This is the fourth installment in the multi-site series “5 Ways to Live the Life You Were Meant To”:
- Get Motivated by Joel Runyon
- Be Your Own Boss by Eric Pratum
- Living the Dream by Mark Lawrence
- How to Build Your Community by David Crandall (Oh ya…that’s me!)
- Find the Company That Lets You Be You by Srini Rao
Make sure to check out the other parts too!
Community is the key
Regardless of your goals or how you frame your world, there is one skill that will boost your success like none other. Lifestyle designer or corporate mogul. Young, old or anywhere in between. Regardless of your set of demographics, if you want to sell products or services, become celebrity famous, or just build a custom tailored group of friends, you need to know how to build community.
You won’t be able to live the life you were meant to if you isolate yourself!
As I began preparing to write my contribution to the 5 part series “5 Ways to Live the Life You Were Meant For”, I was reminded of something about community building. Yes, there are skills involved (all of which can be learned). Yes, those skills can be improved upon by process and standardization. However, above all else, community building is a mindset.
You build community because you look for opportunities to do so. You build it because you expect it. You build it because you constantly think about it and are intentional in your every action to create it!
If you’re not intentional about the process, who knows where you’ll end up.
In both my online and offline lives, I am intentional about creating community wherever I go. It’s part of my DNA. Put me in a room full of strangers and I will start to assemble them together into a community-like structure.
I want to share some of that DNA with you.
Why is community important
I firmly believe that we operate best when in community with other people. Whether you believe we got here through creation or evolution, all indication seems to point to the fact that we have something inherently in us that draws us towards others.
Why? The same reasons it’s always been important: Protection & Support
It’s might be obvious that our ancestors used community for protection; our predators were more likely to pick off stragglers than a pack of us walking around. However, community today serves a similar purpose.
We no longer live in fear of hungry saber-tooths or rampant woolly mammoths. Instead, our predators are human. Wander out alone and these modern day predators will make a lunch out of you, but it is much more difficult to devour us when we band with our community. Bullies pick on the individual, not the strong majority.
As many of us know, the worst predators are usually ourselves. We devour our own dreams and correct thinking more than any outside force. Community is the strongest tool we have to fight against our poor thinking and continue down the path to our dreams. While powerful when we are isolated, the lizard brain has a much more difficult fight when we surround ourselves with others.
And this isn’t just a bunch of “gather around the campfire and hold hands while we sing” crap! Business and marketing people have long known that communities can serve as protection from poverty. I’m not talking about a disconnected group of customers, but about a thriving group of people who are connected to you and each other who want to support you (and thus, keep your ass out of the poor house).
I’ll take that, thank you very much.
On to the “How To” part
Like I said, this is a “How to”. Even if you do not have a strong community mindset at this time, like any mindset, it can be cultivated and strengthened by intentional practices. Keep in mind that the following are tools and guidelines to help you form community, but that people are dynamic and messy at times…which means that you need to adapt these guidelines to YOUR community.
And now for the “How to”:
1. Develop a Vision
There is an ancient text that I read regularly which says:
Where there is no vision, the people perish.
If we have no vision or goal, how can we be intentional about anything (this applies to more than just community building, btw). If we are not intentional, we will not build a strong community. At best, we may assemble people around us but our community bond will be weak.
Before anything else, decide that you want to build a community. Always keep this vision in front of you and make sure that your actions fall in line with it. If they don’t, then you either need to not do that action OR modify your vision. Either way, be intentional and not reactionary!
2. Start small
Mass Twitter follows that spam huge numbers of people won’t work for building a community. Yes, they might get a lot of people’s names and information, but a glorified address book is not a community; people are not connected with someone because their name appears next to someone else’s on an email list.
In the offline world, we don’t expect to walk into a crowded room, tell people we are there, and have them fawn over us. The same holds true online. Why? Because we’re still dealing with actual human even though we are separated by a computer screen.
Again, the focus of our vision is to build community, not a list. We want people to connect with us and others.
Your first few people are important since they will set the stage for who is to follow. For those first few, here are some suggestions for what to look for:
- Teachable – People who are looking to learn from you and others
- Benefit: Your community will grow and not stagnate
- Engaging - People who already show a history of being strong connectors themselves
- Benefit: Your community can grow outside of your own efforts
- Optimistic – People who tend more towards the “glass half full”
- Benefit: When (not “if”) trouble arises in your community, these people will be key in helping maintain positive attitudes and responses
- Pro-active – People who intentionally look for opportunities to take action
- Benefit: Towing the line is rough work; pro-active people make the work lighter since they are willing to share the burden
3. Respect your community
This can apply differently to all of us. If someone chooses to be brash and constantly swears online, their ideal community will probably do the same things. I would also venture to guess that the way that brash community shows each other respect will differ greatly from a community of conservative religious mothers of small children. I say that to point out that respect is not a formula. Study your people and see what they find respectful.
We can only lead where we have been given permission to do so. Building and leading a community is a privilege we earn through respecting that community.
4. Be with your community
If our desired community hangs out on Twitter, we need to show up where they are at. If they are the types that participate heavily in forums, we need to also. If they’re not online but congregate somewhere offline, if that is our desired community, we need to do so too!
Be respectful of where your desired community exists. Be willing to go where they are at.
Even if it is part of your plan to lead people to do something or be somewhere, we can’t stand far off on our own little hill and bark instructions. We have to first go where they are to lead them.
5. Highlight your community
We all love the sound of our name. In a crowded room with everyone talking, we always hear when someone says our name.
Don’t be afraid to use that principle to build your community!
Are people in your community doing awesome things? Highlight them! Make sure to sing their praises in front of others. We are more loyal to people who acknowledge and help us achieve our own goals and the goals of our community.
6. Connect your community
While we never admit it out loud (or even to ourselves), we operate in such a way that conveys our TRUE thoughts about ourselves…and our true thoughts are much like the narrator of Fight Club than we would care to admit:
I was the warm little center that the world revolved around.
I’m not going to try and change that thought pattern; I’m not into futile efforts. Ha! However, if we only allow our community to revolve around us, it will never grow to its full potential. The community’s strength lies in inter-connectivity.
Do your people know each other? If not, start the introductions. Don’t be afraid to let them build relationships that don’t involve you. While the fear may occur that they will leave us never to return, in truth, our community becomes MORE loyal since we have poured into their lives and done something for them personally!
The life you were meant for
The life you were meant for can only be found in community. I have no room in my beliefs to think that any of us are destined for isolation (hell, if you REALLY thought that would you be here in the first place?)
The difference between living “A” life and living “THE” life is heavily dependent upon WHO you surround yourself with. Your community has more emotional and motivational impact on you and the outcome of your dreams than any other single factor!
Now my question for YOU is this:
Will the community you surround yourself with lead to the life you were meant for? Or is it time for a change?