This idea of a sense of belonging became rather clear and focussed for me this month. I have had a number of conversations about TRIBE, and how as a marketer, as a small business you need to build your TRIBE! And that you need to bring together a community of people who will talk about you, spread your message through word of mouth referrals. Which is true, and is a good thing to have to sell your stuff. But what about the Tribe, or community, to which you personally belong?
According to psychologists, there are 5 main fears we all share as a human species:
– More than a fear of death, but a fear of being annihilated, of no longer being. More than death, it is a sense of no longer being relevant, of ever existing.
– losing part of our body, of ourselves. Something invading us, our space, our place and taking a part of us with them.
Loss of Autonomy
– being restricted, paralysed, unable to take care of ourselves, controlled by circumstances beyond our control.
– abandonment, rejection, a feeling of not being connected to others. Not being wanted by others.
– being humiliated or shamed, especially in front of others, or by someone whom you respect.
The idea of a tribe falls squarely into point 4. In marketing terms you want all these people to feel connected because of you. You have the best ideas, the best products, and because these other people all use your product they have something in common which they can all begin a conversation and hence a connection.
But as entrepreneurs, people who own our own business, or work from home, this fear of separation is very real for US. You may have a tribe of loyal fans following your every move, but what about a tribe that YOU belong to?
As a writer there is this mystique about it being a solitary lifestyle, hunched over the computer in the wee hours of the morning, pouring out prose. Alone. Like that Whitesnake song. And while that is not entirely true, I do believe that I do not have a very strong writing tribe which I belong to. Oh I have friends who are writers, and we talk writing, but I don’t feel like there is a community.
I have ventured to the Wheeler Centre in the Melbourne CBD, but it feels cold and quiet. Not like a place you can hang out and be with fellow writers. I know there is a writing group down the road from me who meet on a Thursday, but I play basketball at that time so I cannot make it.
I am a member of a few writing groups on Facebook, which are sometimes okay, but nothing to which I feel that invested in.
Then I looked around me at other aspects of my life, and the first time I had that lightbulb moment of being in a community was this season of basketball. I am a Shift Supervisor at my local stadium on a Sunday afternoon. So while already being friends with some refs, I am now in a position of mentorship. And indeed, I was given the chance to guide two newbie refs, or Greenshirts, to their stripes this season. The confidence in me as a leader was such that I was given 2 Greenshirts, where others were only given one.
That got me thinking that- here are all these people, mostly all younger than me, all wearing the same uniform, all speaking a particular language, having similar shared experiences, having that nod and smile when you bump into them into the street. Here was an environment where I would hang around at after my shift to chat to fellow refs, or supervisors. I had found a tribe.
My second instance this year about belonging happened this week. I am teaching at RMIT in Melbourne, teaching kids on how to write persuasive copy. I was wandering around the halls, with my teacher’s ID badge on. I was told I got 10% off at the café. A few students waved and said hello. I joked with them about them doing the class work. All fun and games.
I felt professional, in a place full of other professionals, full of people wanting to learn. I was in a place that LOOKS professional and new and sleek. And I belonged.
So this morning, when the conversation I was having with a writer friend got me thinking about belonging, about community, I thought- I have these 3 main areas where I either have or want connection, how is that reflecting on the genre of community I want?
I know I am enjoying my reffing and supervising. I feel respected and feel like I belong, and while the hours may be late, and running around can be tiresome sometimes, and the players you deal with can sometimes be a handful, I have support around me.
I am enjoying my teaching. I have conversations with other teachers about ways to teach and engage. I have a pass that lets me into the staff only area, where I speak with amazing people who all have their own stories about why they are teachers.
Right now I am struggling to get my book up and published. An editing “fix” removed major formatting, which means crawling back through the book and fixing it again. I am doing this on my own.
While I know for myself this needs further consideration and meditation, it seems that if you have a tribe, if you belong to a group, then whatever that genre of group represents for you, you have better chances of feeling happy, motivated and have a bigger sense of accomplishment in whatever you are doing which links with them.
From looking at my personal communities, to the communities you interact with professionally, the one which comes to mind are business networking groups. There are a number of them out there, from BNI to Zest, to business groups associated with local councils. And while they can feel effective, being a part of a business networking group does not necessarily mean you are a part of a tribe.
The promise of networking and increased business can be a nice thought, but how often have you met people who thrust their business card upon you and then try to sell you their kool-aid?
The best people I have met from business networking groups have been those I have had a conversation with. I have left a few groups in my time but I have taken friends with me. And so I am slowly building up a small business tribe for myself. It is not yet as psychologically effective as the basketball and education tribes I have built, but it is growing, certainly.
I have therefore begun to believe that while building the tribe to service your product or service is important, just as important is belonging to a tribe who will inspire you and push you and challenge you and most importantly support you. Being in business for yourself is a hard slog. But having people around you who understand this for themselves, and embrace you warmly when it happens to you, will have a positive impact on you personally, and help keep you motivated to be in business.
If you want to be inspired, if you want to feel like you are making forward motion in your business, or if you feel the need to talk to someone about business, someone who has been there and done that, build a tribe of fellow business owners. Not a business coach per se, but a group you can sit and talk through things with. Not a networking group with an annual membership fee, but a cabal of colluding cohorts who have got your back.
Find YOUR tribe.