In the Tom Cottar Music world, I’ve been blessed to grow a 1000+ member TRIBE of friends. Not just ‘fans’ or ‘supporters’. But real people I know and love. People who are invested in me, and I am invested in them. I’ve got nothing but real LOVE for them. And here’s why:
Excerpted from “UNLEASHING YOUR CREATIVITY: Lessons From a Reluctant Creative.”
1. We give each other emotional support. They listen to me through my struggles and help me process how to move forward. It doesn’t matter if it’s a relationship issue, a time management problem, or if I’m working on a new song idea and get stuck in Second Verse ****. Coming from another creative, their support is incredibly potent. They don’t downplay my struggles. They ‘get me’. And I ‘get them’. So we rely on each other.
2. They are a source of motivation and inspiration. Someone tells you they admire and appreciate you and your work. You get encouragement to create more and do better. Again, this is particularly powerful when it comes from someone whose taste you respect, or someone who really knows what they’re talking about. Some of my most trusted sources of motivation are other artistic, creative people who’ve taken the time to thoughtfully critique my work. They’re gentle and kind and generous… and honest. There’s a sense of mutual respect for our creations—and a mutual expectation that we are all striving to create our best work.
3. We give each other great feedback. Those of us who’ve created something from our heart—from our innermost being— and have hung it out for the world to see, know one thing deeply: We know how to give and receive feedback. Gently. Thoughtfully. Honestly. Encouragingly. Without fail, someone in my tribe says just the right thing to give me a thoughtful and useful response to my work, and how to make it better. Sometimes it’s my wife, who knows me better than anyone, and sometimes it’s another creative who just says, “Hmmmm….yeah, but…what if you did ___________ instead? I’d be interested to see what that would look like.”
4. A tribe makes for great collaboration. I can’t tell you how many times someone in the tribe gets involved with me on a project. We may talk about ideas, word choices, stories, lyrics, colors….anything. In my tribe, I have computer whizzes, artists, painters, t-shirt designers, mechanics, programmers, stylists, ranchers, secretaries, parents, coaches, pastors, atheists, writers, monks, bartenders, and construction workers. The stories and experiences we share are unending. And any of them— all of them— are amazing collaborators. Whatever we make together is exponentially more than what I could ever make alone.
5. We keep each other accountable. When I get in a funk of depression or laziness, someone in my tribe cares that I get off my butt and get things done. Someone cares that I keep writing, playing, singing, emailing, or whatever I’m supposed to be doing. And I care enough not to let them down. Now and then I’ll get a text or a message on social media that says, “Hey, man. I haven’t seen you at our songwriter circle in a while. You should come out next Tuesday.” It’s a gentle reminder saying “Hey, dude. Don’t you dare quit on us. We love you. You need to get up and get going.”
And I do.
6. Most importantly, a tribe give us a place to belong. It gives all of us a place and platform do to something that matters to each of us. It gives me a place that matters. A place I belong. It gives each of us the space and the glue to be connected to passionate, creative, and supportive people. It reminds us that we are not alone. It reminds us that we matter and that our work matters.
Years ago, I had an intern named Douggie who spent the summer in Sengal, Africa. As a college football player, Douggie was a huge, beast of a young man with long hair, a big beard, and an even bigger, gentler heart. He was an imposing tackle on the football field, but a compassionate, kind-eyed giant off the field. After weeks in Africa, he returned home with one mantra: ubuntu. Ubuntu is an African word used to describe a community or a tribe.
Literally, ‘ubuntu’ it means I am because we are. In other words, I am who I am because you are who you are and, more importantly, because we are who we are together. We adopted his mantra and printed bracelets and t-shirts, made posters and videos, and decided to fully embrace the concept of ‘ubuntu’. Today, Douggie is still one of my most cherished friends in the tribe. I am who I am because we are who we are.
That, my friends, is what belonging to a tribe is all about.