Finding the Common Denominator

“Our similarities bring us to common ground. Our differences allow us to be fascinated by each another.” – Tom Robbins

In today’s political and social environment, it is easier to find things that divide us versus bring us together. You name it, race, religion, gender, or politics, everyone has a perspective and, in some cases, are quite passionate about that view. You add technology and we begin to miss out on true human connections.

By nature, we crave human connection. In fact, Maslow’s Hierarchy of need has love and belonging right behind the basic needs for food, shelter and safety. Yet our preconceived bias can keep us from creating relationships with others because they are not like us.

But what if there was an environment where everyone is the same. A place where you never have to talk about your thoughts on the President or the latest headlines. Age differences become irrelevant. A place where you check your differences at the door and focus on one thing, enjoying a shared experience. 

That is what is starting to happen in the Kentucky bourbon industry.

As my journey began in the spirits industry, I had but one mission, create an environment that made learning about whisk(e)y, especially Kentucky bourbon, approachable and fun. I wanted to break the perception of bourbon being a man’s drink. What I unexpectedly discovered is that a shared bourbon experience can be the great common denominator that brings people together.

At events I have shared whisk(e)y with people literally from age 21 to 96. Women and men from all different backgrounds interested in learning more. For the most part it did not matter where you were on your journey, novice, enthusiast or connoisseur, there is always something new to learn, a sensory experience to explore or the awe and excitement of meeting one of the rock stars of bourbon.

On my bourbon journey, I have been honored to meet individuals I never would have ever met otherwise. People from different parts of the community, country and the world who share but one thing, a common interest in Kentucky bourbon. Through this common interest we find ways to connect and get to know each other, forming lifetime friendships. Instead of sharing pictures of our kids, we are sharing pictures of the new bourbon we discovered, or the rare unicorn discovered at our local liquor store.

The Kentucky bourbon industry itself is built upon a philosophy of all boats rise. In all my years in the business world, it is something I have never seen in any other industry. Competitors will go out of their way to help each other in a time of crisis. They work together to promote the industry, recognizing if one wins, they all win. 

“No one is exempt from the call to find common ground.” – Barack Obama

Over a glass of bourbon, we can discover we have more in common than what we thought. We get to know each other as humans and hopefully we are able to leave our unconscious bias behind. We get to recognize that we are all mothers, daughters, sisters, fathers, sons, brothers and friends who want to experience the best that life has to offer. We get a chance to fulfill our need for love and belonging by sharing our love for Kentucky bourbon.

I am not saying Kentucky bourbon is the answer to solving the current divide in our country, but it is one way of bringing a few of us together to get to know each other better, build friendships and develop human connections. Maybe together we can help each other rise and in the end we all rise.

Linda Ruffenach

Founder / Chief Strategic Officer at Execuity. Linda is an experienced entrepreneur, skilled facilitator, and bourbon badass. Her 20+ years of C-level experience enables her to relate to the challenges business owners face every day. As the former CEO of a $100 million international enterprise, she has been through almost every stage a company can experience from fast growth, rapid decline, to complete transformation. In addition to running multiple businesses, Linda is Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Louisville's School of Business, leading and mentoring undergrad and graduate students on their path to business ownership Linda’s superpower is turning strategy into results.