049 – The Culture Question: Part I

In this first installment of a series on building culture in communities, I will discuss the culture that has been established around the minor league Detroit City Football Club.

The Culture Question: Part I

What Can We Learn From Supporter Culture?

If you’re looking into how to build culture in a community, it’s an obvious choice to start by looking at how culture develops around sports teams. If you’re looking into how culture develops around sports teams, it’s an obvious choice to start by looking at the Detroit City Football Club.

DCFC is a minor league soccer team playing in the National Premier Soccer League’s Midwest Division. The players are unpaid, and the home field is a high school in downtown Detroit. The club has only been around for a season.

So why are they regularly drawing over 1,700 fans (not people- fans) to their home games?

Because Detroit City Football Club has a culture.

And it’s not just “Detroit City Football Club”. It’s also “DCFC”, “Le Rouge”, and “City.” It’s the slogan “City ‘Till I Die”, and the flags that wave in the supporter section reading, “This is our HOPE”, emblazoned with the team logo. It’s the fact that supporters regularly have new, gigantic flags at the matches, including the appropriately named “Big Bertha”, which I believe I read was around 16 feet by 11feet. It’s flags like “Fort Knox” in reference to forward Knox Cameron, or “Our City…Your

Nightmare”, which stretched pretty well full across the bleachers.

What about the constant smoke bombs going off after every DCFC goal, and the steady beat of the drums and chants coming from the supporter section? The culture is so thick around City that one could cut it with a knife if it wouldn’t just bend and break the knife first.

Speaking of the chanting, it starts early and happens often (uh…or always). At the match I attended against Greater Binghampton, the mass of the supporters section didn’t sit down until halftime and was rarely quiet for more than about fifteen seconds at a time between chants (or cheers, en route to a 4-0 shutout victory).

So what can we learn from the DCFC Supporter Culture? What do they do that’s so vital to building a winning culture and bringing people around who love to be a part of that culture?

1) Win or Lose, They’re There, and You’ll Know It

Now granted, I’ve never seen a City loss. But I know that even in draws and rare losses, the City Supporters are still loud and proud. They’ll cheer no matter what. Because they love their team and their culture. No matter what sort of organization we’re putting together, we’re going to experience setbacks and losses. That’s okay. Your culture should still be built on cheering on and supporting your team no matter what. Because victories and losses are both temporary. Knowing this, sing loud, sing often, and support your team like you love them as much as you do.

2) They’re Unified

Take 1,700 relative strangers and put them in bleachers outdoors. Give one guy a megaphone. Suddenly, those 1,700 people are unified in song, chant, or cheer. How does that happen?! Everyone at these matches is united behind a single goal- to see their team win. That means creating a winning atmosphere, which in sports, means a positive, loud, exciting atmosphere. Because everyone wants this, everyone is willing to fall in behind one guy with a megaphone and support their team. It also helps that the guy with the megaphone really knows what he’s doing and has a good feel for pacing the supporter section.

3) They’re An Actual Community

The supporters of DCFC get together and cheer at matches, but they also meet up before the matches to hang out (and eventually march into the stadium cheering and chanting) and go out after the game to celebrate- together. No matter what kind of community you’re building, having time outside of “business time” to actually build and foster the relationships that support that community is going to be vital. There is no separate “business relationship” and “social relationship” when it comes to building a culture of community. There’s one relationship among people that has to span business and social connections.

4) They’ve Got Brand Identity

Le Rouge knows exactly what and who Le Rouge is. Le Rouge is loud, proud, inspiring, and winning. The supporters know this, too. It’s easy to get behind a winning culture! There are various groups that contribute to this, like The Northern Guard Supporters, Motor City Supporters, and Le Rouge Supporters. They have a very well-established web presence with consistent material and representation across all platforms, despite these being run by different people in different locations. If you’re building a community, you have to have a brand identity and know it.

5) They Offer Something Everyone Wants

This one should be a no-brainer, but I’ll spell it out anyway. Everyone craves community. Take that to the extreme- a desire to be part of a community is one of the greatest contributing factors to youth gang activity. Thankfully, coming out to cheer at a soccer match isn’t as dangerous or illegal as gang activity, and neither should whatever you’re organizing your community for be. But the fact remains, Le Rouge draws massive, passionate crowds to their games because people want to be a part of something. In Detroit, it’s par for the course now to look for outlets for hope and recovery from blah blah blah, the same story you’ve always heard about Detroit. Soccer happens to provide an avenue for that hope and optimism to flourish in Detroit. Your community or organization should provide that same sense of purpose, belonging, and hope. You can build a culture around that much easier than you can build a culture around just about anything else. The bigger the purpose, the closer the belonging, and the stronger the hope, the more powerful the culture.

So whatever your endeavors in community building are, take these five principles from the Detroit City Football Club and wield them well. If a minor league, first-season soccer team from the city America most likes to pick on for being hopeless and rundown can create a positive, optimistic, hopeful culture using them, you should be able to as well.

Categories: community, culture, fun | Leave a comment

048 – The Last Men’s Leadership

Tonight I had the privilege of attending live the last Men’s Leadership that The Team will ever host for the foreseeable future. Long story short, it was incredible, and featured absolutely mind-blowing talks from Mark Paul, Kirk Birtles, George Guzzardo, Claude Hamilton, and Orrin Woodward.

Quote highlights in particular from the event include:

“The wise person questions himself. The fool questions others.”

– Henry Arnold (quoted by Mark Paul)

“Your logo is who you are when you walk around.”

– Mark Paul

“All men are prepared to do the incredible if their ideals are threatened.”

– Maya Angelou (quoted by Mark Paul)

Kirk Birtles describing that if you want to succeed, your baseline temperature needs to be 209°, and you need to kick it up to 212° when you’re running for a goal.

“You can’t have convenience and excellence.”

-Claude Hamilton

“The scars you acquire from exercising courage will never make you feel inferior.”

– Claude Hamilton

There were a ton of other great quotes, but I wasn’t able to tweet them all, and I don’t have my notebook next to me to go back and get them. The specific quotes aren’t what I want to talk about here, though.

What I want to talk about is exactly how incredible of an opportunity The LIFE Business really is.

You see, it’s not just that it’s laughably inexpensive, or that the content and rewards blow the competition out of the water. It’s not that the compensation is sickeningly good, or that the mentoring that you get for free just by hanging around the compensated community is worth far more than a four-year college degree from a top-notch University (trust me on that one). It is all of those things, but it isn’t JUST all of those things.

What I’ve been loving about LIFE recently is that when I look around, I see all sorts of people! All sorts! I see big people, small people, people with a lot of melanin, people with barely any melanin, people who use electricity, people who don’t use electricity, people who are biologically capable of carrying babies and people who aren’t, people who remember the Korean War and people who don’t (and people who don’t remember Desert Storm, for that matter), people who wear watches that cost as much as cars, and people who drive cars that they couldn’t trade for watches. What I love about LIFE is that it is absolutely the closest thing in the world to a completely equal-opportunity system, and every time I turn around, the Policy Council is making it more fair and more equal for anyone willing to do the work.

I see more diversity in the LIFE business than I saw at my University, and that’s powerful to me. I believe in equality of opportunity, and I believe that everyone is created equal. The LIFE business is an opportunity that is open to anyone, can benefit anyone, and will produce incredible results for anyone willing to put in the effort necessary. And that’s it. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts. No fine print. Nothing. It’s just the best darn stinkin opportunity out there for anyone, and every time I walk into that community, I get excited just knowing how powerful that opportunity is for anyone who sees it.

It’s a great blessing to be affiliated with LIFE, and I can’t tell you how much I look forward to the future that LIFE is going to create.

Categories: LIFE | Leave a comment

047 – The Most Comfortable Pillow

I was recently asked by my good friend and mentor Larry Allswede to write a blog post on the concept of comfort. When should a person be comfortable? When should they be uncomfortable? And where is the balance between the two?

In thinking on comfort, the first place that my mind came to was the quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin –

”Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security [comfort] will deserve neither and lose both.”

Well. That’s a pretty bold statement on when it’s not okay to be comfortable! Comfort that is gained through the sacrifice of liberty is clearly a no-go. But Benjamin Franklin didn’t live in the time of Facebook and Twitter, cable television and Siri in our pockets. Benjamin Franklin was actually foreshadowing exactly what our society has done since the start of the industrial revolution! Benjamin Franklin was essentially predicting, by the warning that he gave, that American society would give up its liberty to gain security! I’d stand up and be outraged at his audacity, but my lay-z-boy is far too comfortable, and the next episode of The Jersey Shore is about to come on…

So. Benjamin Franklin correctly predicts that America will give up its liberty to be comfortable. But what he didn’t prepare us for was the fact that by nature of giving up our liberty for comfort, we’ve stopped teaching the principles that help us secure and protect that liberty. So, what are five things we can do to relearn those principles? Well, some of it might involve becoming a little bit uncomfortable…

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Categories: Growth, leadership, Liberty | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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