From the Vault #7 | Your Third Place

Our From the Vault series examines episodes from The Art of Charm’s past more deeply; we invite you to revisit them — or discover them for the first time — with us. This From the Vault explains why we should all have three main places we go regularly: home, work, and our third place. We’ll dive into what this third place is and why it’s important.

Episode 403: Your Third Place was recorded in May 2015 and is part of AoC’s Toolbox series. Johnny Dzubak, one of the head instructors in our residential programs, noted that many of the guys coming through boot camp didn’t have a third place, and he had just finished reading a book by Ray Oldenburg called The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community and really wanted to share this topic with the AoC family.

Okay, so What Is This Third Place?

Your first place is your home, your second place is work, and your third place is where you hang out. In older countries these places are taken for granted and are intimately melded with that country’s culture. In Vienna, Paris, and Rome these third places are often coffee shops. In London, pub culture is synonymous with the notion of third place. Howard Schultz, in the way he built Starbucks, also made sure all the employees of that company recognized the potential of each Starbucks to become a third place for a society that had grown up without even knowing what such a thing was.

Johnny shared a story about a friend who spends half the year in Los Angeles and half the year in London and one Sunday in L.A. she called him, feeling a bit homesick, and asked if he might join her at the bar. This was a Sunday that Johnny actually felt up to downing a few more pints, and he joined her. She mentioned that almost any corner pub in England on a Sunday is filled with the entire community — adults, children, even dogs. They are eating, laughing, watching football (that’s “soccer” for some of us), and just generally celebrating life.

What Makes This Place Special?

Jordan asked the question some of you might be pondering: “Why can’t I just chill out at home?” Johnny pointed out that it’s an opportunity to be around others without worrying about hosting. Other people are doing the cooking, cleaning, etc. AJ and Johnny went on to describe four key criteria for a third place:

  1. It is a leveler. No one is more important than anyone else; you’re just a member of the community. A blue collar worker can sit next to a white collar worker and there’s no hierarchy enforced. In fact, you aren’t even defined by what you do for work because that’s entirely up to you to disclose.
  2. It’s a place primarily for conversation. This can be lighthearted laughing or banter, or serious and engaging conversation. But it isn’t a silent place where people come to quietly nurse a pint. It’s a place where people talk.
  3. It’s a place that nurtures a community. This is in part due to its location — a place proximate to where people live, but it’s also because people become regulars, and it becomes another place to check in with people. If you don’t see someone who you usually see, you might wonder about them and check up on them to make sure all is okay. It creates additional social strength in our society which seems to be ever more fragmented (and encouraged to be that way).
  4. It’s unstructured. There’s no designated activity. People might be throwing darts or chatting up the opposite sex or having a heart-to-heart. This lack of structure leads to a universe of possibilities. “It’s like Pee Wee’s Playhouse for adults,” Jordan quipped.

What Should We Look for in Scouting out a Place for Ourselves?

“A great third place has and attracts a wide variety of people,” AJ noted. The first and most important criteria is that it should be close to your place. You don’t want to get in a car and commute there. Some people may obviously not live in a situation that allows for this, but even if you do have to drive a bit, it shouldn’t be far — no more than five or ten minutes from your place.

It should play the sort of music you like and which attracts the kind of people you hang out with and want to meet. If it does that, it will also make you comfortable and able to relax, which is a primary goal of a third place.

You don’t want to get to know a third place on a Friday or a Saturday night. Go on an off-night or a weeknight and get to know the staff and the bartender. Start bringing some of your friends around — high-value individuals who are going to level up the environment. They will hopefully tip well, make you look good, and add to your halo, which you can leverage if and when you do come back on that Saturday night. Then it’s not just a place but our place.

There’s no reason for third places to only exist in TV sitcoms, like Friends or How I Met Your Mother. They aren’t fictional. They are an integral part of how many civilizations have lived over millennia. Don’t be afraid to take that back and start a seemingly new tradition among your own friends and peers. You’ll be glad you did.

From the Vault picks out a few concepts developed in a given episode but there’s lots more to hear, including Johnny and AJ’s musings on the difficulties of “monetizing” community in light of America’s zoning laws. Listen to the whole podcast here.

What’s special about your third place? How did you find it? Send your answers to to [email protected]

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Stephen Heiner - author of 36 posts on The Art of Charm

Stephen Heiner was born in Singapore and moved to America just before his ninth birthday. He's stepped foot on every continent except Antarctica, served in the US Marine Corps, and is living the charmed life of a writer in Paris. He has a passion for running small businesses and storytelling. More than anything he enjoys getting people to think differently about the things they take for granted. Here at The Art of Charm, Stephen matches his life experience to our content to extract key points in written form for our students and clients to ruminate and act upon.

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