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Tribal Mentality

The importance of knowledge and community

Belonging. People feel a need to belong.

This need to belong brings me back to a behavioral ice-breaker activity from years ago in which each person received a sticker of an unknown color on his or her forehead, and all participants were instructed to organize into groups by sticker color. No words could be spoken.

The catch: one person was unknowingly the sole member of his color group. Someone had a unique sticker color.

“Only once,” said the organizer after the activity, “has a member of a group torn his own sticker in half and offered the other half to the lone individual. They became a group of two.” This person recognized the need to be included in a tribe.

We join families, religions, and clubs. We have teammates, blood-brothers, partnerships, and associates. Everywhere we look, ideas both visible and invisible connect people to make tribes.

The idea of the tribe bubbles at the front of my mind as we start a year many are looking forward to. Seth Godin names three components of a tribe: a group of people, a common cause, and at least one leader. This year, my personal tribes have ebbed and flowed. Incredible tribes have been created that were not on the horizon a year ago. Some key groups have been lost.

Joining together behind a shared interest connects us. Ideas are pushed, special interests are promoted, proposals are questioned.

This has occurred since the earliest days of humanity in hunter-gatherer tribes when information was passed on from elders. Now we have megacities and the Invisible City, where there are thousands of mini-tribes, interests, and social norms that have never existed. (This very post being part of the Invisible City.)

Communities from this year, from online groups and zoom calls to the altMBA, have wisdom that can’t necessarily be studied in school or learned in a textbook. Specialized knowledge exists within these tribes. It must be passed on from the experienced ‘elders’.

The entertainment industry served as a close-knit tribe at work, where I was a newcomer. Thinking back to two years ago starting my job, those first weeks were spent training and executing tasks that eventually built up to designing my own work. Becoming part of a tight-knit tribe to launch my career provided a perfect opportunity to learn the language of the industry and contribute to something larger than myself.

The inner workings of a tribe take time to learn, and more time to improve. The knowledge of a tribe is learned by doing. Ask questions. Push boundaries. Dedicate yourself to long time horizons.

“We do not live in isolation; we are called to participate in the common good, to seek a balance between ourselves and others, in which our good becomes part of a larger goodness.” This quote from Notre Dame Magazine offers a calling to work for more than ourselves. We work for our tribe.

Thanks for being a part of the tribe of Circle Three this year. I invite you to pass it along or reply to the email to chat with me. Here’s to tribes new and old in 2021.