During our club existence we have strived and tried to do many things. Some of them you have seen, some you liked very much – but as many of the good project we made, we had as many of failed ones
So, how or why to keep on going if a community hits a bump and comes into a hard time?
The example of hard times can be:
- failed project that puts the name of the club in the mud, -failed project that damages club financially,
- punishment from the law (financial, usually, but it leaves a strong mark psychologically)
- frictions between members,
- members individuals who want to shine no matter what, even if the club burns,
- social warriors who want their social justice imposed on everyone
- or simply guys who are with problems at home, job etc. and need to feel powerful – in one word, people who do not put playing with bricks on the first place and have some other agenda then just socializing),
- deadlines that are not met,
- fringe with The LEGO Company *(to which we all turn for guidance when we have a problem, but to whom do we turn for guidance if TLG is the one with whom we have a problem? (the right answer is, again, TLG, through community manager),
- project that are made but do not bring as much benefits as we thought they will, etc. – so, anything that kills the will to continue. What to do when that happens, and it will happen a lot, especially to the engaged and creative clubs who try to discover or implement something new?
Here is what I can relay from my experience:
every work and effort gets rewarded
Without a doubt. Here are few examples:
We were asked to organize one big event. It required that we update our structure and logistic significantly, and, first, we didn’t even know what that meant, and second, we didn’t know where to start. In next two years we invested almost all of our recourses to this: building up and leveling our structure, and logistics. Mind you, we didn’t had any contract, nor we had any guarantees the event will happen or that it will be done by us. At the end, the whole thing fell through and we were left with one big pile of nothing, and all of our resources drained: our team leaders went through extensive learning courses, me included, and we felt… well, left down. Washed. With no desire to invest anything in anything again. We thought we lost, profoundly. We have lost desire to socialize, and be part of global community altogether.
What we didn’t realize is that, during those two years of leveling up, we were in contact with venues constantly making events, and our structure and logistics came to light, and was spotted by people who make decisions, same going for our team leaders who showed better and better handling and understanding of the important things regarding event and crowd managing. We started being invited to host or participate in more and more events, and, after some time, we started exhibiting in three countries simultaneously, and our teams are working nonstop on various events that include LEGO bricks, and there are so many that are done outside commercially driven entities or AFOL communities, mainly in child care and educations, sponsored by the governments or similar entities, like hospital, funds, trusts, embassies, cultural centers etc.
So, we trained for one thing, never knowing it will be used on anything else. That thing failed, and we felt like failure, but our work and effort (and results) stayed – and brought results that we have not foreseen - and that brought 100 times more benefits that the original contract would.
People from club are your friends
If they are not, find out why they are not, and fix it – many good projects I have witnessed in AFOL communities fell apart because of human misunderstanding and human relationships.
There is one and only one reason for the community to exist – to make members happy and provide them with opportunities to socialize. Everything else is, in cosmic sense, less important
If there are frictions in the club, good leader (I suppose most of you are one or are part of teams that are), should spot them, and approach them – they all must be solved. Team must really believe in the longevities of its connections to survive the challenges that will happen.
we have “no vote”rule, that says we don’t vote – we discuss. Why? I noticed that always, when there is voting two fractions arise, and they tend to vote one against the other even if the vote of the first one has merits, something I noticed everywhere, especially in politics. So, if Pero says: "we go left", and me: " we go right", we all sit down, I explain why I think my way is better, Pero why his is better and we (almost instantly) see which option is better – and we all agree on that – all our decidions are unanimous. And if Pero is on the field and makes decision, I have trust that he made the best decision for us both, and similar if I make it
if someone is experiencing something hard in real life, we band together to help. A member (younger) lost his mother – there is not much what we can do to help, so we just gathered and sit there in quiet – we shared the pain
You will soon find out that you have members from all social layers, and many can do things other can’t (we had a member for years who was economy lawyer, and we struggled so much with this topic, so much, that we had to hire one. So she just joined in discussion during one meet up and offered some advice, using professional terminology and citating some laws, and our jaws dropped – she was always quiet, never took leadership role, just hanging there, I always assumed it was because of her two sons, but it turned out she is passionable about the hobby, and she know things - she drinks and she knows things :). And her favorite theme is Chima, like mine :D although she likes vehicles, I like minifigs (one more thing we found out during that conversation, so we stroke a deal, where I gave her all my vehicles, and she some of her minifigs :D
Point being – talk to each other. If member wants to share, he/she will, and you will have info to work with. If there is an issue, you will know who to ask for help or advice.
All those talks happen only on meetings and meet-ups and celebrations. You will be surprised how much adult people like to just get together and do nothing and talk about nothing in particular – just mingle. Best and strongest bonds were made on these types of get-together. And any if not all disputes can be settled in this way – and don’t think we don’t have them, every member is stubborn, strong willed bullheaded independent person who thinks they are smartest in the room, and I love it, because some great brainstorming and parting happens with this kind of group, but these kind of people are hard to handle – socializing makes them more relaxed, when all are together they are easier to make compromises, and everyone, even the smartest lonely wolf still wants to be part of the pack – provide them with this opportunity
I take all the teamleaders on lunch every first Saturday of the month. But in last few sessions I couldn’t – they still went, and had a great time, although it was initially initiated by me, and I thought it would stop happening after me
praise and let it be known
Give praise where it is due, and publicize it so much – let all good things be known loudly, unless specifically asked not to be. Why is this important? It makes good deeds, ideas and projects known, and the ones responsible appreciated. Don’t forget to mention this as inspiration for similar projects, and, at the end of a day, I like to raise a toast for the ones who contribute with something great :)
Every failure is valuable experience
This is not just a corny catchphrase, it really is like that – remember the picture with two pencils of which one is shiny and new, and the other one is dull and obviously used? It was the one who did some work. The other one is nice – and nothing has been done with her
I tend to put mistakes into rule quotes, and some of them that we use in every day conversation are product of painful experiences, like:
“if it is not in the box, it doesn’t go” – we brought the whole exhibit into Romania only on the seats of the car, not one box – we unloaded the car with shovels. 5% of mocs survived. Next year we used some boxes from other products, 70% survived. The year after that we used custom boxes – 95% survived
“no money flow through the club” – first time we got support we didn't know it existed. We divided so everyone gets their favorite theme, and same size boxes. One person was hurt “his box is more expensive than mine”. We didn’t know the prices of those sets. One liked cars, other robots. But car was more expensive. We decided that money will hurt our bonds, and it would make hobby into business, and in business, other rules apply – so, we decided to have no money flow through club, and if it appears, to immediately use it for structure and logistics, not share between members
In our country, we are obligated, by law, if we shut down the club, to transfer all the club possessions on a club with the most similar activity that is legally registered – i.e., other AFOL community. So, if we decide to shut down, someone will be 3 vans richer, around 1-5 T of club LEGO bricks and ton of extra materials, starting from LEGO Play tables, to closets, boxes, tools etc. Not a small gift, when it happens :)
“No rules” - we had a forum with rules. They covered everything. And a guy joined (forum was opened for all, not just club members), and he obeyed the rules, but made life miserable for everyone, and enjoyed it. So I approached forum admin and asked why doesn’t he do something about this, and he replied “my hands are tied, he is not breaking any rules”. But he is deliberately making experience for everyone bad, sawing discord and bad feeling, and trying to push one member on another – being bad, in general. Yes, but within the rules. And you can’t put non defined things in rules. So loose them all together!. Just make it know “be kind”or even better, use logic, common sense and morality – so we did it like that. He was asked to stop, then blocked – not only from forum, but from all gatherings. He lost a lot, and was allowed to return years later, when he asked for second chance. He was normal from then.
Note: loosing ties with community is, by far, the hardest punishment AFOL can get. Yes, he can join another one, he can go online – but losing the pack, the feeling of belonging and all (better and better )benefits, it is a blow that is devastating. Be prepared to give another chance. And third, and forth – as many as you can
“when exhibiting, be professional, when parting, be an animal”- for the first part, when we do exhibit, we tend to do it as best as we can – to be the best as we can. We try to go to perfection, although it is so far away from us still. And for the other part, when we are relaxing on celebration, we tend to keep it there – so, we have an understanding about photos, video clips and re-telling of events – you will never hear someone, even guest AFOL visitors from Lugs United, that they go into details about our parties – we like to relax, and do whatever we feel like- you like to sing? Sing as much as you like. You like to dance (like me) and you don’t have a clue how to do it (like me) dance your feet off – no one will turn an eye. Hug, smile, laugh, find a love of your life or one night sparkle, even fall after a glass too much – it is ok – nobody is judging, and it will stay within the Family Have fun :) keep the “common sense, logic and morality”on mind :D
Issue with TLG
We all agree that TLG is the main source that gives us power to start, at least. They provide moral and brick support, along with advice and experience, also networking opportunities. Many of you I would never meet if there was not for the TLG, and that is just a fact.
If you are doing a lot of things together with TLG, you are bound to hit heads with community manager from time to time – I had, but on two occasions, I considered leaving the hobby altogether because if this. I felt so awful, alone and hurt, that I wanted to burn half of the city first (rage comes first), then I felt sorry for myself for being treated like that (self pity), and then I felt tired of all club managing and stupid bureaucratic things and I wanted to return to only building (despair) – this is what I go through every time I hit the wall or have a failure with TLG of venue
Two things helped me – my people from the club, who gave me strength and noted, ok, we can continue without TLG, it would be harder, but now we have momentum, and knowledge, and resources
Second – TLG itself. I had enough strength to say “I am hurt. This feels wrong”to the community manager (First Jan, then Kim) and their ability to notice importance of the impact of the issue, and time they took to sit down and write a detailed response or make a phone call urging for discussion, issue-solving and solutions, in the same time praising some of the positive efforts from me or the club I represent, made me wanting to try harder, and to try seeing the issue from different side, or with different light.
In truth, I think that anybody can be a conduit between community and TLG, but you need an extra effort to be a good leader, and to inspire other people, and many, many of them, in the club, are better of you. In truth, I am not the smartest person in the club (officially, we measured:), I am not the neither the best builder or best known builder, I am not the strongest or best educated person – I am not even the guy who has the most bricks. I am not best at anything, and the only reason I was elected as representative of the club are set of skills that intermingled well for that position
So, when if conflict with TLG, there is only one good solution – talk. Say what is bothering you. Do it through PM as discussion on LAN can take you in different direction. After the issue has been solved, if you wish, you can discuss other ways to solve it publicly on LAN – but contact community manager and say what is on your mind – directly, simple talk, be honest and do not wrap your words in lawyering syntaxes or long words that critics of art use – just say, simple as you can, what is on your mind
Every “conflict" I had with TLG made our connection stronger. Every time we bumped our heads made my trust in Jan, Kim, Ana and the rest stronger, and I hope they have the same experience with me. Trust them. And remember, it is easy to burn the bridges – it is hard to build them
Do not forget the first main and most important benefit – to have fun.
Every action I make, if it is not for survival (food, water, roof over the head), or betterment (learning) it is focused on having some kind of enjoyment. So if we are exhibiting in Warsaw, I will try to contact some of Poland AFOLs. If we are going to Greece to the sea, I will try to contact Greece AFOLs. If I have a conference in Austria – I will contact Austrian AFOLs – for a few hours of meet-up and socializing, as, for me, that is best of fun, just below building
Do not forget you are doing this to have fun – and if there is no fun, consider stopping what you do – we did, on many occasions. There were many events that we started planning and then declined with simple statement “sorry, this is not fun for us”
Have fun. Make friends. Build and play And you will be ok, at the end of the day