I’ve been thinking a lot about community lately, especially after the post I wrote about getting time alone. There are two sides to that coin, I think. So, since I’ve already talked about how important it is for anyone to have time to yourself, I’m going to now talk about how important it is not to take that too far.
I’ve heard stories about people who are members of a very exclusive group of some kind. A group of men and women that have a common purpose and that fight (often literally) for a shared goal. The one that springs to mind readily are units of the armed forces. Many of the stories I’ve heard are of soldiers, sailors and marines from World War II. These men spent months and years of their lives together, away from family and friends, until they literally become family surrogates for each other. Fighting for your lives will do that for you. The same goes for their families back home. Their wives and children had to support each other in the face of tremendous stress and adversity.
These units would have periodic reunions years or even decades later (I recall reading about a lot of these reunions around 10 or 15 years ago, when many of them were at their 50th anniversaries) and it would seem as though no time had passed at all. They would literally pick up where they’d left off, as though not a day had gone by.
I’ve always been extremely jealous of this kind of unity. I didn’t experience it myself in the military; I would bet mainly because I was never deployed and was never in harm’s way. I was a member of some sports teams that were close, but nothing like this. This kind of community can ONLY arise under very special circumstances, such as when:
1. Extended amounts of time are spent together. If you’ve ever read the book Band of Brothers (or seen the miniseries by the same name), you’ll recognize this. The men of Easy Company spent months together in deplorable conditions becoming a team. No breaks, no days off, and no rest. They had to motivate each other through it, because most folks alone wouldn’t have the willpower to finish it. As soon as they finished training, they were dropped into war together, and things became even more intense. This type of closeness and reliance upon each other develops a bond rarely seen outside of these types of conditions.
2. A common adversary presents itself. The adversary could be physical or metaphorical. Perhaps it’s an enemy army, or a crusade against global warming. The people you bond with the most are people with whom you share common interests. If you share a fanatical devotion either for or against these common interests, the bonds developed will be that much stronger. Think about it: if you and another person both enjoy dogs, you may have something to discuss at a dinner party. If you raise the same breed of dogs, you may have cause to contact each other after the party and form a friendship. If you’re the type of people who break into cosmetic testing facilities to release dogs held there, then you may end up joining forces to do something about an issue you’re passionate about. As the level of commitment to the cause rises, so does your commitment to the others involved with you.
3. You’re in the minority. Being a member of a limited group is an incredibly bonding experience. Going back to armed forces analogies for a moment: I was in the Army. If I meet a Navy SEAL, we have (a very small) something in common. However, when that SEAL meets someone who was in Army Spec Ops, or was Force Recon in the Marines, they’ve got a little bit more in common, because they were all parts of elite fighting units that the rest of the military can’t understand. But, when one SEAL meets another SEAL, they are instantly bonded. Even if they’ve not met previously, they know exactly what it takes to become one of the very few, and it means something to them. Though everyone views events and circumstances through different eyes, the SEALs have such a formative experience in their past that they can rely on the other seeing things pretty much the same way. It’s a very special thing to be a SEAL, and each of them knows it. The respect that comes from passing through SEAL training is an automatic seal (no pun intended) of approval.
Seth Godin, in his book Tribes, talks about the fact that crowds are tribes waiting for a leader to give them a voice. Crowds usually only form when there’s a common interest. Perhaps a crowd forms in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, or a crowd on a freeway forms when there’s an accident preventing them from getting past. These types of crowds don’t have much in common, and there really isn’t much one could do to unify them.
However, everyone that’s reading this website is somewhere along the spectrum of moderately interested to insanely passionate about personal development. There could be a tribe here, because everyone is interested in the same issue.
There are also other interests that each of you have, and you’re constantly seeking for other people who share your same passions. You may be the person who can organize the crowd that’s congregating around that passion into a tribe. The question is, how do you give them their voice?
So, what passion do you have that could grow into a tribe? How do you identify other people with the same passion? Once you’ve found them, how do you give them a voice? What can you do this week to find a tribe to become a part of, or to lead? Let us know in the comments…
(Ed. Note – the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, which means I would get paid a little bit of money if you were to purchase anything through them. If you don’t like that, don’t avoid checking them out just on that basis alone. Just surf on over to Amazon (or the internet retailer of your choice) and find them on your own. Thanks!)