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Tribes by Seth Godin


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Institution:Tribes by Seth Godin

Seth Godin defines a tribe as a large or small congregation of people who are connected to one another, an idea and one leader. Since long ago, people have wanted to belong to a certain tribe. There are religious, musical, political, ethnic, political tribes and a lot more. In the past, it was a challenge for these tribes to get in touch with each other. Now, the time and location factors have been solved. The internet helps people get in touch with one another even when they are miles apart. Social sites and blogs on the web are helping tribes network and communicate. They also reach out to a wider audience; hence, they grow in numbers everyday. With the right amount of skills, one can bring together people with a common goal, and together they can achieve extraordinary things.

We all want to belong in these tribes. Some even call them a clan and family. The internet also assists in the formation of new groups of people with a common interest, new tribes. Seth says that though these groups can be started and grown on the internet, the internet cannot choose a leader for the tribe. One has to be chosen by the group, the people. His main focus on the book is how to get one to be that leader that people want, how to get them to choose you. He explains that leadership is not that hard to go after, if only one knew how to do it. He encourages one to start sometime new, grow it and find followers.

One needs to do something different, something that has not been done before. If one continues to do normal things, then that is a follower of a thing someone else started, not a leader. Leaders challenge the things others consider normal, the status quo. They advocate for change and will not rest until they get it (Godin 2008). Seth says that great leaders must have with them the element of surprise. They strike when people least expect it. He explains that leadership is more than being in authority. It is the influence you have that counts ultimately. The world of business had tribes that were used to the norm; they neither entertained nor tolerated change before.

But things have changed lately. They now like new developments, new ideas, new ways to get things done. Boring is dying out and remarkably and new taking over. That is where a leader comes in. A tribe needs one. A leader helps make a tribe bigger, wider, helps them communicate with each other. Without it, it is not a tribe but a crowd of people without a sense of direction. They are lost without a person to guide them, and in the end, the group will break up and members join a tighter group, with a leader who will cater to them.

Godin tells of a time when he was on a vacation. Here, he happened to overhear a couple talking about him. They were saying, in a criticizing manner, how wrong it was for him to be constantly checking his emails, instead of him enjoying his vacation and leaving his work behind. However, according to him, he enjoys what he does. He is not unemployed, for once. He loves the fact that he can go through his emails in the middle of the night because he has a passion for what he does. He appreciates the fact that he has a job, and in it, he can make change occur.

Seth explains that he has met thousands of people with ideas. The ideas are either good or great. He says that people have a lot of those, but the problem is that they never make their ideas happen. They dream up ideas that would start a revolution, do remarkable things, yet the idea just fades. They let it go and start dreaming up another one that will face the same fate as the previous one. People are too afraid to act, to start something new. The fear of failure in them overrides the need to make a change.

In a balloon-making factory, the employees are constantly looking out for things that might prick the balloons. Needles, hair clips and pins are a potential threat. Without these threats, there lives are normal, nothing out of the ordinary. They prefer their environment peaceful and quit. If a unicorn, with its sharp pointed horn, should stumble into the organization, then it would disrupt it. It would challenge their idea of peace soft and quiet stability.

He says that leaders, too, should have a passion for what they do. They should have a drive to keep going and to keep influencing the world with what they do. They should do everything they can to spread that passion to their tribes, make it grow, be infectious even.

If no one criticizes what you are doing, according to Seth, then you are not doing anything. Criticism is part of the calling. You should revue what you are doing if no one has anything negative to say about your work. If simply means you do not have an impact if you do not get a ‘boo’ here and there.

A leader should hear his or her people out. It does necessarily mean he or she agrees with them or that he or she will follow what they say. It is enough for the tribe to know they have a leader that listens to them, even though sometimes he or she ends up doing what is right by him or her. By doing so, the tribe feels it can trust and depend on their leader. Seth says that making your own set of rules is more thrilling than following ones that have been set by someone else. It is also more profitable, productive and powerful to do so. In the world of business, those firms that embrace and accept change have a higher percentage of growth compared to those that are do not.

Seth says that life is excessively short. It is of no use to try to defy change. Instead of hating what one does on a daily basis, one should step up and generate a tribe. Mediocre stuff should not be allowed when there is so much one can do. Leadership is not easy. It takes time and a lot of effort. Few are willing to go through the process of becoming a good leader. Some find it draining and that it takes much of their time. It is due to this factor that there are only a few leaders and many people following them. This makes leadership and leaders, in general, valuable.

Reacting and responding are the easiest things to do. The hardest is initiating. Most people would rather follow; stick to the rules and ‘sheepwalk’ all their lives. They do not want to step-up, to create a movement, to change the world as people know it. They would rather stick to the system, have others be the king while they sit back and get comfortable. When hope, a positive attitude and desire are met with a vision of the future, then a person has finally found leadership. Seth gives many examples of influential people in the world. Some of them are the co-founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, who started out without a lot of money, but has seen the site grown to become one of the top ten ones on the internet.

He had a purpose and a passion and worked towards achieving his goal. He connected around five thousand people and together they generated a majority of the articles that are on the site He built his tribe. He did not give them instructions or order them around, he led his movement and the followed. This saw Wikipedia grow to what it is today: a revolution. If Wales had cowered in a corner and have doubts about what he wanted to start, he would not have seen his idea bear fruits. He would have been another ordinary person.

Seth gives the example of Joel Spolsky. In New York City, he owns and runs a small company that deals with software. He would be just a normal person with a shop, but Joel talks a lot. People with a lot of influence follow his blogs, attend his conferences and read his books. To this people, Joel is their leader. He has a passion. He guides those with firms like his. They go to him for help on upcoming trends, challenges and advice and he offers it to them, like a true leader. In his field, he is not an ordinary software-company owner. He has set his standards higher, distinguished himself from the rest. Seth urges others to refuse ‘sheepwalking’, to stop being obedient and boring. The only way to do that is to refuse doing the same thing, the same way, repeatedly. Like a rebellious sheep, we must say no to marching down that same road and to strive being different. Creating a tribe is the only hard part. Once it is done, one will find out that maintaining it is relatively easy.

People might be doing the same thing as you, but what makes the difference is how it is done. Gary Vaynerchuk prides himself at having his own tribe, his people. Gary has a passion for wine, like many other people. However, what sets him apart is Wine Library T.V, a show that he runs. In the show, Gary helps his tribe find better wine and discover new brands of wine. He shares with them his passion through T.V, thereby reaching a wider audience. His people grow daily. Even though other people are known to do the same, his strategy his different. He initiated the revolution and followers joined him. Leaders do not necessary start a revolution for the money; some leaders just want to share ideas with others. For them, doing so is a passion and they share these with their followers.

People are waiting for a leader. Be it clients, investors, music fans, investors, they are waiting for someone to start a trend and for them to follow. It does not matter if your trend is not an instant success, few things are. What matters is that one does not let a great idea fade away. Great leaders have in the past come up with innovations that did not work at first. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, made many attempts before he could come up with one that worked efficiently. Sir Isaac Newton, the mathematician and alchemist, is also an example of a great inventor who had had his fair share of failure and disappointment. Yet he still pushed on and made numerous discoveries.


Godin, Seth (2008). Tribes: We need you to lead us. Penguin Group US

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