It's a basic human need, we all want to feel like we belong. This is what a tribe means. The company has become the modern day tribe, but we don't always feel like we belong at work. I learned my best lessons by looking at extreme cases. It's why I like the military, because the stakes are life and death. All of the lessons are easy to see. So what's an extreme version of Tribe, the Grateful Dead, Deadheads? And you know who's an amazing person to talk about it?
Social psychologist, and award winning Harvard professor, Amy Cuddy. I didn't even know she was a Deadhead, but she's followed them for years. So we got together and talked about what it means to feel like we belong. This is a bit of optimism. Thanks for doing this.
Thanks for having me.
My pleasure. It's nice to see you.
The thing that I wanted to talk to you about is a topic you and I have never talked about.
And I think a lot of people don't actually know about you, which is you are a Deadhead.
I am a Deadhead, a very proud Deadhead, as you can see here.
And it looks like that you have Grateful Dead jewelry on you also.
And you did that Deadhead thing where you traveled the country going from concert to concert.
I did. They call it getting on the bus. You know, I got on the bus in 1988 in high school. And then, you know, when I went to college I started to really follow them and you'd say, you're going on tour with the Dead, say you follow them and go to 12 or 15 consecutive shows and sleep in parking lots or rest areas and, you know, make friends along the way. So yeah, I've been doing that for a long time.
And now that they are playing again as Dead and Company with John Mayer, who's remarkably great at filling Jerry Garcia shoes, I'm doing that again.
The thing that I find so interesting is, you know, it's no longer about the music. There are plenty of people who are fans of an artist who don't get on the bus, who don't follow them on tour, maybe a couple of cities, but not 12, 13, 14 in a row.
And yet, you know, Phish fans do this. Grateful Dead fans do this. What is it about the Grateful Dead that makes people do this? Like I said, it's only partially the music.
It is partially the music. But let me talk just briefly about why the music invites that as well. The music invites that because the dead have played thousands of shows, but they've never played the same show twice. And I mean, literally, they've never played the same set list twice.
So every single show from their catalog of about five hundred songs is a unique combination of those songs. It's two sets. It's about three hours long you know with a set break in the middle. That means you're getting three hours of music that no one has ever seen before and will never see again at every single show. And that is in a way, an incredible act of generosity. The fans feel that they're putting that much into it.
We're going to give you something brand new every time,
but that's not a reason to travel around the country.
That's not enough. That's the beginning of what I call bounteous presence. And the idea is that the band is present with each other that requires them to be able to hear each other, to respond to each other, to lead and to follow. And that presence is sort of contagious. The audience feels that connection they’re in the moment they're present with each other.
There's a kind of contract that you make an implicit contract as a Deadhead,
but that's all after the take me back, like so you go in your first one and you don't expect to become a groupie. You don't expect to go on tour with them. Right. And if somebody said to you know, they play a different setlist every time, you're not going to be like, oh, well, then let's definitely go do this. Tell me what your experience was.
The first concert or two that made you that sucked you in to this to this community
I'm going to start with a lyric that explains it and I'll unpack that. One of the more famous Grateful Dead lyrics is Strangers Stopping Strangers Just To Shake Their Hand. And that might seem, oh, that's a nice idea, but that is what it is. We are strangers and at the same time, we are a kind of community. But those friends that I make, who I think of as tour friends, I may never see again. But I know that we have agreed to be kind to each other in that moment.
The name of the band, The Grateful Dead is so scary to parents. It sounds so sinister. But the truth is that what the Grateful Dead means is based on this folktale, where, as Jerry Garcia would have described it, a wanderer who gives his last penny to pay for the corpses. Burial is then magically aided by the spirit of the dead person. So the Grateful Dead is the spirit of the dead person who is a stranger wandering through a town.
When he or she died, a stranger paid for that person's burial. And now the spirit of that person is watching over them. That is the stranger stopping strangers just to shake their hand. So I think that that philosophy of taking care of each other, even if you don't know who someone is and what their past is, what tribe they belong to, that's what it's about. And you feel that immediately when you're traveling with these fans who look so sort of raggedy, people in the towns that you travel to expect to have this experience, this kind of scary, and they end up shocked by how friendly the Deadheads were.
You know, if I'm at a dead show and people who work at the stadium are coming around picking up trash, every dead head around that person is going to help them pick up trash. You know, the people in the hotels who work at the hotels are shocked by how friendly the Deadheads are. The idea is that, yes, you're traveling with this community, but wherever you are, the people in that fixed community are now also part of your community and you're all going to take care of each other.
It's funny, the parents hear the word dead and freak out, but the Deadheads actually hear the word grateful. And that's what brings it's the gratitude. Exactly right. It's the gratitude that holds them together. Exactly right. So it's a full on subculture that has its own rules and norms, it has its own language, like a good subculture does, so because your values fit the values of the dead of that subculture, you find yourself wanting to spend more time with them.
And, you know, you and I both do work on subcultures and there's a feeling of belonging. We all every single one of us seeks belonging and we're different and feel like we don't belong in regular society. And when we find a group that accepts us and we feel like we're there, it builds our self-confidence and it makes us want to do crazy things like travel around the country simply to be in the community and the music becomes the mechanism. Right.
So can you tell me some of the values? Gratitude clearly is the one, but can you tell me sort of some of the values that make you feel like you belong, that you, quote unquote, found your people when you go on tour?
There is an extreme kind of generosity. If you have more and someone else needs that, you give it to them. No questions asked. So, for example, people in the dead community don't sell tickets for over face value or they'll just give them away. So one of the things that happens at dead shows is that some people will be walking around with their fingers at the air and saying, I need a miracle. And what that means is I need a free ticket.
And you trust that those people who are looking for free tickets can't afford tickets. Right? Not that they're trying to pull one over on you and say you give away a ticket if you have an extra ticket. I received miracles when I was 17 and 18, and I've given out miracles as a proper adult. So that idea that it's an abundance mentality as opposed to a scarcity mentality, people do not have a zero sum mindset about anything in the dead community.
The idea is that there is enough for everyone and we just have to figure out a way to share it, even if it's with a stranger.
Can you tell if someone's a Deadhead when you just meet them in normal society? And are there clues?
I mean, there are there are explicit clues apart from the tie dye t shirt.
It somehow manages to work its way into the conversation pretty early on, even if there are no obvious clues.
So you drop clues to see if the other person. It's like dating, right. It's not intentional. Right. But there is something about their way of interacting. There is a kind of presence that I know it seems like sort of magical thinking the way I'm explaining it. But somehow you end up talking about music. It might be like an aged person backstage. When I'm giving a talk somehow in five or ten minutes, we figure out that the other is a Deadhead.
So I do think there's a way of interacting that people might learn in that community or maybe they take to that community, but they also express it outside of that community so they don't have to be on tour with the band when they're behaving as their best Deadhead.
So I don't think this is unusual. I mean, as I said before, everybody seeks belonging. It's a human tribal instinct. It makes us feel safe. And so subconsciously or consciously, I think we're constantly giving out signals to see if somebody is of my tribe. You know, some people were iconography, you know, religious iconography that gives away some of your values and some of your beliefs. Sometimes fashion plays that role. The point is, is like in a modern society, we're constantly looking for ways you wear a necklace.
You know, you don't look like a stereotypical Deadhead, but you're giving it away. And if somebody catches your necklace, even if you forgot you're wearing it that day, someone will come over to you. And I'm sure there's a way of introducing each other.
You'll make a point of creating connection. And I think that's normal in society. We're constantly looking to do that. The question I have now is in this day and age where that kind of human interaction has been very diminished, how do we find that sense of belonging? How do we create those connections through a largely online world that we're living in? I mean, most of us are going to work online or having meetings online. We're meeting people online.
We're dating online.
How do we establish and send those clues out?
I've been thinking a lot about this, especially because I've had experiences recently where I do run into a dead head and something very sort of friendly happens. And I think, why am I not doing that all the time? So recently I was driving. I was annoyed people had pulled out in front of me and I got a traffic light and a guy, the guy in the car next to me and I was sort of ready to be honked at I could sort of see out of the corner of my eye that he was looking at me and I looked over and he held up his hand like this.
And what I'm doing is I'm holding my right hand in my middle finger is down. And that might seem strange. And he had a smile on his face, but what that meant was that he's a Deadhead because Jerry Garcia lost his middle finger on his right hand. It was cut off by an axe as a child. So that meant I'm a dead head. And I was suddenly reminded that I'm a kind person and that my feeling irritated in general at that moment was completely and utterly useless.
So that generosity, that sort of feeling of kindness then extended to people way beyond the guy in the car next to me who is dead. Had I. Have I. The sticker on my car. That's how he knew, said he saw the sticker. He showed me the sign that he's a Deadhead and suddenly that is unlocked in me, that feeling, those values are unlocked in me.
It reminded you.
It reminded you to live to the right that they were clenched, they were locked up. They were behind this wall. And that reminded me, this is who you are in your happiest moments. And when I talk to people about what your authentic self is, they're always trying to think of their authentic best self at work. And I say, no, no, no, wrong. I say take the last three, four years of your life. What is the best moment?
Because I bet it wasn't at work, but you were feeling deeply connected with people. You were feeling seeing you were seeing them. And you also felt confident.
You felt a sense of agency. But that wasn't the first thing that you felt what you were feeling was connected and seen and seen.
That's how I feel. It did show that is my authentic self. Now, if somebody had told me 10 years ago at Harvard Business School, you know, your authentic best self is that person at a dead show and you need to bring that into the classroom. I would have thought that they were you know, they were, you know, yanking my chain. But that actually is exactly what it is. That is my authentic self. So who I am, what I'm watching music and hanging out with all of these strangers, dirty stadium floor.
That's the person I want to bring in when I'm teaching students at Harvard Business School. So I want to go back to my question.
So in a digital world now, in our online remote world, how do we do we do that? Have we have we lost that ability? That seems really important.
I definitely don't think we've lost the ability. I do. And I'm not directly answering your question just yet, but I'm talking about kind of about a tribe that I belong to. And that tribe reminds me of who I am in my best moments of what I'm capable of in terms of generosity with other humans. At the same time, we belong to tribes that are not bringing out our best selves and are not reminding us of how generous we can be.
So I'm sort of saying when I'm reminded of this tribe, I become much more understanding and compassionate. But there are other tribes that I can be reminded of that make me less compassionate.
Here's what I think is interesting. Right, which is and I had a long conversation with Dickon about this. We seek belonging. And when the leadership of the tribe, when the other members of the tribe have genuine generosity in their heart to include you in the tribe, then it'll bring out your best self. But when they invite you into the tribe for selfish reasons, then it won't necessarily bring out your best self. So, for example, al-Qaida or ISIS have remarkable recruiting outfits where they make these disenfranchised young people feel loved and belonging and they're available online at all hours of the day.
But the thing is, you don't even know that you're talking to the same person and they want you to join for their political purposes.
They don't actually care about you or in a business, for example, where you might be at the top performing X and you recruited and showered with money and praise because they just want you to perform. But if you stop performing, they fire you. The love that they gave you was selfishly motivated. And so the hard thing is for the tribe member, for the community member, sometimes it's really hard for us to tell the difference because it feels really good to feel included.
It feels really good to feel told that we belong and that a gang, for example, you know. Right. And it's only until later that we discover that it was a farce, that it was a fraud. And so I think this intense human desire to find belonging and find, quote unquote, our people find our tribe. We are all susceptible to being duped. I agree. And that to your point, it can bring out the worst in us sometimes.
Right. But if it's genuinely with love and there's genuinely an altruism and a desire to give, then your best self does come out because that becomes the reason to for you to invite somebody else into the tribe.
Right. Right. So one of the points that you're bringing up is sort of some of these tribes are recruiting you because they need you to achieve some possibly sinister goal, although they don't see it as sinister. But know the tribes that do bring out the friendliest, our most generous selves don't need you as an instrument. They enjoy enjoying the thing they love with other people, but they don't necessarily need the other people and they definitely don't need you specifically.
They like you because it brings out the best in them and that makes them feel good. So what are the things that remind us that we are together? Right, that we do have a shared goal. That's that's good. And I don't know exactly what those things are right now because people feel so different from each other on very salient dimensions that it's hard to get them to even pay attention to the dimensions that aren't in their Twitter feed every day, all the time.
That's an interesting point. I would argue that the fundamentals are the same. Right, but they're harder. Implement and actually, where in the human interaction world, in the human interaction world, a lot of it is instinctive, a lot of it is nonverbal, your specialty, non-verbal communication. And in the online world, it has to be on purpose and it has to be verbal. In other words, we just go back to the necklace you're wearing.
You have a non-verbal piece of communication hanging around your neck. You have a non-verbal piece of communication stuck on your car right there or something.
And so you forget that you're wearing the jewelry.
You forget that you have a sticker on your car and you're driving around all day. People can see where you belong. And so they can immediately pick up on the cue and send a signal your way as well or just treat you differently. Right. And in the online world, I think we have to make it takes more effort where we actually have to say things, even to the point of being a little bit awkward to make these things known, because the nonverbal communication and you tell me you're the expert here, nonverbal communication in an online world, how does that even work?
Well, I mean, this is online and you and I right now are looking at each other, or I could be looking at my own picture.
That's true. But we're also I mean, non-verbal is also, you know, vocal cues are also nonverbal cues. So you're talking really about places where it's just words and there's nothing else in people's bios. Tell you something about where they're coming from. So if you go back to me. Yes, I'm wearing it. They call this is steal your face around my neck and I have one on the back of my car. Why do I do that?
I think part of why I do that is that I'm signaling to people I'm kind I'm open to you, assuming people know what it means.
Right. So that's the people who know what it means. But at least those people also, if they're having a bad day and they see that sticker, it's going to open something up in them. So I am trying to let people know so that one, they are kind to me. And two, it might unlock that kindness in them as well. People do that sometimes, even in things like Twitter bios. What you want to be signaling to people is I'm open to you, but we are signaling the opposite.
So I go back to what I said before, which I think the fundamentals are the same. So, for example, that subculture, that community has to have a sense of purpose or cause. It has to have a reason for being and it has to have explicit values. And as my friend George Flynn defines culture, which I love, I love his definition. He's a retired Marine general. He says culture equals values plus behavior.
So you have a strong culture when the values are clearly articulated and the people in that culture live those values.
So let's say the people in that community live those values, then it becomes a culture.
And if you think about iconography, we use iconography as shorthand to tell people what we believe or who we are or where we're from. And you think about some of the stickers that people stick on their cars to tell you something about themselves. Harley Davidson stickers, Apple stickers, you know, I love my favorite is people who have a Dell or a PC that's given to them from their office and they stick an Apple sticker over the computer just to let everybody know I didn't choose this.
Right. But I've never seen anybody stick a Dell on a Mac, stick a Dell sticker. Star Wars.
You know, Star Wars iconography is a big one sort of nerd culture.
And it's all of these signals. Just to let you know, by the way, I have a Star Wars, I have a Star Wars license plate, but it's really subtle and only if, you know, will you know.
Why do you have that?
Because I love it.
But you would not let me just say because I love it, you know, that that's not the only reason why I have a steal your face sticker on the back of my car
because I'm like you, which is it's a part of my self-identity.
It's a culture that I like the people. And it's exactly the same as you. I in a subtle way, like putting it out there that I'm a member of this culture. And if somebody catches it, they'll know. And I just like that. I like the nudge and the wink. I mean, this is one of the things about community, right? I mean, put it this way. If you were to go to a large event, a corporate event, and everybody's hanging out and you're sort of doing the thing you do and like people come up and talk and you talk to people and you catch somebody across the hall who doesn't look like anybody, quote unquote, you would normally talk to, you know, they might look stiff or, you know, and yet you happen to notice they have a Grateful Dead symbol on their lapel or around their neck.
You're going to make a beeline for that person, of course. Right.
And I think we do that all the time. We're such terrible animals. We're so highly attuned. And sometimes we get it wrong.
Sometimes we embarrass ourselves because we get the signals mixed up. Oh, I'm so sorry. I thought I thought, you know, because we also desperately looking for a sense of community belonging, especially when we don't belong, especially when we feel like we're an outsider. Right.
But I think there's something more there. And it's that Barbara Fredrickson has this idea that we miss understand the concept of love. And by misunderstanding the concept of love, we're missing out on moments of love that we could be experiencing, appreciating, acknowledging, recognizing every single day of our lives as she calls this micro love. And the idea is that love is not just exchanged between romantic partners and parents and children and best friend. It is exchanged in that little glance between strangers.
So I am addicted to my true love. I live. I love fiercely, too, I mean, I love my husband and son and my friends fiercely, but those moments of micro love, that little exchange with the guy in the car next to me that just cracked my heart open and I need my heart to be cracked open right now.
Everybody does. So that little Lance, that's why I have the sticker on my car. That's why I wear this around my neck, because when I'm waiting in line for coffee and the person six feet ahead of me who's annoyed that we have to be six feet apart and wearing masks, turns around and sees that I'm going to see the smile in their eyes and I'm going to give them that same smile back again.
Sorry my emotions are so close to the surface right now. That's what it's about. We are missing out on moments of love because we're looking for this ridiculous sort of Hollywood concept of love. That's just one tiny part of love.
See, this is what I'm talking about. You know, it's this vulnerability that you keep your emotions and that you can make yourself cry from talking about tiny acts of generosity and tiny acts of kindness and micro love. And it's not the set lists.
It's that the reason you sacrifice and people leave their work and take days off and take vacation days and spend their money to be around the Grateful Dead is because the intense feelings of being around people who give you that micro love every moment of every day is overwhelming and beautiful and you seek it out and wanted as much as you can get it. That's right. And if only it existed everywhere in society, you wouldn't have to travel around the world.
But you do. That's that's right. Yeah. So the thing that I've learned from talking to you today is that community is this thing that we all desperately want. Yeah. You know, community is a place where we find safety. But you want it to be safety based on shared values and shared beliefs, not shared fear.
That's right. The reality is the way we fix this is very simple, which is we all get on the bus and follow the Grateful Dead.
That's exactly right. But we all have to get on together.
Yeah. And in this day and age, we have to get on our own bus with masks. We can't get on the same bus. That's fine, too. Amy, always a joy to see you. And thank you to you, Simon. Thanks for taking the time. Thanks.
I hope you enjoyed this bit of optimism, if you'd like more, please subscribe wherever you like to listen to podcasts. I hope you'll join me next time. Until then, take care of yourself and take care of each other.