I just finished reading Tribes by Seth Godin. He was one of the speakers at Catalyst 2008 in ATL. At the end of his talk he gave everyone in the Gwinnett Arena (over 12K people) an advanced copy of this book, which was a very nice gesture. I had never heard of the guy before Catalyst, and now I check his blog every day. He has a keen insight into leadership, and basically just makes me want to take some of the ideas in my head seriously.
At first I thought this book should be read by everyone, but now I don’t think that is the case. This book is for the person that sees a better way, the creative that thinks it would be fun do “art” differently, the person that is not satisfied with the same old systems that produce the same old results, the heretic whose ideas don’t fit into the status quo. This book is not for members of organizations that care more about numbers than fans, leaders that want to lead to see themselves in the headlines, people that equate management with leadership, and those that think there is a manual or secret code out there that tells them how to lead. If you are the least bit fidgety about a movement that you want to start, no matter how big or small, this book is for you.
In the book, a tribe is defined as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.” We are all members of one tribe or another. I can name five tribes that I am a member of without thinking too hard (Crossfit Huntsville, Leadership Connect/Impact, GATR, Couples For Christ, and Fermi Project). Now, think about the tribes where you invest your time, energy, and resources. I bet there is a group of people, a definite leader, and a shared idea. Tribes don’t just form. It takes a person that has a unique idea. The idea resonates with enough people that pretty soon they want to join and participate. The tribes also give the members a way to communicate, explore, and spread the message amongst themselves.
I stumbled upon a great example of a tribe that may be familiar to some people. After completing Tribes early last week, I grabbed Fight Club by Chuck Plalhniuk to read on the airplane on my last trip to DC. I had seen the movie many years ago and remember thinking that the movie was equal parts profound and disturbing. In the story the narrator is so tired and burned out on the safe, but unfulfilling life that he is living, so he agrees to join the Fight Club started by his friend, Tyler Durden. The club attracts men from all walks of life that hate what they have become.
“You have a class of strong men and women, and they want to give their lives to something. Advertising has these people chasing cars and clothes they don’t need. Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy what they really don’t need.
We don’t have a great war in our generation, or a great depression [you can tell this was written in the 90’s], but we do, we have a great war of the spirit. We have a great revolution against the culture. The great depression is our lives. We have a spiritual depression.”
They fight each other to feel physical pain in order to feel “real” again. Tyler made specific rules for Fight Club that everyone follows – The first rule of Fight Club is that you never talk about Fight Club. Each night they have Fight Club, new people show up and eventually there are Fight Clubs all over the place and everyone wants to meet the legend that is Tyler Durden.
In the fictional story, Tyler Durden sees the world in a different way. He casts his idea out there and it resonates with a lot of people. They get involved, a movement starts. This is what Tribes is talking about. Whether it is a group trying to change the way Public Education is administered, a group that starts scrapbooking clubs to give stay-at-home mothers an outlet, a group dedicated to Creation Care to challenge the wasteful, throw-away culture we live in, or leading a Youth Group by showing them there is a way to react to this world, there are tribes out that are waiting to be led.
I recommend reading the book, especially if you feel like a unicorn in a balloon factory.
(Marla also gives a review of the book on her blog if you want another review of Tribes).