May 2023


Last year for my 60th birthday, my husband proposed a celebratory trip for me and six girlfriends in the Caribbean. My only responsibilities were to pack my clothes and pull a group together. He’d handle the rest.

If you know me even a little, you’ll give him big kudos: the gift of “Time with People I Love” is the best possible present.

But picking only six friends was a near-impossible task.

I’ve spent the last chapter of my life with the intention of building better, deeper and more meaningful friendships, and I must say that I exceeded my goals.

I’ve built bonds with more wonderful female friends than I even knew existed when I was neck-deep in corporate America.

So how did I decide who to include on this celebratory adventure? My first reaction was to think about my tribe. My posse.

Tribes and posses are such ancient yet modern concepts.

Historically, tribes were social divisions within societies made up of people similar in status, economic position, bloodlines and religion.

Posses were slightly more menacing but like-minded grouping: a group of people (usually men) summoned by the “lead guy” to help enforce the law. One person led, and the others did the dirty work.

We now describe tribes and posses with phrases like “my ride or die,” my inner circle, my peeps.

But I soon realized that I didn’t have, nor did I want, a fixed tribe, posse, inner circle or peeps.

I wanted to bust out of those familiar segments and predictable mindsets.

Why? Because by definition, groups of people in tribes and posses tend to be a lot like each other from the get-go, and they spend as much time keeping others out as they do inviting those who feel “other” in.

Who wants to only surround themselves with people whose lives and beliefs are shockingly similar? For me, “it’s a small world” would quickly become a “dull world” if I only associated with people like me.

I wanted a celebration with women who would stretch me and stretch each other.

I wanted to open the possibility for unexpected perspectives, experiences and growth.

I wanted a new form of community to kick-start my next 60 years.

Instead of just picking the people I’d spent the most time with, I began my process with an intentional gamble. I only invited people who didn’t know each other and were exceptionally different from each other.

Of course, I could see some sort of commonality between them (and I already loved each of them for the woman she was), but the potential points of connection and overlap were not obvious.

I chose my BFF sister, my college best friend, and an amazing woman I’ve only known for the last couple of years. One was in Alabama, the next in Stockholm, and the last in Marin, California. I included a poet, a highly-successful entrepreneur, and the only woman in my life who was a high school cheerleader and continues to bust out all the moves.

We ranged in age across a 40-year span, with pieces of our lives spent in different places and on different paths. We have ethnic, religious, geographic, stylistic, and cultural differences too. Introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts. Career-centric and inner-life led. Happily married. Happily not married. Somewhere in the middle.

The one thing we had in common (aside from being women and knowing me) was that we were all open to being open.

As we began our five days of togetherness, someone brought a birthday banner that said, ‘ExtravagANNEza’. But in the heat of my excitement, I read it as Extravag Anne za.

Extravag became our group moniker because an extra vag is always a good thing. A promising start to be sure.

* * *

From the moment we landed, we drank, twerked and swam. We swapped book recommendations, health tips and paddle board techniques. Some went to bed early, and others chatted till near dawn.

By the end of the first day, we were sharing childhood memories and telling stories. By day two, we were sharing secrets, goals and dreams. By day three, we were promising to support each other through all that life would bring.

By the fifth and final day, we cried that it had ended so fast.

Not only did we get to know (and love) each other, but I think we got to know and love ourselves a little bit more when framed by this new close-knit community of women who are very different.

* * *

Since that gathering, the connections and bonds have solidified across the miles.

Last week, we had a reunion, and while I can’t tell you what was shared because what happens in Extravag stays in Extravag, let’s just say it got even better.

The magic began at the level we’d left it, and we found that while we were apart, each of us became committed to replicating our experience in our own way. We’re creating new forms of communities that break us out of the tribal bubbles and posse protection that might have prevented the birth of this new collective.

The poet is becoming a singer and bonding in that new world. The cheerleader is becoming a business leader, and the career-exec is narrowing her scope to focus on the small connections that matter. The Swede is helping launch Parlay House in Stockholm. The community builder missed the reunion because she was off in Paris on her own community-building quest. My sister and I have expanded our connection through creative collaborations that span mediums, miles and meaning.

It turns out that moving outside of our bubbles didn’t burst them at all.

* * *

How might you grow beyond your tribe, posse or bubble?

Share it Small: How about getting to know someone whose life is really different than yours? It all begins with a simple invitation and your willingness to begin the conversation by sharing a personal truth that makes space for them to do the same.

Share it Big: Find your own Extravag! Maybe it’s pulling together a range of people from your own life, or maybe it’s inviting strangers into your world as I did when I began Parlay House. However you start shuffling the deck, you’re bound to be dealt an interesting hand.

Share it with Me: We all learn from each other. If you have had a revelation, a breakthrough, an insight, or a triumph, we can learn from you so please tell me about it here! I’m collecting stories of these cascades of good for ongoing community building and to track The Parlay Effect in action. I would love nothing better than to hear how you lifted, were lifted, or observed something in others that made you feel good and recognize your power.