A Word on Tribes

The afternoon my grandparents home burned to the ground was one of the coldest days on record for Western Idaho. Our pipes froze and then burst that morning, and my Mom thought that bursting was the reason that a family friend had remarked (while she was out shopping) that he was sorry about the “trouble we had had out on the farm.” By the time she was made it home, she could see that the small fire had moved from its origin (a heater beneath an engine block) to consume the entire structure. The firefighters’ hoses were ineffective in the cold against the blaze, and after experiencing increasingly dangerous conditions and the outset of hypothermia, they had give up the battle.

And yet, something was created that day. Dozens of helpers emerged spontaneously, saving pictures and heirlooms and furniture. In families and farm towns, grievances are known to fester, but on this day, they were forgiven through hugs and tears. On that day, the Tribe of the Fire was born, evermore connected by their mutual actions to support their fellow human, in this case, at risk of their safety and well-being.

The Tribe of Michael Phelps is incredible and massive. It crosses all social and economic divisions and is well worth examining has hero worship (of an atypical hero). But, in spite of this, I was more interested in a much smaller Phelps’ tribe. One of the most touching scenes of this year’s Olympic Games was following Phelps’ 8th gold medal, this final one in a relay, he, with overflowing thanksgiving, expressed his gratitude in words and an embrace to Aaron Peirsol, Brendan Hansen, and Jason Lezak—each member of that relay team. This team-led creation is powerfully bonding. Together they accomplished something that he, in his multiplicity of talents, could not. This Tribe of the Relay will always be bound by their striving together to do something greater. I, like I am sure others, have felt similar gratitude when being part of a successful team.

Last week, I issued a challenge for help on Seth Godin’s Triiibes; my wife and I hadn’t yet decided on our soon-to-be-born baby’s name. As I mentioned in the post, I wanted to experiment with what would happen if I asked for help. The results were fantastic. Seth wanted Dumbledore, Ed was incredulous about that suggestion. Multiple Triiibe members did some homework to find out what domains were available (Ted informed that AlistairFisher.com was available). There were many other comments (20 in total), some helpful, some not so much.

During the course of this little test, the little transient Tribe of Naming Our Baby was born. Rules began to be established (more than what I had set), for example, Steve said to have the given name as the first name, and Bernadette and Ted warned against too unique of names. Of course, one thing we will see is where the real power lies (in this case, my wife).

One way that tribes succeed is in the work for something beyond the individual members, and through this work, they become closer and more connected. The large tribes: Apple, Cubs, Michael Phelps—they have their leaders, rites, and rituals, but the strength of affinity is often no match for these spontaneously created tribes that are formed around the common motivation of something greater.

Investing just a little time in these outreaching efforts—it’s what binds us as humans; it is a transformative power to change crowds of people into communities of friends.

That is an incredible power to harness.

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