Week 5: Find your tribe – because it's a matter of make-or-break 🤼

Why be far from everything you need?

Liam Hounsell and I talk about the concept of a ‘blind spot’ — which is like a spot on the back of your neck. It takes a different party to see it, and no matter which way you bend your neck, you’ll never get it on your own.

Enter the Tribe.

Why did Neanderthals go extinct? ☠

In Human Kind by Rutger Brennan, the author poses a fascinating question… why did Neanderthals go extinct?

  • They had bigger brains

  • They had bigger… everything else! (Muscles and so forth)

  • They developed tools too

So how did the seemingly inferior homo sapiens get a one-up in evolution?

Homo sapiens were social learners. They learnt how to do things effectively together.

This principle seems a little lost to us in 2021. Where is the social element in teaching and education? How are we cultivated and programmed to do work together?

In fact, we are programmed to operate and thrive as individuals.

Accolades and achievements, ATAR’s and SAT scores are given to individuals, not groups. This is a fallacy, an abomination, for the following reasons:

  1. There is no such thing as an individual ability out of context. Hot-shot Wall Street analysts who are head-hunted struggle to replicate results if their team does not move across with them. Lionel Messi scores a lot of goals, but someone has to pass him the ball…

  2. Ernesto Sirolli: “No one does it alone”

  3. There is no ‘you’.

Going offline… 🔌

Imagine a computer in a remote cottage in the middle of nowhere that stays offline. Without plugging into the internet, it misses a whole era of evolution, with the rise of communication technology, connectivity, e-commerce and much, much more.

Whilst the rest of the world it inhabits is networked, the offline computer, isolated and hung out to dry, fails to keep up with the times and misses out on the advantages of being truly plugged in.

Most people, despite having the internet, are not ‘plugged in’ to the tribe (which in our metaphor was the internet 😕)… they needlessly miss out.

This week, the Constant Student Community saved a 16-year-old member six years in three 20 minute conversations 🕕. He had questions about coding, so David Singleton showed him where to go to start learning java script. He was interested in travel and writing, and so I suggested he talk to Matt Cheok. He asked for something to work on, so we sent him a project to play around with.

Google searches and Facebook Groups are not a substitute for a supportive tribe.

Seth Godin says, in his book Tribes that…

  • Leadership is not management

  • Management is manipulating resources to get a known job done (e.g. McDonalds workers do not operate efficiently out of inspiration, but organisation).

  • Leadership is about creating change you believe in

  • Leaders have teams, managers have employees

And a good point 👉 unlike politicians and other elected officials, the leader of a tribe is someone we choose to follow, completely of our own volition. That means, our leader has to earn our trust.

This week I read Bezonomics by Brian Dumane and Creatvitiy Inc. by Ed Catmull. These books gave me profound insights into world class organisations (Amazon and Pixar respectively), and on the theme of tribes, here were some of my interesting takeaways.

Creativity Inc.

  • Pixar does not have employment agreements with anyone in the organisation. The operation works based on trust and choice — they want people who choose to be there.

  • Steve Jobs was not as bad as people make out — according to Catmull, Jobs would passionately argue a point, but, would peacefully move on once shown it was not up to spec.

  • Jobs was also passionate about building the right space to maximise interactions amongst Pixar staff. He even received some resistance from some members of Pixar.


  • Jeff Bezos of Amazon (who actually stepped down from CEO this week) gives a leadership course to senior management. Goes to show, he sees this as a wise investment of his time.

  • Bezos is also famous for focusing on longer time horizons, which expands possibilities and therefore the quality of one’s work. He always said it, he and his team were building the Everything Store.

Interesting observation

The biggest difference between these two books? Dumane, a third party, frames the book as if every win at Amazon is specifically attributable to Bezos (So far as calling the book 'Bezonomics’). In Creativity Inc., Catmull, the co-founder of Pixar, does the opposite, speaking exclusively about the culture and broader team dynamic.

Doesn’t help the myth, does it?

Some would have us be neanderthals…

What have I learnt about tribe-building so far?

I don’t claim to be an expert on tribe-building so far, but here are some thoughts.

  • It is everything. I cannot claim any real ‘individual’ achievements. With the exception of my blog and podcast, I’ve always been a co-founder, rather than a founder… my first book is written alongside seven other authors.

  • It starts small… as it should. Liam Hounsell. Jesus of Nazareth. It’s worth writing every week for ten people… consider that.

  • It sucks when you don’t have one, and feels like you are pissing in the wind.

  • Follow before asking to be followed

  • Lead by example.

  • Always look after the ‘Highest R-O-I Customer’ — a term I invented for those within your work who deliver the greatest returns, rather than the ‘average’ customer or tribe member.

Look after the ones who most look after others, and the ripple will spread.

Key Take-aways 🙌

  1. Having the right tribe around you is not a nice-to-have, but a must-have. Whilst the benefits can be intangible, we need to get better at making the costs of going it alone much clearer in our culture.

  2. There are cultural and psychological narratives that obscure this truth — but just remember, if you’re great on your own, you’re regressing to Neanderthal…

  3. Followers and leaders are indivisible — there is no clear line between who is a ‘leader’ and who is a ‘follower’. I believe they are both essential skills, and they are a matter of choice.