People Need to Belong

People need to belong. This inherent need and desire doesn’t mean actually be possessed by someone, but rather be in relationship to and linked to other people. I got to thinking about this the other day when I was talking to someone about selling to different groups of people (we both work in the sport and entertainment industry). We happen to live in a very diverse area where there are many different nationalities and ethnicities of people, where every continent in the world is represented, including many different countries from all continents. Ok, maybe not Antarctica, but wouldn’t it be pretty cool to meet a native Antarctican? Haha – see what I did there…pretty COOL. And is Antarctican the right way to say this? Anyway, moving on.

The Psychological Aspect

The idea that people need to belong has apparently been studied by psychologists for over 100 years, which just goes to show how important and universal this feeling we all have is within us. Some of the research I’ve read has indicated that it all boils it down to the fact that belonging helps us survive. When you belonged to a group or tribe in the ancient times your likelihood of survival was much greater. It meant you had protection from enemies and help looking for food. Being with others meant you were more likely to survive. We still face many threats in our modern society now, however the shape of those threats has changed over time.

The sense of belonging is so strong that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs indicates a sense of belonging as the third most important aspect of human life right after basic needs such as food, water, clothing and safety. Yeah, the fact that people need to belong is a big deal.

Belonging from a Business Perspective

My thinking about this inherent desire to belong is very closely related to business. In short, the sport and entertainment industry gives people a place to belong. Whatever it is that you’re interested in, you can belong here. At our events, you can belong and be in community with other people who you know you have at least one thing in common. Whether that is a concert, a family show, a sporting event, a banquet, a movie screening, a comedy show, a convention…when you’re here, you belong.

I see this sense of belonging and see the joy it brings to people every time I work an event. When you see people “in their element,” they look different. They smile. They stroll confidently. They jump up and down. They hug and kiss. You can tell they’re having a great time.

Niche Audiences

This is especially true for events that serve a very niche type of audience. I’m thinking specifically of comic book conventions, homebrewing conventions, crossfit competitions, tattoo festivals, dance festivals, political events and other niche events that serve a very specific audience. When these people get together, regardless of the type of things or ideas that bring them together, they feel like they belong to something greater than themselves. You personally may not agree with or engage in these types of activities, but for the people that do, that’s their “it” factor. That’s their zone. That’s where they feel normal and excited to talk and express who they are inside.

It’s probably a little bit easier to see how sports can bring people together…most of the readers of this blog probably know this very well. I wrote about this when the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl a few years ago.

Circling Back

Now think about what your hobbies are or what you get excited about and how you feel when you connect with someone who enjoys or does the same things. For the people that like things that are “different” than say what YOU like or enjoy, they get just as excited about their stuff as you do about your thing. So when it comes time to sell tickets or promote or market an event that’s going down, get excited about it because you’re giving someone a place to belong!

The great part about the work that I do is that I get to be part of an organization that gives people that place to belong. That place to be themselves and with others like them.

We’re all human.

And that makes it all worthwhile.

Looking into the Fog

So as I was on my way to work this morning it was very foggy near my home. Now if you’ve ever driven in fog, especially at night or just before dawn, you know how difficult it can be to see what’s ahead of you. You also know that turning on your high beams is a bad idea, as it makes seeing the road and what is ahead of you even more difficult. However, even though you can’t see very far ahead, you also know that as you proceed with caution, the more you drive, the more you will eventually be able to see; one foot at a time you’re able to see more – that 100 feet in front of you advances foot by foot with each moment of driving. You can’t see any further than that 100 feet or whatever it is, but you do know that you must continue forward if you want to see anything else and get to your destination.

Isn’t this how life treats us sometimes? Your circumstances are so bleak or stressful or worrisome that you have trouble seeing more than what is right in front of you? In life, as in the fog of the Pacific Northwest, we know there is more out there even though we cannot see it at the moment. Allow this to be a lesson to us. In tough times or times of stress, just remember that although it is difficult to see what’s beyond your field of view, there is more out there as long as you keep moving.

Something else to be mindful of is the understanding that what’s behind you gets ever more difficult to see as well. With each step you see more of that which is in front of you as well as less of what is behind you! Think about that for a moment. When life seems like it’s getting the best of you, just remember that the fog will lift and you will see more clearly in the end, once the sun rises. Until that time though, simply putting one foot in front of the other puts you closer to where you want to be and further from where you were. Stay calm, don’t throw on the high beams and let your emotions get out of control, but stay focused and be reminded that the reward is in the journey.

How does this apply to sport? Well, for coaches and athletes you know the feeling of being in a slump or off-season training that just seems to never end. Stay focused on the most important things at hand and know that eventually things will turn around as long as you keep moving forward. For administrators and other staff, be reminded of where you work – in sport! We work so others can be entertained and fulfill higher order needs of personal satisfaction and escape. Sometimes troubles can get us down; let us not focus on the fog, but on the brightness of the good and warmth of the sun. Perspective and mentality is everything.