4 distilld lessons on community from Barack Obama x The Michelle Obama Podcast

Here are the distilld lessons (extended) from Episode #1 of The Michelle Obama Podcast with Former President, Barack Obama.

4 distilld lessons on community from Barack Obama x The Michelle Obama Podcast

Here are the distilld lessons (extended) from Episode #1 of The Michelle Obama Podcast with Former President, Barack Obama.


The joys and pains of life are meant to be shared with people around us. Former First Lady Michelle Obama talks with her husband former President Barack Obama on episode of The Michelle Obama Podcast about how true progress for us lies in the idea of building a community, and moving towards inclusivity, openness, and we-ness. There is a common perspective today that success lies in becoming self-sufficient – you become successful when you no longer rely on anyone but yourself. But that kind of success is isolating. The real value of success lies in sharing it with other people.

Read this if…

  • You want to learn how to share your success
  • You grew up in a tight-knit community
  • You want to become part of a community

Guest bio

Barack Obama was formerly the President of the United States, and the first African American President of the United States. He was raised with help from his grandparents in Hawaii before he moved to Chicago after college to work with a group of churches to help rebuild communities. He attended law school in Harvard and was the first African American president of Harvard Law Review. He is married to Michelle Obama, with whom he has two daughters.

the distilld lessons (extended)

Ever heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”? It sounds slightly archaic. Maybe even a bit hyperbolic. But the sentiment behind it is we are hardwired to value our community’s contribution. Not just in raising children, but extrapolated out, it means that we benefit from sharing the joys and pains of life with the people around us.

This is what former President Barack Obama speaks about with his wife and former First Lady Michelle Obama on her podcast. The episode explores how relationships shape who we are – not just our personal relationships, but also our relationship with our community and our country.

Here’s the distilld lessons inspired by Episode One of The Michelle Obama Podcast.

1. Share your success with your community

Success is something to be shared with others – your family, friends, and even those in the community where you live. In a community, there is often a sense of solidarity. No one getting left behind, everyone lifting each other up. In a way, it’s not enough to succeed on your own. It’s better if you can succeed with everyone else. It’s also more meaningful when you help the people next to you succeed, too. This is paying it forward.

Success needs to be redefined as well. Keep in mind that success might not look like what we imagine it to be. The current mindset for many today is to aim for self-sufficiency. This is where we no longer need to rely on others and when we can support ourselves without any help. That’s how we often define success.

Although this is temporarily satiating for our pursuit of individualism, this kind of success can regularly lead to isolation. We should move away from focusing on our sense of self if we want to encourage more authentic connections with the people around us. To do this, we should try connecting with our community through our success rather than using it to differentiate ourselves.  

2. Learn to have “enough” instead of “having it all”

Then there’s the question of the illusionary pursuit of “enough”. When do we have enough? Short answer — never; if we continue to pursue it. If we keep wanting for things that are surplus to what we need, it perpetuates a feeling of inadequacy. The subtext of this desire is that we, by ourselves, aren’t enough.

But we should remember: enough is a choice, not a quantity.  

When we choose that what we have is “enough,” we take ownership for feeling content. It encourages us not to be dissatisfied by the story of not having — but on a deeper level, not being — enough. And we can nurture this kind of mindset if we foster a sense of community with the people around us. This is because communal thinking is about sharing. This makes everything easier to bear.

Unfortunately, today’s mentality equates success with “having it all.” Because of this, we can never have enough of everything. We always want more – a better career, a higher salary, personal fulfillment, passion. Everything.

In constantly chasing for the things we think we need, we forget to think about how the people around us are doing. Instead of asking how they are, we look at other people to compare their success with ours. This can lead to us to either feel dissatisfaction or to gloating.

The thing is, success isn’t meant to be a competition. It should be something to be shared, not hoarded. When we compare ourselves to others, it gives us a reason to feel discontented and dissatisfied with what we have.  This negates our achievements because our focus is on what we haven’t done — rather than celebrating what we have.

To make success meaningful, we should learn to enjoy what we have achieved instead of constantly reaching for more. Simple to say, sure. But powerful nonetheless.

3. Engage with the people around you

In order to share our success with others, we must first learn to build a community. This is something that the modern world needs to re-learn — the idea of seeking out others with whom to build relationships.

We seem increasingly comfortable with living a life in pursuit of our own wants. This puts a barrier between us and others. So, in order to engender a deeper feeling of fulfillment we have to move away from this. We need to actively engage with our neighbors, co-workers, and maybe, perhaps, even with fleeting strangers.

In actively engaging with others, we build a community. Having a community has many benefits. For one, we wouldn’t feel that we are carrying such an enormous burden on our own. We would have each other to lean on. The whole process of lifting each other up comes from the network of relationships in a community.

Creating a community isn’t geographical anymore either. The world as we know it has slowly begun to shrink. We’re no longer just living within our neighborhoods. Technology has reshaped how we relate to others. There are no longer clear boundaries between communities the way there was before. Take it as an opportunity to find similarities instead of differences, and then build your community from those things.

4. Take the conversation from the dining room into the world outside

Change can begin at home, but it shouldn’t stop there. It’s important to teach the young generation about why community matters. And, yes, this has to be in a context that younger audiences will understand. Just look to the digital context — the youngest generations have already built their own online communities.

Conversations like this allow for interaction, which is a way for everyone to practice being actively engaged with others. But that conversation has to take place outside our homes, too — literal, ideological and generational homes.  We should also initiate conversations with people outside our own small circles.

Start having the difficult conversations about ourselves and how we engage with others, not only around the dining table, but also within our communities. It’s important we understand just how significant community can be. In these times, there are things we simply can’t do on our own.

Let’s move towards inclusivity, openness, we-ness – values that define a community. We aren’t meant to live our lives in isolation. We don’t live in a vacuum – we’re meant to connect with others, to have a community. And in a community, we can lift each other up.

For a shorter conversation, the distilld lessons summary are here.

The Michelle Obama Podcast

Hosted by the former First Lady of the U.S., The Michelle Obama Podcast features conversations with her family, friends, and colleagues, where they have deep dive discussions on the relationships in our lives that partly shape who we are. Our distilld lessons here.

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