If you are a business owner, a marketer, a concerned individual or all of the above it probably occurred to you that “community” is a buzz word that is generally misunderstood depending on where you stand.
Building a community is hard work. And, like any endeavor, without clear goals the chances of success are slim to none.
When defining a goal there are usually more questions than answers. What can easily be missed is in this process is the underlying intent behind the action.
Are you honest with yourself about why you want to build a community? Is it for money? Is it to satisfy your ego? Is it altruistic? Is it to amass power?
It can be all or none of the above.
Beyond understanding the building blocks needed to create a community (barrier to entry, influence, shared emotional values etc), it is important to be clear about your underlying motivation as well. Clarity of purpose (intent) and motivation will guide your every move going forward. Success will require following a predetermined road map along with enough gas in the tank to get you there. Intent and motivation provides the fuel needed to make the journey.
It’s a funny thing about human beings: we all perceive information differently and to a large degree will spin information so that it falls in line with existing beliefs (confirmation bias).
In “Blink” Malcolm Gladwell talks about our innate ability to determine truth from fiction based upon facial muscles, instinct, context etc. No longer is “do as I say, not as I do” a valid strategy. This falseness will be apparent to everyone. Like “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, let’s hope you are not the last to know.
Building a sustainable community requires being clear about your intent and motivation. The quickest way to discover that is to look inward with honesty. Your audience/community will then be able to determine if the value you offer warrants their attention. If they choose to participate it will because they perceive that membership is of higher value than the real or implied “barrier to entry”.
What is community? How do we define it? Do we actually know what it is? Ever thought about why we as humans think it is important? With a big h/t to Greg Lexiphanic here are a few thoughts to consider. I will try to paraphrase this great ebook. For more detail please go here
Key criteria to establish a “sense of community” (as defined by David McMillan & David Chavis- “sense of community: a theory and definition”) are:
1. Membership 2. Influence 3. Fulfilment of needs 4. Shared emotional connection.
For a community to exist members must experience a sense of community.
How can you create a community around who you are, your business, your interests? Take the time to understand how these 4 elements relate to each other and what they mean individually.
Membership implies exclusivity (a barrier to entry or boundary). Either you are in or you are out. Implied in membership is a trust that you will be safe and taken care of within the boundaries and definitions of the group.
Influence is gained by having an affecting change on the group. Influence is only achieved by listening as well as expressing your beliefs.
“People who acknowledge that others’ needs, values, and opinions matter to them are often the most influential group members, while those who always push to influence, try to dominate others, and ignore the wishes and opinions of others are often the least powerful members.” —McMillan & Chavis, 1986
The fuel to drive a community is reinforcement. To receive reinforcement requires participation by the members. If participation focuses on the betterment of the group then reinforcement and a “sense of community” can be achieved. it is a two way street of give and take within the boundaries created by the group. No matter which side of the coin you are on (giving or receiving), if you feel fulfilled by taking part, the group will fill satisfy your need to belong and a bond will develop.
Shared Emotional Connection. There is a great line from the film Local Color that talks about art: “A shared experience is more meaningful than one experienced alone.”
Why is it we seek out group experience rather than isolation?
Intimacy, acknowledgement, sharing of views in a defined format, reward for your investment of time and energy and spiritual bonding ties us together in groups creating a more powerfulexperience than trying to do it alone. Its why we identify with an join groups in the first place. We are tribal animals…it is intrinsic to our nature.
Attempting to create an online or offline community is difficult and time consuming. However, the rewards can be far outweigh the investment. The pot of gold will come from the bonds you create in your community.
Look at your business and personal relationships. Question the drivers and quality of the interactions, what value you derive from feeling connected and reward you receive in return.. Most of us blithely stumble into situations that are driven by habit and conditioning rather than conscious thought.
The opportunity for all of us who are interested in creating community is not only to succeed but also the learn more about ourselves.
The life of the artist is fraught with pitfalls most people are not aware of. Artists look at the world differently than most…it is what makes us unique. For me, being open and generous is my natural state of being. When it comes to music I have never felt possessive about my abilities. My skills are a gift from God. I had very little to do with it. I freely share because the music is not mine to own.
The art of being vulnerable in your business life is an acquired skill. In this crazy business of being a creative you must accept that wearing your heart on your sleeve has great rewards but there are also risks that are not always apparent.
I believe that to create my best music requires me to be in a safe, comfortable place and almost devoid of thought. When I am working for someone else, or, if I am collaborating with others there must be a high level of trust for me to do my best work. I am bearing my soul…naked for the world to see. If there is not that level of trust it is all too easy to be mundane and ordinary as a means of self-protection. Being ordinary is worse to me than being hurt so, I look for any branch in the raging river to grab a hold of to give me a glimmer of hope that those I am working with are worthy and can be trusted.
Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.
No matter what the situation there is the distinct possibility that not everyone you work with will share the same values. In my case I have been used (and abused) by many who sought to personally benefit from my generosity of spirit. In the end that is okay though I could rattle off a laundry list of perpetrators if I were a bitter sort of person. You see, I made the choice to honor my inherent nature and optimism rather than be a slave to forces beyond my control. I would much rather deal with the sting of disappointment than wear the golden handcuffs. It is what makes me be able to sleep at night.
There is no way to avoid being hurt in this business. It comes with the territory.
The more appropriate thing to think about is how to set boundaries to protect yourself….WITHOUT hampering your ability to trust. Learn to trust your judgment. Learn to identify your true motives. Learn to listen to what your inner voice is saying. Weigh the risks and rewards. If you accept the risks you can deal with the disappointments…nothing ventured nothing gained. Learning to let go of your disappointments will serve you well in music as well as life. This reminds me of the Buddhist parable of the two monks.
Through all of my ups and downs I never, ever, regret engaging in my life to the point where I would potentially be disappointed.
Sure it hurts sometimes. But, the upside is so remarkable and richly rewarding that I willingly accept the risks.
And besides– tomorrow is another day! Quincy Jones has a great saying: “I have 28,000 days–I’m not going to waste one of’em”.
next track of Christmas record finished: whew! This is harder than I thought it would be- I set the bar high…I’ll be off campus for a few days…will post soon. oh yeah, “We Three Kings”
I met a friend for drinks last night and invariably the conversation turned to the creative process and what that entails. I was fortunate to have as a mentor a very experienced arranger/musician. His name was Billy Byers. I was 17 years old and green to the gills. I trusted him implicitly an made myself available to help in whatever capacity in return.
Most all of us at some point have experienced the same anxiety over: “How do I begin?”
Let me share a few pearls of wisdom Billy imparted to me:
“Don’t wait for inspiration-just start”
“If you sit there long enough it will get finished”
“It only takes a little longer to do it right”
Creativity-IMHO- comes from training yourself to concentrate your focus and attention on the task at hand. If you let your mind wander-(what’s in the fridge?, I didn’t take out the garbage, what is so and so doing,etc, etc,) it is impossible to come up with any ideas because you are thinking of something else. “Don’t wait for inspiration just start”. This is not a game of perfect…it’s about volume. It’s about trial and error, revisions, and taking risks to increase your knowledge and experience.The only way you can be objective about your work is to physically get it out of your body…take a break…and then, go back to it with fresh eyes and mind and see what you think.
There was only one Mozart…everyone second guesses their choices when creating something. I would like to think that he went through the editing process in his head BEFORE he ever put pen to paper. And even he made revisions later in his life.
The second part of this idea is that you MUST become an objective critic of your own work. It’s the only way you will grow and actually get better.
So, the deal is this- put your ideas out there, get to the end, step away, be objective about it and either change or leave it alone.
No matter what your endeavor-music, art, photography, mashing, writing, coding-whatever, the art of inspiration is the same as practicing your instrument. No real mystery here…just hard work.
The only way to get better is to just do it, often, with as much passion and disciplined, focused attention as you can muster.
More on the other quotes soon.