. Elevate the people you’re serving. Give. Don’t be quick to grab the spotlight. I know it’s hard (and super counter-cultural), but look how exquisite the road less traveled can be.
3. Enjoy your work. Join the fun.
As George walked through the growing concert crowd, I assumed he’d make a quick pass-through to see how everything was going and then leave.
Instead, he plopped down on the grass and casually hung out until the show started. Then once it did, he was all-in on the fun. When The Roots encouraged the audience to clap their hands, George clapped his hands. When they said put your hands up, George put his hands up (see video below). When they did a call and response, George did the call and response. And he seemed to be having a blast doing it all. Soaking up the fruits of his labor.
Let’s do that too! Soak up your hard work. Take time to sit back and look at what you’ve created. Observe how far you’ve come. Remember the people you’ve served. Engage in the special moments. It’ll be the fuel you need to keep moving forward.
4. When it rains, keep dancing.
The sky was gray most of the day, and during the Roots’ set, it started misting. Then sprinkling. Then heavy sprinkling. At that point, I expected the crowd to thin out a bit. I was also listening for people around us to start griping- or at least commenting- on the rain. But no one seemed phased. Everyone just kept jamming and dancing and enjoying the soulful, rap music filling the space. A little rain wasn’t going to put a damper on this special experience.
What do we do when it rains in life? When things don’t go as planned or there’s a dark cloud hanging over a situation? Let’s try to stay. Be present. Focus on the joy in the moment. Sure, you might get wet. But don’t let it drive you to walk away. Tulsa businesses are growing, but we know there’s still a lot of work to be done to really put our city on the map. And in seasons, that work will be hard. But let’s keep standing and dancing in the midst of the rain.
Like watching a world-renowned band play while your clothes get soaked, it’ll be worth it.
Lauren King is the Communications Manager for 36 Degrees North, Tulsa’s Basecamp for Entrepreneurs.