Sometimes, heroes work alone, by necessity or by design.
And sometimes, when facing an adversary that’s too powerful, a quest that is long and arduous, or a threat to their city or country or world that is too great for them to handle alone, they must band together.
And so heroes join forces, forming a team like the Avengers, or the Justice League, or the Fellowship of the Ring.
Sometimes, even when a threat is not imminent, heroes band together for support and friendship. Even loners like Logan (Wolverine) need the support and understanding and camaraderie of their fellow mutants, the wise counsel of Professor X, and the sense of home they find at The Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters.
Heroes do things that set them apart from the rest of humanity, whether they are the “super-powered” kind of hero, or the “everyman” kind. Often, that separation is a necessary product of who they are—having powers that others fear, or envy, or would exploit, or appearances that engender fear or distrust or outright hostility, or having the need for secret identities to keep their loved ones safe—but sometimes simply it’s because they think and act differently than “normal” folks.
If you’re like me, you may have experienced much the same thing when you talk to others about doing work that lights you up and changes the world, making art that gifts others with new vision, or building a business based on your own principles and values instead of just “maximizing shareholder value.” Maybe you’ve struggled to help others understand why you want to reduce your number of possessions to 100 or less and move into that tiny house, or live and work out of your suitcase for a year while you travel in Southeast Asia, or stay home for six months so you can finish writing and illustrating your graphic novel.
Your colleagues, friends, and family want the best for you (at least what they perceive to be the best). Perhaps they’re trying to protect you from some disaster they foresee in your future—one they’re convinced you don’t see because you’re so excited and energized by the prospect of this new venture. Or maybe you’ve tried other things in the past and they didn’t work out the way you planned, but instead of seeing those previous “failures” as learning experiences, as things that brought you to the place you are now, they see them as a pattern that continues to repeat, and will repeat, into your future.
So they say things like:
- “What are you going to do if it doesn’t work out?”
- “Do you remember what happened when you tried [starting your own bakery/building that network marketing business/leaving your job to write that novel]? It didn’t work out so well for you…”
- “What will you do if you don’t [find enough customers/sell anything/make enough money]? What will you do to pay your bills?”
- “You’re giving up a perfectly good job—shouldn’t you just be happy you’re working?”
- “You have a good life right now. Shouldn’t you just be happy with what you have?”
Sometimes you may have good answers for those questions. Other times, you don’t—you just know in your gut you can’t keep doing what you’re doing, can’t keep living the way you’ve been living, can’t keep working that job and buying those things you don’t need and watching TV you don’t really care about, all in the attempt to fit some mold that wasn’t made for you.
Maybe you’ve even reached the point where you’ve stopped telling your friends or family or associates what you’re working on, keeping your conversations to safe topics, so you don’t have to answer the questions, or see the look of concern, or hear the disapproval in their voices.
Even when you know they have your best interests at heart, it’s hard to hear these things that cause you to second-guess yourself, that shake your faith, that sap your energy. That make you want to just give in, give up, and quit.
So what do you do?
You can’t fire your family, you have to work with your colleagues, and you’ve known your friends for years (and they know you—or at least the you that you’ve been, if not the you you’re becoming).
So what do you do?
You create your own fellowship. You build your own League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (and Gentlewomen). Or, as Seth Godin puts it, you find (or build) your tribe.
Finding (or Creating) Your Tribe
Okay… but how do you do that?
Some of you might be thinking that. I know I used to. Just like I used to think that I was the only one that felt the way I do.
And I was okay with my “difference”—or so I thought.
It took me experiencing a profound connection to a group of people, online and in person over the past year, to realize that I’d accepted where I was, because I didn’t know any better.
I kept my feelings locked up, shared with only a few, and didn’t fully embrace who I was and what I wanted to do in the world: to create and share powerful stories that inspire people to break free of the gravity that’s holding them down, and to do the things they’re meant to do.
Did being closed off hold me back? I’m positive it did. It kept me silent when I should have spoken up. It kept me afraid when I should have reached out. It kept me cursing myself for my failures instead of figuring out what they were teaching me.
But since I’ve connected with so many great people, I feel like finally things are starting to move. Momentum and energy and excitement are building. I’m excited to do my own great work, and excited to help others find and do theirs.
Environment Is Everything
Scott Dinsmore says often, “Environment Is Everything.” He means that surrounding ourselves with the right people makes all the difference, in our lives, and in theirs. He is so right. When we find the right people—those who share the same values and speak the same language—and build genuine, meaningful relationships with them, we’re stronger together, capable of things far beyond those we ever thought possible by ourselves.
Share the Same Values
In my WDS 2014 post, Ready Room for Heroes, I talked about the power of community, of finding and connecting with “our people” whether online or in person. I gained so much energy and excitement by being around so many people who understood—who understood what I was trying to do, even if their vision was not the same as mine. Who understood that the “American Dream” and our outdated structure for work and life doesn’t fit everyone (and in fact, is fitting fewer and fewer of us…). Who understood that it’s as important to find our own truth as it is to help others find theirs. Who understood—and accepted—that wanting something different, something more, something better is perfectly okay.
The weekend after WDS, I got to spend Saturday with another group of inspiring folks at the first Live Your Legend Local Texas Regional Meetup in Austin. And the same thing was true there. We connected in a way that was really powerful. Strangers who became friends, who share different visions but common values (thanks again to Mike Goncalves of The Wellness Bucket for that truth), and who understood, like the mutant’s at the Xavier School understand, that they are different, that being different is okay, and that finding and helping others who are different is important.
Speak the Same Language
As someone who’s been blessed with good family and good friends of many years, I still sometimes find myself struggling to explain. To explain why I’m not satisfied with what I have now, even though it’s a great life overall. To explain my desire to do something different. To explain that all of my attempts and stumbles, many failures and a few successes, false starts and non-finishes are all part of a process that’s getting me—however slowly by some standards (including my own sometimes)—to the place I want to be.
So for me, one of the key benefits of finding my people has been that I don’t have to explain. I’m surrounded by people who understand, and who are feeling the same way. We speak the same language.
I started this post by talking about the reasons heroes join forces: they can do greater things together than they can separately.
The same is true of us. We don’t do anything alone, as much as some of us might pretend we do. When we create or discover, we “stand on the shoulders of giants” who came before us. We are supported and nurtured and inspired by others doing great work, in our field and in others. Our people put us in contact with others who are doing their own great work, and those connections provide us new opportunities or insight.
Our tribe doesn’t need to be huge, either, to make a difference. Even just having a “partner in crime” can make a profound change in what we accomplish and how we help others. Lately I’ve become attuned to the power of partnerships to really make a difference in the lives of the partners and in the lives of the people they reach.
Take as an example my friends Leah and Naz of RYPL.net, rocking Australia (and now the world!) helping people master their inner game and create their own ripple effects in the world. Or Sean, Johnny, and Dave of Sterling & Stone and the Self-Publishing Podcast, creating cool stories and useful teachings faster and better than any one of them could do on their own. Or the power of co-creating—how 32 of us are taking a piece of Gary Hirsch’s very cool art and creating something inspired by it (see details at The Incomplete Story).
Or even my own “partnership in accountability” with James Taylor of PartTimePhoto.com, keeping each other moving forward, inspiring and encouraging each other to keep stretching and posting helpful content to our readers.
All of these partnerships are examples of the adage “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” So find yourself a partner who shares your values, and maybe even some of your vision. Work together to create something bigger and better than either of you could do alone. A tribe of one becomes a tribe of two—and watch it grow from there!
How to Find or Build Your Tribe: Next Steps
Commit to yourself to do one thing (today!) to start making meaningful connections in the world, on your way to finding or building your tribe.
Here are just a few ideas:
- Leave a comment on a blog you frequent but have only been lurking (even this one), or post something in a forum you belong to.
- Start (or dust off) a social media account and say something. Anything is good.
- Find and join a local group or meetup on a topic that you love. Online is great, but I’m finding that nothing beats the inspiration, energy, and connection of meeting your tribe in the real world. And if you don’t click with the first group you try, that’s okay. Sometimes it’ll take a few tries.
- Ask people questions about what lights them up, what they’re building, what sort of dent they want to make in the universe.
- Help people. Based on what you find out, see if you can come up with a way to help them. You’ll be amazed at the power of being in service to someone else.
- Thank people. Thank the restaurant staff for an excellent meal. Thank the guy who picks up your garbage. Show gratitude for people who are of help or service to you.
And For Even More Help
If you’re like me, and have struggled in the past to connect to new people in a powerful, meaningful way, you might benefit from a course that Scott Dinsmore offers over at Live Your Legend. It’s called How to Connect with Anyone (CWA for short), and it offers a powerful set of tools, techniques, and support to help you make meaningful connections, both online and in the real world.
I took the course in Fall 2013. And that one decision is probably the single most powerful thing I’ve done for myself in years. It started a ripple effect that continues to this day. I found my people, my tribe, my fellowship. I made new friends, both online and in person. I embraced my expert and started this blog. I volunteered to lead one of the Live Your Legend Local meetups, to bring people together in the real world. Which led to attending WDS, teaching a writing workshop at the regional meetup… and who knows what comes next?
The new round of CWA opens this week. I encourage you to check it out and see if it’s something that might be right for you. It certainly changed my life for the better. I think it can do the same for you.
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