Steve Mech, a good friend and avid reader, shared with me a book called “Fixing the Game” by Roger Martin. I started reading it to give me better perspective on how I might more meaningfully contribute as a board director. As is usually the case, in the course of searching for answers on one question, you often stumble across information you can apply in other areas. I’d like to share with you an excerpt from Roger’s book on the “Role of Community”. It’s really what we’re about at Jake’s Cafe and what makes our community work.
“Community is incredibly important in our lives. At our core, we are all social creatures who derive pleasure from the company, love, and recognition of others. Mother Teresa one said that one of humanity’s greatest diseases was “to be nobody to anybody.” We strive to make our mark on the world and to feel that our lives are worthwhile. The work we do is a critical component of our legacy. If we believe that our work has meaning and that we are valued by others for what we do we are encouraged and motivated. We persevere. Even when humans engage in profoundly antisocial activities, they often do so in tightly knit social groups, whether they happen to called Crips, Yakuza, or Al Qaeda. As social creatives, much of our happiness is derived from our relationship with a community however that community is defined.
There are three elements to our relationship with a community that centrally determine our level of happiness:
- Our perceived value in the eyes of the community in question
- How much we value that community
- The degree to which that community is valued by those outside it.
These three elements work together to reinforce or diminish our happiness.
How does this work? Imagine that a person feels valued and appreciated by her community. That makes her happy. However, her degree of happiness will be a function of how much she cares about that community. Just as Groucho Marx slyly opined that he would never want to be a member of a club that would have him as a member, it followed that, if a person puts low value on a particular community, the esteem of that community would have less effect on her happiness than would the esteem of a community she highly values. Finally, if she is valued by the community and values it back, but the rest of the world has little regard that that community, her happiness similarly is constrained.
When it comes to community in the NFL, quarterback Drew Brees has reasons to be happy. He is valued by his community: as the starting quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, he’s paid roughly $10M per season and respected by his fellow players and his coaches. Among the many superlatives thrown at Brees by his Saints peers was defensive back Darren Sharper’s observation that Brees is “The best leader I’ve ever been around.” Brees also values his community: he chose to play for the Saints rather than the Miami Dolphins or elsewhere when he signed as a free agent in 2006, and he’s seen firsthand the resurrection of New Orleans post-Katrina, which coincided with the dramatic rise in the Saints’ fortunes. Coming back from a devastating shoulder injury the year before he joined the Saints, Brees knows all too well how easily it could all be taken away. Finally, he knows just how much others value his organizations: He faces a crush of rabid and devoted fans before, during, and after every game. Fans and media across the country think the New Orleans Saints are a fantastic football team- and they are right: the Saints wont the Super Bowl in February 2010, and Brees was named the game’s MVP. He was subsequently named Sports Illustrated magazine’s 2010 sportsman of the year. For Brees, the three drivers of happiness reinforce one another perfectly.
Unlike Brees and other start athletes, Crips, Yakuz, and Al Qaeda members don’t have a perfectly reinforcing happiness equation. Consider them medium happy, because they only have two aspect of the happiness trinity working for them: while they are valued members of a community, and they value that community deeply, most people outside their community, think they should be hunted down and jailed or executed. Total potential happiness is therefore reduced.
This happiness equation can change over time. For instance, our value in a community is not static. We can take actions to improve or diminish our standing. Think back to high school and recall the lengths people will go to improve their standing in a group. People will change what they do, how they do it, who they interact with, and even their whole worldview. But such change is often an unhealthy one; it may lead to greater acceptance by the community but also to dramatically reduced authenticity on the part of the individual.
An except from Roger Martin’s “Fixing the Game”