Tribes by Seth Godin

Favorite Quote – “How was your day? If your answer is, “fine,” then I don’t think you were leading.”

General Thoughts – A short but enjoyable read. My favorite aspect was that the format of the book was so reminiscent of Seth’s daily blog. Short and to the point writing . The book itself covers the interesting topic of community building and how a leader can go about uniting people along a common theme. Seth’s style is almost a little A.D.D in that he uses colorful anecdotes to prove his point but no example is longer than 2 or 3 pages. This kept me engaged unlike many books that have a few key points and long winded examples proving their validity.

Takeaways – Tribes are how humans connect with one another. They unite us around an idea and typically have a leader helping to build the community. An essential component of these communities are the ease with which they are brought together through communication.

Tribes come in various shapes, sizes, and can bring change to the world or represent societies status quo. Based on many examples from the book, it seems evident that tribes representing the status quo are often resistant to those that bring change.

An interesting aspect of the legacy tribes is that many members of these communities are trapped and looking for change. They go through the motions because that’s all they know and all they have ever done. It’s how things have always been done.

These people are ripe for disruption by individuals willing to lead them towards change.

Godin leans on his extensive marketing experience to showcase how engaging communities with compelling stories is how change happens. The traditional methods of engagement are boring and transparent in their efforts to spend money to buy business.

In a low attention and A.D.D world you need to be able to stand out. You do that effectively with a compelling story that builds a community around a common theme. By taking a stand and appealing to emotions you can unite the individuals that desire change into a community.

Godin makes an interesting point about how much people desire change by showing that we enjoy being a part of movements and that we seek to do remarkable (non ordinary) things.

But the Catch 22 is that people are often afraid of stepping out and driving change. We somehow feel that we lack authority and fear the consequences of failure and criticism. Society has trained us to doubt our abilities to bring change.

Because most people are afraid of failure, for movements and tribes to thrive they require leadership. Someone willing to take charge of connecting people that seek change and empowering them to find their voice. A leader understands the power of strength in numbers, as the community grows more people will feel empowered to speak out in favor of the common idea.

The irony of the fear of criticism is that if there are critics that means your idea is worth talking about. It means you’re not boring as a leader.

It’s important not to be boring. People don’t want to follow a boring leader.

Building tribes takes time and consistent effort. It’s not an overnight change. It takes requires constant engagement of the members of the community. It’s also important to give without the expectation of receiving anything in return because Tribes are filled with intelligent people. They can see through false motives. Therefore when working to build a community it’s important to build transparently. Most effective are the leaders that seek alignment with the cause itself.

I loved the passage in the book where Godin talks about “Lurking” in tribes. People that join a group but don’t participate are not leading. The truth is they probably shouldn’t even claim to be a member of the group if they are not actively participating. Lurking shows a lack of initiative and leadership. Taken as silence, it means you have nothing worthwhile to say and that you are perhaps boring.

Viewing lurking from a social media context, commenting on posts from others is fine but is not leadership. Leaders take a stand and start discussions. Leaders establish a beach head in reality. Lurking accomplishes nothing because it avoids the key component of building a tribe. Communication.

Leading change will bring about conflict. There are those seeking change and those that want the status quo. Conflict between the two is natural and as you look to become a leader of your own tribe you cannot expect everyone to like what you do.

That’s just fine. You don’t need to please everyone, you can focus on your core followers and growing them through an authentic message and community building. There is no need to compromise your message because those that do end up mediocre.

Followers and addicts of the status quo are reactive individuals. Leaders are proactive, identifying a need for change and uniting a community around the idea of change.

Once you’ve found your tribe it’s important to nurture the community you are building.

I loved the brief section on religion, especially the series of quotes below:

” Religion is just a set of invented protocols, rules to live by (for now). “

“If religion comprises rules you follow, faith is demonstrated by the actions you take.”

“Going against the systems people believe in can make them hostile towards what you’re doing”

Conclusion: A short book that was easy to read and had valuable tidbits on building a loyal following. It can be read over the span of a weekend and the format of the book makes it easy to stop and start without losing the thread of the book.

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