I choose this sketch to illustrate this blog because it fits the theme. When you feel like you belong somewhere even if that somewhere appears odd to the outside world trust your instincts and go with it.
The last five months have been very transitional for me. I started a business journey that all at once made me feel like I was finally in the right place. Each day when I get up to work my activities confirm that initial feeling I had. The agency I’m at now (KW Brentwood) is a place where I’ve been given the opportunity to use my skills to help others and grow as a person and a manager of my own business. This morning I re-read an email blast from my friend Mark Susnow and it speaks to this very subject, so I’m passing it along to you.
We’ve all had dreams at different times in our lives. Without them our lives wouldn’t be the same. We wouldn’t have accomplished much of what we have so far. We wouldn’t be living the life that we are living today.
But it’s a balancing act. Sometimes these dreams and visions get in the way of our experiencing the present moment. In my conversations with many like-minded travelers, I am reminded that many of us have forgotten how to have fun, how to play like we did when we were kids. To help us remember what it’s like, I encourage people to reflect upon their childhood. What did they do when they weren’t in school? When they had a choice to choose an elective, what did they choose and what did they say no to? Growing up I had a choice between music or an elective that involved making things. I’ve played music my entire life, but am not very good when it comes to making or fixing things.
Think about what you did to have fun. It helps to have a good imagination. Sports were a big part of my life. I had visions of becoming a professional athlete. But as I got older, and competed against other kids from different areas of the city, no matter how active my imagination, I realized my limitations.
Growing up, both sports and music were a big part of my life. No matter the sport, I had my teams that I rooted for. It’s amazing how important I made that weeks game. Not only did it give my life meaning, it was an escape from the rest of my life. Much of the time I found myself rooting for the underdog. Sometimes the only ones giving the underdog a chance were the underdogs themselves. When the underdog won, I felt so good. It reminded me of what was possible in my own life. It reminded me of how powerful believing in one’s self can be.
One of our local basketball teams, the Golden State Warriors were perennial underdogs until seven years ago. They rehired an old coach who miraculously turned them around by getting them to believe in themselves. It was contagious. The fans started believing too. In fact that year they made the playoffs and the team slogan became WE BELIEVE. As you entered the stadium you were given a yellow t-shirt, one of the team’s colors, with the slogan WE BELIEVE printed on it.
Well it didn’t last. The team reverted to their old ways and became underdogs again. Within three years the team was sold and the coach fired. Ownership completed a turnover in the team’s roster. This year they’re back and having a great year. But there’s a different feeling. It’s no longer WE BELIEVE; it’s now WE BELONG. The distinction seemed profound. It’s been on my mind. How is this subtle distinction relevant to the rest of our lives?
The dream or vision keeps us moving forward and gives us a reason for living. But at times it takes tremendous effort to keep the dream alive, especially when we might be the only one having the dream. Even when we have our share of doubts, we keep going. Ultimately it’s getting to that place in our lives when we courageously stand up to the uncertainty in our lives. Even in the face of this uncertainty, we experience moments of grace when we have occasional glimpses of a life that at one time we could only imagine. But there is still the striving and the insecurity.
At some point there is a shift in consciousness. The feeling of believing morphs into a feeling of belonging. Our expectations for ourselves, and the acceptance of our greatness, emerge. We now say to ourselves, “This is where I belong.” At times this shift is elusive. While we do feel a sense of community, it’s much more than that. It’s a feeling of acceptance. It’s a feeling of peace. It’s a feeling of knowing this is where we belong. We are home.
My team, the Warriors, initially believed that they could be an elite team, but they hadn’t experienced it. When they momentarily had a glimpse of it years ago, a seed was planted that if cultivated properly could grow into who they are today. They have an expectation of winning. They have an expectation of excellence and greatness. They’ve cultivated their garden. They are ready to reap the harvest and share it with others.
We all have a longing to be part of something greater than ourselves. The feeling of belonging transports us from the “I” to the “We.” From that feeling of WE, we experience a profound sense of connectedness. A connectedness to community and a power greater than we are.
So with my team, it’s no longer a once in a while kind of deal. They’re for real. They belong. So do you. So do all of us.