The following is an excerpt from my new book, The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth, published by John C Wiley and Sons. The important concept I’m hoping to get across as a cornerstone for this book is that it’s important that one learns deeply about belonging:
Business is About Belonging
I’ve received compliments with a consistent theme over the past decade or so. People tell me, “You really do care about people,” and “I feel like you see me and understand me” and “I’ve really enjoyed meeting and getting to know the people you’ve gathered into your community.”
I’m proud of this, of course—but only because it continues to confirm a business tenet in which I believe strongly. Though you’ll rarely find it out there in the textbooks, if you listen and read closely, you’ll find in the works of many successful people: Business is about belonging.
It might seem strange that a book that encourages freaki-ness and the refusal to fit in praises the idea of belonging. But you can see how these two ideas are different, correct? “Fitting in” often means shaving off your unique edges, hiding and masking what defines you, discarding any behaviors or appearances or images that prompt others to question you or push away from you. “Belonging” is about finding that place where you finally let out a deep breath you had no idea you were holding and feeling with great certainty that the people around you understand you.
Raul Colon is a friend of mine and a successful business consultant, as well as one of the Spanish-language writers inside the pages of my magazine, Owner. Raul is also a vegan, which means that he doesn’t eat or use any animal products whatsoever. This is a challenge because Raul lives in Puerto Rico, where meat is a big part of the culture. He’s told me many stories of friends and relatives saying to him that they are vegetarian, and then watching them eat pork. When questioned, they say, “Well, it’s not beef.”
Restaurants everywhere face a challenge when considering whether and how to serve the vegetarian and vegan (and other dietary choice) communities. Raul wrote a piece for Owner where he com- mented on the big difference between a restaurant that grudgingly ensures that a salad has no animal products, and one that proudly displays a wide selection of dishes specifically targeted for vegans. The difference, of course, is that when Raul finds a restaurant that welcomes his business, he spends more of his money there. He feels that he belongs.
Harley Davidson might be one of the brands that is most famous for creating a sense of community. People who wear suits and dresses during work hours keep their Harley keychains and “My Other Car Is a Harley” bumper stickers handy to remind themselves and others that this is where they belong. Some books have looked at this kind of branding as tribal. What we’ve come to co-opt as the concept of tribes is built on belonging, as well.