March Madness is in full swing as I write this! People everywhere are talking about college basketball, busted brackets, and surprising upsets.
College basketball may not be your thing, but I live in a sports town. You’re kind of an outsider here if you don’t have a team you root for.
Here in Kansas City, we have three college teams within driving distance. This time of year you see a lot of team colors from the Jayhawks, Wildcats, and Tigers — University of Kansas, Kansas State, and Missouri. And the rivalries between these schools and their fans are fierce.
In fact, the rivalry between Missouri and both universities in Kansas is so deep that a former Missouri coach, Norm Stewart, refused to buy gas or food in the state of Kansas whenever his team played in the state.
We also have the Royals and Chiefs — major league baseball and NFL football.
I wrote a previous blog post about why your identity is so vital to your success. Your identity is the real driver of everything you do.
And we’re all trained to take our identity from things outside ourselves. Your job, your house, your car, your status, all these things feel like they make you who you are. And the story you tell yourself and others about who you are comes from these “outside” factors. And living from the outside in isn’t all that desirable.
But there’s another “outside” source of identity you need to think about.
This is the identity you get from your “tribe.” Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Tribe is an over-used word. But it describes exactly the idea I’m talking about.
Your tribe is the group of people you let influence your identity.
It starts with your family.
In the case of family, you never really had much choice in the matter. You landed with adults who did the best they could. At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen.
For better or worse, you developed your deepest stories about who you are and how you relate to the world by the time you’re around eight years old. And you don’t have any filter to judge whether or not any of these stories are true or whether they are helpful for the life you have ahead of you.
Most of us have at least some amount of crap we have to get over. A good coach can help. And, if you’ve got a ton of crap to deal with, you are wise to talk to a therapist.
Of course, you probably try to get through as best you can on your own. But read this to the end and you’ll see that not one of us really lives “on our own.”
You are designed to be connected.
It used to be that you had little chance of survival outside of your tribe. You’d starve, get eaten by animals, killed or captured by an enemy if you were out in the world on your own.
Modern life gives you the illusion that you don’t really need a tribe. But, trust me, you do.
Your tribe is the one “outside” place you should find your identity.
Every tribe has a common identity made up of the stories shared by it’s members. Remember how I said in my previous post that your identity is the collection of short stories you tell yourself and others? Your tribe’s identity comes from stories too.
And March Madness is a perfect example of how this works. Watch the fans at the game. (Don’t do it while your team is playing. You have to BE a fan for your team and pay attention to the game.)
The fans in the bleachers are intense! The story of their tribe is developing on the court in front of their eyes.
A win means wild celebration!
When you’re a fan, this is your story too.
The anticipation, the drama, the highs and lows of the game are what you crave, because you have part of your identity wrapped up in your team.
I know what you’re thinking . . . that you’re above all that. That you’re cool, calm, and collected.
But think about how you talk about the game the day after your team loses. You make excuses or complain about what went wrong as if somehow a little bit responsible for the way your team blew it.
We are the champions! This is my tribe.
You can find a ton of articles discussing the how and why people choose to be fans of one team over another. No one has a clear, definitive answer on this. But true fans tie their passion and identity to the ups and downs of their team. They are part of the tribe.
You may not be a sports fan, but you belong to a tribe.
And you probably have several tribes.
Remember the definition: your tribe is the group you belong to that gives you some of your identity. You have common, shared stories with your tribe. And you may have an initiation process or have to prove yourself in some way to be part of the tribe.
Let me tell you a story to show you what I mean.
I am an ultra-marathon trail runner!
I started running trails a little over a year ago. My goal, when I started, was to run a 50 mile trail race that was scheduled twelve months from when I began.
The man who inspired me was part of a group called the Trail Nerds. I started hanging out with them at their weekly events. I learned the lingo and picked up tips on how to run better, faster, and farther.
I decided to run a 50K trail race a few months before the 50 mile race I was planning for.
I made all kind of mistakes. After 20 miles, I felt like I couldn’t go on. But a woman from the Trail Nerds came a quarter-mile down the trail to find me.
“You have only ten minutes to make the cutoff!” she said. “You need to get a move on!”
She didn’t accept my excuse that I couldn’t make it another 10 miles. She sat me in a chair at the aid station, and people swarmed around me, dumping ice water on my head and stocking up my hydration pack. I stumbled out of the aid station, beating the cutoff time by 4 minutes.
Making the cutoff meant I was DFL!
The course “sweepers” were only a few hundred yards behind me.
But I finished. I was DFL — Dead F*in Last.
At our next group run, the lady who encouraged me said, “You’re an ultra runner now!” It didn’t matter that I was DFL. I finished! I was a member of the tribe.
And I successfully completed my 50 mile trail race a few months later.
Find a tribe that makes you better than you can be on your own.
The 50 mile trail race has a 100 mile distance as well. One of my fellow tribe members made it 95 miles before an injury stopped him.
After my 50 mile race, I mentioned that I was thinking about doing the 100 mile version this year. My tribe said, “Of course you can do it!”
Hang out with people who think running 100 miles on dirt trails is normal!
No, I don’t expect you to become a runner. But you do need to make sure the people you hang out with give you this kind of encouragement. Your tribe should push you to be the best you can be!
If you want to be better and do better, take a good look at who you hang out with. Jim Rohn is famous for saying that you are the average of your 5 closest friends. But there’s evidence that your entire tribe is what influences you, for good or evil.
What do you have to offer your tribe?
Your tribe should give help and encouragement to go after the life you want. And you have to have something to offer to the group as well.
I can tell you from experience that you don’t fit in very well when you’re trying to pull your identity from the outside in. Your tribe should add a bonus layer to your identity. Not make up your entire identity.
Your tribe wants people who are confident in who they are.
When you live from the inside out, when what you do comes from who you are, you attract your ideal tribe. Your confidence is a people-magnet.
There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
So be yourself and find your tribe. And I hope your NCAA bracket stays intact.
Do you have a dream that you’ve hidden away that’s aching to break out? Or is there a gnawing in your gut that you’re meant for something more, something extraordinary?
I’ll help you transform yourself so you won’t look back ten years from now saying, “Oh, what I could’a . . . would’a . . . should’a . . . done when I had the chance!”