📖 Book Chapter - Finding Your Tribe (Issue #21)
Your long-term success and happiness depend on finding your community
This is a draft of Chapter 17 from the book I’m writing, Building the Invincible You. In it, I share a framework and strategies for:
Amplifying your power in your work and life.
Regaining your freedom to spend more of your time the way you wish you could.
Building the future you want for yourself and your loved ones.
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Can you imagine having friends who don’t want to see you succeed?
A friend of mine made a significant career pivot years ago. He decided he wanted more out of work and life, so he invested in himself and went after it. Since then, he’s been very successful!
However, he discovered that odd experience that sometimes happens when you change, grow, and move in a new direction. His old friends wanted to hold him back. They kept trying to drag him back into previous destructive habits. Sadly, he found he had to create a new circle of friends who were just as ambitious as he is now.
I've experienced this a few times in my life when I made significant career changes. Many of my old acquaintances faded out of my life.
Once we no longer had the bond of a shared office or similar work, we lost touch. Once I could no longer help people with my position, they did not view me as someone useful they could leverage to achieve their desired professional goals.
A few of my friends stayed by my side. They were friends with me, not my job title. We've stayed in touch for several years and catch up when we can. They are also supportive of my new lifestyle and business.
Surprisingly, a tiny number of people are directly antagonistic. They mock my new business and seem upset about my lifestyle changes. They said I was crazy to throw away all the progress in my previous career.
So, like my friend, I had to find a new tribe. I created a new circle of friends and colleagues who were more supportive.
I did it because it's so tough to succeed alone. I'm not talking about having business partners or employees. I'm also not talking about your boss or coworkers because:
Work is a competitive environment where only a few people can get promoted.
You can't openly share your fear, uncertainty, or doubt with colleagues without some sort of repercussions.
Most people have mediocre bosses — or even downright bad ones — who aren't exactly supportive and nurturing.
I'm talking about finding your professional support network. Finding your tribe of people who want to see you succeed. Becoming part of a community that wants to help you grow.
“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”
― Seth Godin
Your tribe is a small group of people who:
Provide guidance because many of us are at different points in our journeys.
Act as a confidential sounding board for your important decisions.
Answer your questions, no matter how crazy they might seem.
Support each other in their goals because you're all on similar paths.
Help you with connections and resources.
Have your best interests in mind and lift you up when you're feeling discouraged.
It can't be too large. For example, all of your connections on social media won’t work well for this purpose. You need a certain degree of intimacy to ensure that people are really committed to helping each other. You want an inner circle that will stay by your side for several years to cheer on your success and hope for your happiness.
This is important because guess what the longest-running study on human happiness uncovered? Do you know what the key is to a good life? Well, after ~80 years of research, The Harvard Study of Adult Development established a strong correlation between deep relationships and well-being.
“The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health. Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.”
— Robert Waldinger, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
I’m guessing you’ve already experienced the pros and cons of being part of a community at some point in your life. But, our early experiences with them aren’t exactly the same as later experiences with communities you intentionally choose to join. Don’t let those memories dissuade you.
Community experiences in your lifetime
Our early experiences with communities were not entirely under our control. As children, we lived where our parents chose to make our homes and the surrounding neighborhood became our community.
Most of us also went to schools where we encountered yet another community. Again, we did not have much choice in this. Perhaps your parents intentionally selected your school and, therefore, your community of peers. In my case, our tiny town had one public school. So, no choice for me!
My “community experience” wasn’t the best. I was a late bloomer and a weird kid who loved to daydream and read. I won’t go into the details, so let’s just say bullying and after school fights played a large role in my young life. Fun.
Later in life, if you’re like me, you probably selected your college or university for advanced education. Although you couldn’t choose which students attended classes with you, you could form your own circles of friends and study groups.
I hope you did a better job of this than I did. I initially made some big mistakes in forming my “tribe” at the university. I finally got it right later, but it took a lot of work to reverse that disaster!
When you start working for employers in your given profession, you discover that — once again — you’re not in full control of your community of peers and coworkers. But, you have to make the best of it.
Sometimes it works out, but sometimes it can lead you astray if you join a tribe of people with goals that aren’t completely aligned with yours. In the “old days,” it was a bit more challenging to find a great community outside of work.
Now, the internet has made that a lot easier. Tightly-focused global communities are discoverable at your fingertips. Perhaps this introduces a new challenge that makes it difficult in a different way. There are thousands and thousands of communities scattered across hundreds of platforms!
You may have to explore and try a few before you find one that meets your needs. But, as you may have heard or read in my conversation with Sam Sycamore, joining and engaging with the right community can make all the difference in your professional life and career.
How community helps you
When community members were surveyed, they said their communities empower them in the following ways (source):
Asking questions (76%).
Providing solutions (68%).
Being heard (61%).
Feeling seen (60%).
“You just need a few people — who will look at the rules, realize they make no sense, and realize how much they want to be connected.”
— Seth Godin, from his TED talk: The tribes we lead
How can a community make a difference in your life, both professionally and personally? Believe me; it is very different than the group of people you’ve let into your social media circles. Of course, there may be some overlap, but the tighter focus and intentionality of a community (i.e., tribe) is uniquely valuable.
You share similar goals and are committed to helping each other achieve them.
You often share similar career paths, too, so people who are further along can help you with advice, guidance, feedback, resources, connections, and more.
You have a shared agenda vs. the hidden ones that often exist at work. People in your tribe aren’t competing with you. They want to see you succeed.
You agree to confidentiality. Where else can you share your innermost professional worries, fears, and secrets with people you trust? I know that I could never safely share everything with my boss or colleagues. My team didn’t need to hear when I was worried or nervous (i.e., they needed the sense of stability and calm that I provided). My wife got really tired of hearing about my work drama. But, your community is always there to listen.
You don’t have to worry about looking stupid and asking “silly questions.” A great community is supportive and understanding.
You can depend on your community to hold you accountable for chasing your dreams and achieving your goals. They will help you stay on track!
Your community will lift you up when you’re feeling down. I run a career community and support is a consistent theme there. Work is hard, and job interviews are stressful. People lose confidence in themselves and get depressed sometimes. We lift people up in our calls and help them believe in themselves again.
My first business and entrepreneurial community
When I started my first solopreneur business, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by a team of consultants at the time. We were all working together. They encouraged me and talked me through my worries and fears (e.g., I had a family to support).
There were so many things I didn’t know about starting and operating a business. There were so many mistakes I would have made if it wasn’t for my community. They showed me the ropes and helped me navigate the complexity of working for myself for the first time.
That was decades ago, and I’m still friends with many of those people today. The bonds we formed were that strong. We’ve continued to help each other over the years by making introductions, sending work to each other, coaching each other, and more.
I also credit my strong entrepreneurial community and tech community with helping me succeed with my second solopreneurial business. My network has made all the difference in the world.
My third business and lack of community
Yes, we all have skills and experience in our professions. But, if you've never operated your own business, you don’t have all of the knowledge and wisdom you need to succeed yet.
When I launched my third business several years ago (a tech startup), it was very different than my first and second ones. I was a solopreneur with those past businesses. This time I had co-founders and employees, and we raised money from investors.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the same close community to guide me. I should have connected with other founders who could have helped me avoid mistakes, improve my odds of success, and not feel so damn lonely when I was struggling.
The internet is a wonderful thing, and a great deal of the information you need is online. But there’s so much information overload. Plus, there’s a big difference between theory and practice, and knowledge and wisdom. I wish I had either found or created my community, but I did not, and my startup eventually failed.
It can feel overwhelming. It can be scary. But, it doesn't have to be that way.
Find your community
When I was younger, I thought I could go it alone. I’m so introverted that it was natural for me. However, as I grow older, I’m seeing how valuable community is, and I regret I didn’t start cultivating one until later in life.
Don’t make the same mistake I did!
Having a strong community is also personally beneficial (not just professionally). You’ll discover that your emotional well-being improves when you know your community is always there for you.
If you’re lucky, you may be able to connect with local people who can help support you in your journey. For example, there is a small group of business owners in my nearby town.
However, many of us are finding our tribes online now. Here are some of the most popular resources for finding a community:
You can search for communities of interest.
I host one of my communities on Slack and have joined a few others.
There’s a list of Slack communities in this Airtable base.
Standuply has a list of 2000 teams.
Slofile has a public Slack community database.
You can also get invited to a private Slack team if you know who runs it.
I’ve joined a few communities on Circle.
Circle has its own community, but you can find more groups here.
I host another one of my communities on Discord and my family uses it to stay in touch, too.
Explore the public servers to find something that matches your interests.
You can also get invited to one of the private servers if you know someone who runs it.
LinkedIn has millions of groups you can search and browse
I’ve joined a few (e.g., UX Professionals, Small Business Marketing Network, Executive Suite)
You have to find the right “subreddit” that meets your needs.
You can start by browsing the popular subreddits.
You can also search subreddits by name (e.g., design).
I tested this service a few years ago and it has some promise.
Facebook has millions of groups, so it is pretty easy to search and browse to find one that matches your interests.
I used Facebook for a few of my groups years ago, but no longer host my communities there.
Of course, there are so many more places to discover virtual communities, so check out this list.
If you can’t find a great community that feels like a fit for the tribe you are seeking, you may just need to build your own like I have!
Of course, you can build your own community using any of the services or platforms above. I’m building my next new community on Discord, for example. If you’re already comfortable with one and prefer it, that’s a great place to start.
I used to be a part of the Design/UX community when I was a designer and Design Leader. I attended meetups, spoke at conferences, and participated in online discussions.
However, when I moved more into the Product world, I drifted away from the UX community. Strangely enough, there didn’t seem to an equivalent Product community. So, I often felt a bit alone and isolated as a Product leader.
Now, as a solopreneur, I sometimes feel even more alone and isolated, especially since I live in a rural part of California now. I tried a few entrepreneurial communities and groups focused on startup founders. But, they didn’t quite fit who I am or what my business is. We had very different backgrounds and were building very different businesses. It left me feeling frustrated.
Finally, I said:
“Well, if the perfect community doesn’t exist, I will create one.”
So, I did.
I launched my Invincible Career community many years ago and have carefully curated the membership. It’s full of people who are ambitious about their careers and seeking professional development challenges, opportunities, and support.
I wanted to give others what I wished I'd had during my corporate life: A supportive group of helpful professionals with no hidden agenda.
We don’t allow jerks to enter the community, and I’ve had to kick a few people out. Everyone is friendly, helpful, and supportive. We push each other to grow and achieve our goals, celebrate each other’s successes, and we commiserate when someone experiences a failure.
That's also why I’m creating a new community for solopreneurs. I wanted to create a similar supportive environment for people who are ready to break free of their 9-5 jobs and start their own businesses, but they aren't sure where to begin. They need a community of experienced peers to ensure their success.
So, if you can’t find what you are looking for, create your own community. There are many options available and pros and cons of each. Some solutions are free, but some do require a monthly subscription fee to use the service.
If you ask, “What is the best community software solution?” you will receive dozens of conflicting recommendations. People have strong opinions and love/hate relationships with each platform.
Here are some issues to consider:
Thinkific published a blog post to offer some good alternatives to the obvious choice of Facebook Groups. It’s worth a read and thinking hard about the pros and cons of each one.
If you don’t have a strong preference, I recommend you try Slack or Discord first. This article compares and contrasts the two platforms. They both have free versions and can give you a taste of building and running a community before you commit to paying for a service. Note: you can always migrate to a different platform later, if you so choose.
One of the most significant decisions that you’ll need to make is how you handle membership.
Do you want a public community that anyone can find and join?
Or would you prefer a private community that is invite-only?
Do you want your community to be unlisted or discoverable?
These choices may determine how quickly your community grows and how large it becomes. It will also impact the culture and behavior within your community. I’m sure you’ve experienced some of the negatives of public groups where people attack each other, spam the group, and generally degrade the quality.
You should clearly define the rules of the community, standards of conduct, and the consequences of violating the rules. I’ve had to remove a few people from my communities to ensure that they remained safe and positive places for people to connect and socialize.
To that end, I want to recommend a great book to help guide you through some of the finer points of building a community with the values, culture, and behaviors you desire. The Art of Community: Seven Principles for Belonging by Charles H. Vogl is a useful guide that offers seven timeless principles for building a supportive and inclusive community with a strong sense of purpose.
Try before you buy
What I mean by this is you should join a few communities and get a feel for them long before you even consider building one of your own. I was a member of other communities for many years and learned a great deal about how to operate them, the issues you’ll face an owner and moderator, what works and doesn’t work, pitfalls to avoid, and more.
Running a community is hard work, and most fail and shut down. So, learn as much as you can from thriving communities to ensure the success of your own. Learn from failing communities, too, so you can avoid their mistakes.
The good news? You can be both a community owner and a member of several communities. You can also participate in local groups in the physical world and virtual groups online.
Even though I run my own communities, I’m also a member of many others. Each one serves a different purpose and meets different needs. I’m always learning something new and discovering niche groups that can help me on my journey to achieve my goals.
As I said in the beginning, your professional success really does depend on finding your community of like-minded people. It’s also personally beneficial to ensure a long, healthy life. You’ll discover that your emotional wellbeing improves when you know that your friends in the community have your back, are always there for you, and are cheering you on!
The happiest and most successful people know they can depend on their community or “tribe.”
You may need to find a new supportive community as you change and grow in life.
You can’t rely on your colleagues at work to be your lifelong support group.
Community helps you by answering questions you have, providing solutions, being supportive, holding you accountable to your goals, and more.
You can find local communities in the physical world, but there are many resources for finding online communities, too.
If you can’t find a group that meets your needs, you can create your own community and invite the right people to join you.
There are many platforms available for building online communities, so evaluate the factors, pros, and cons of each one before making a choice.
Get experience as a community member before you try to become a community owner.
You can join and create as many communities as you want to meet the different needs in your personal and professional life.
Thank you for reading this chapter. This post is public so feel free to share it.
I’m looking forward to sharing more of my book with you this year! Become a subscriber today to keep reading the draft chapters as I complete them.
Hi, I’m Larry Cornett, a Personal Coach who can work with you to optimize your career, life, or business. My mission is to help you take complete control of your life so you can become a more “Invincible You.” I currently live in Northern California near Lake Tahoe with my wife and a gigantic Great Dane. I’ve been writing most of this book while sitting in my dark office and listening to binaural beats. I really need to get out more often! 🤣