Tribes by Seth Godin: Book Review

We need You to lead us

I can’t believe this book has been out for 8 years and it took me as long to find it! It’s great! Seriously, go read it, it will take you like a day. It’s short, fast, engaging and never boring. But since you’re here, I’ll give you the run down.

Tribes is all about creating tribes as a means to form, then empower, communities, whether it’s for the purpose of advancing an idea, an innovation, a marketing strategy, a business, a foundation whatever. Tribes don’t suffer hierarchy or micro management and thrive in an open environment where communication can flow freely and the leaders embrace a distinctly Taoist methodology (think ‘behind the scenes’).

Those familiar will recognize the Tao at the heart of this book but never mentioned making it extra Tao. I like. The book’s core principles distill to:

Leaders challenge the status quo. They are heretics.

Thoroughly trouncing mediocrity, there’s enough respect for excellence in this book to make even Ayn Rand’s brow slacken in approval. Leaders seek to change something, to improve something, to build something great that doesn’t exist yet and in the process topple the dysfunctional and stagnant. They need to. Approval is nothing to them. The goal is to innovate beyond the tried and true and to go beyond, to expand the scope, to do it all.

Leader’s lead by leading.

This was a big takeaway for me. You’re not appointed a leader, you’re not promoted to leadership, you are a leader when you, and possibly ONLY you, are going some where. You are not made a leader by followers, you are made a leader by doing. From there, if you give people a story they can tell themselves, not a friend, not a book, not you, they will willingly and joyously be part of the tribe because they too will want to do this thing.

Success before commitment gets you neither.

I love this. Speaks for itself.

The time is now.

He who hesitates is lost. The leader is already on their way. It’s all about initiative and momentum (major key alert!!!!). Seth’s example: furniture designer showcases finished products in the fabrics/styles of her prospects as opposed to showing designs/mockups on paper (promises, ‘yet to be’s). This brought me back to an article written by Rhagav Haran on Medium wherein he suggests doing pre-interview projects for when you’re job seeking. Of course! It’s brilliant. Show you can already do the job, not that you will do the job, once you have been hired. Goes back to the previous point as well and ties in to the next


I’ll admit, I’m an inertiatic mess most days, so this kicks me right in the butt. Get started, do it now. The circumstances will never be perfect (or more perfect!) and the money probably won’t be there and the obstacles won’t all fade away but when you start, things start to happen. And what are those things exactly? Well, output comes from input and Seth suggests some of these tactics for leveraging the power of a tribe:

Communication is suzerain

If you want to launch a product, a great way to start would be to create a space for people (who may or may not be prospects, it doesn’t matter) to discuss and share ideas, methods and hacks that pertain to the product. Simple example: you want to land a job as web developer. Start a blog! Share what you already know, encourage others to share what they know, link to other blogs, guest post. Give it a few months of work and before you know it people will come to you for advice. How much more appealing have you just become as a potential hire?! You’re already a pro!

Knowledge is power

And to gain knowledge, one must listen. And it helps to have something to listen to. Facilitating conversation is not only empowering for people and fulfilling on a most basic interaction craving level but it nets you a whole bunch of research gratis!

The gems don’t stop there:

  • Never settle
  • Most people are sheepwalking and don’t matter
  • Don’t let fear hold you back from anything, incl. failure

He even brings up Chris Sharma. It’s great.

The last point I want to elucidate is one that I think matters a heck of a lot.
Seth talks about our obligation to be better, to do better, to realize our potential and I think, at least in white middle class north american culture I was progenized into as a male bodied person, that is a very relevant message we need to take to heart. Did you grow up with the internet, a phone, an allowance, new clothes, food in the fridge and probably even access to, if not ownership of, a car? Well guess what buddy, it’s on you now. Time to make something great, something empowering, enriching and radical cuz if not you, who? And I’m not talking about self-aggrandizement, renown or any of that bollocks, I mean making the world a better place so we can all grow up with the opportunity that people like me were freely given. It’ll be fun!