Head of Book Clubs & Dinner Discussions -- We're Hiring!
Doubling Down on Deep Conversations
If you read nothing else, read this: we’re hiring for a Head of Book Clubs & Dinner Discussions — if you can have anyone over to dinner who would you choose? Your job is to invite them over for dinner. And as always you can apply for membership here.
Out of high school I almost became a classical musician. I chose computer science instead, but when I graduated college I moved to San Francisco and tried to join the youth council for the San Francisco Symphony orchestra, thinking it would be full of fellow music nerds like myself.
I went to the first event and saw a guy I knew and when I told him I had NO idea he was a classical music enthusiast, he clarified that oh no no no, he wasn’t, they just threw good parties.
I’ve written about these types of high society, fake “culture” events before, inspired by a cringe-worthy chainmail subway breakdancing performance for The Met’s Apollo Circle I went to years ago, and I now roll my eyes every time I get invited to a Salon or a chamber music concert, sure that I’ll arrive to a room full of people there for all the wrong reasons: because they think they SHOULD be interested in something not because they actually ARE interested in it.
So we treaded carefully when it came to thinking through Maxwell’s cultural programming — how do you create a culture of salons without it degenerating into a pseudo-intellectual circle-jerk, how do you create a meeting point for arts without attracting people who are only there to virtue-signal and don’t truly appreciate that art?
As part of that experimentation a few months ago we threw a 12-person Philosophy dinner with a long time friend, Johnathan Bi, at Maxwell. Johnathan published a philosophy lecture series on Girard a couple years ago and since then his phone has been ringing off the hook with tech luminaries wanting to take him to dinner.
He realized tech nerds like us actually really liked talking about philosophy and ideas, so we had the idea to throw a little intimate Sunday night dinner -- I'd donate the space and Jon would bring a crowd of like-minded people interested in discussing something specific, in this case: Rousseau's Origin of Inequality.
I met a bunch of amazing people who like nerding out about the same things I do -- big ideas -- and the next morning Johnathan texted me to tell me it was a "blast."
I realized, yeah, it WAS a blast!
This has always been what Maxwell Social wanted to be, but we never really *owned* it as part of our central marketing and led with it.
So I texted Johnathan and asked him if he knew anyone else who did discussions like this. He asked me what we were trying to build at Maxwell -- was it the city's center of "high culture?"
I said yes actually, that's exactly what our goal was. He said he'd love to join that mission and the intros started rolling in.
I realized that we had kind of soft-pedaled this part of our mission -- partially because of my prior experience I was afraid that someone might think we were pompous asses if we started inviting them to salons.
But also because when you start something in hospitality/nightlife there is an IMMENSE pressure to play the same game everyone else is -- attractive people/hot DJs/big influencers/parties.
And while I think there is no party better than a 90's cover band Maxwell party (and our membership base is plenty attractive!), in the end it's about the people, and we realized that even for those big parties, the people I actually wanted to be dancing to "Shout!" with at 1am were the people who I got along with on that much deeper intellectual and emotional level.
We've been leading with this part of our mission ever since and have been working on up to 40 different Sunday/Monday, 10-15 person dinner series, book clubs and more, the intellectual soul of the club, and we’re literally hiring a head of Book Clubs and Dinner Discussions to lead this.
I joke that this has always been our mission but we finally "grew the balls" to say that and be ok owning the nerdy nature of building a social space around real discussions and connections, basing our membership on people looking to build and accomplish things instead of around the typical "models and bottles" culture that seems to permeate nightlife no matter how hard you try to move away from it.
We’ve talked at length about how past community models were built around an idea of “our people” — but back then it was easy to figure out who your people were, they looked like you or believed something very specific — they were the same race, sex or religion.
But we realized “our people” were ones who enjoyed talking about ideas, real dinner conversations and nerding out about real issues, in short, real, actual culture, void of all the status and scene.
If this sounds like your cup of tea, if you love book clubs, if you are planning cool events or simply want to attend the next Philosophy dinner, as always you can apply for membership here and if you want to LEAD those dinners:
David, Kyle & Joelle