Tribes by Seth Godin
Sit Down and Read
One Line Summary
Enter the age of Tribal business
Seth Godin is marketing genius. He may look like a nerdy basketball coach, but the guy one of my favorite business gurus. Tribes is no exception.
I see Tribes as an extension of one of Godin’s earlier books, Purple Cow. In Purple Cow, he argues that in the age of the internet, products that win are exceptional products. Products that really “wow” us and make us feel like change has occurred.
It’s an amazing point, but you can actually go one step further. Who is going to lead these exceptional businesses? How are they structured? What are the benefits and costs of running a business like this? All these questions and more are answered in Tribes.
You won’t get a ton of specific step-by-step instructions in this book. But what you will get is a mindset. And that mindset will at least allow you to do things approximately right, with the rest of the gaps filled in along the way.
Why it’s Awesome
What is a Tribe?
It’s really simple. A tribe is group of people who have banned together for a certain cause. We’ve always had tribes, in fact evolutionarily we are almost entirely tribal creatures. But in the age of the internet, tribes look much different. People who live on other sides of the planet can be part of a tribe.
Godin argues that tribes are the key to successful business in the modern era. There is a WAR going on in business for people’s attention, because if people don’t give a business attention, that business dies. What has happened is that businesses have been forced to become new and exciting in order to punch through the noise and capture you and I’s attention.
My blog is not an exception to this. I need your attention because that’s the only way I can get enough leverage for authors to pay me to review their book on this blog. At some point, I probably will start offering other products as well. Without attention, this blog goes away.
Have you noticed that I talk shit on almost everyone? I talk shit on organized religion. I talk shit on economists and finance. I talk shit on science. The list goes on and on. Why do I do that?
Well mostly just because that’s what I honestly believe. But the reason I don’t mind being controversial as much is because I know that polarization and controversy is an important part of creating what Godin calls a “Purple Cow”. I’m very intentionally trying to put ideas out there that are going to cause a ruckus. That’s good.
But the truth is, I’m just one person. This is where Godin’s idea of a tribe comes in. This tribe is a group of people who resonate with what I’m doing here and want a part of it. They share my posts. They make comments. They tell their friends about blog. Slowly the tribe grows.
Godin argues that it’s not my job to manage these efforts. It’s my job to LEAD. And if you’re an entrepreneur, that has to be your job as well.
What’s the difference between managing and leading? Managers say, “I want you to do this”. Leaders say, “I’m going to do this. Follow me”. That’s what makes a successful tribe.
I can’t control who likes me blog. I can’t control who decides to tell their friends about it. But I can declare war and see who is next to me when the bullets start flying.
Anyone can do it. As Godin points out time and time again, there aren’t many factors that determine who can be a leader. Human beings respect authority, and often we attribute far more positive characteristics to those in charge than they actually have. Really all it takes is the balls to make a stand for something and then stick to it when no one else does.
Easier said than done though of course. Taking a stand against the status-quo means becoming a heretic in many people’s eyes. And to paraphrase Jed McKenna, society reserves its worst punishments for heretics. It’s hardwired into our DNA to stick with the crowd. But those who have the courage and pure heart to break out will be the ones who see the rewards.
This book is full of real life case studies of people who have crushed it using this exact business model. Some that come to mind for me in the self-development world include Elliot Hulse, Leo Gura, Gary Vaynerchuk, RSD and of course Seth Godin himself.
Overall, this is a paradigm altering book. If you’re an entrepreneur stuck in the old model of business, you gotta get Tribes on your reading list.
Why Does It Suck
I have to disagree with Godin that leadership is as easy as he makes it sounds. There is tons to learn about leadership. Most of it is going to have to be done hands on, but of course there are some great resources.
John Maxwell has written some incredible books on leadership. I also seriously urge you to read Tribal Leadership. That book is amazingly underrated as a guide on leadership. It’s how I was able to help grow my self-development group to the level that it’s at.
There is also tons you can do to work on your people skills / charisma. Yes, Godin has a point that leaders tend to be labeled charismatic, not that charismatic people nessesarily become leaders. But that’s besides the point. Because charisma is useful when trying to influence people, and there are certain things about it which can be learned. It doesn’t have to be either or.
The reason Godin wrote that is because he wants to eliminate people’s excuses for leading. So many people have great ideas but don’t act on them because they’re afraid that maybe they’re not charismatic enough. So don’t let that become an excuse. Instead, recognize that charisma is valuable, but not a necessity to being a leader.
The Wrap Up
Love, love, love this book. If you’re someone with a big idea, a heretic, than this book is for you. It will give you some concrete structure on how to grow your idea beyond anything you as one person would be able to accomplish.
When you as an individual try and move the world, you can do the work of one person. But when you lead a tribe, suddenly you can do the work of many.
That’s the power of what we’re talking about here. Buy this book.
Buy Tribes here on Amazon: