The “What” and “Why” of Tribe


Yesterday, Charles Johnson asked me what I meant by “find your tribe.”  The same question popped up on my thread this morning, so I’ll take that as a sign that I should talk about this a bit.


  1. Love yourself
  2. Love one other person
  3. Understand human history without guilt, blame, or shame
  4. Find and support your tribe
  5. Win with integrity and compassion



Three (understand human history) is important because so many people want to believe that human beings, or our leaders, are some kinds of scum.  That’s fine, but that attitude leads to anger and depression, as well as externalizing the causes of their problems.


It is, in my opinion, the result of a lack of SELF love, since on some level we sense that we are connected to the people around us. The alternative is being Dr. Evil and saying “why am I surrounded by these Frickin’ idiots?”


There is, of course, a simple answer: because that was the best you could attract.   Needless to say, people in bad relationships, or with a bad relationship history, don’t want to take responsibility for it.  Lining up the “love yourself” with “love another person” leads most to either blaming the world for their bad choices (“there are no good men/women”) or plunging into depression and self-loathing (“this abuse is what I deserve.”


The doorway into this path is, therefore, self-love.   The healthy attitude is:   “This is all I believed I could have.  I must wake up.”  You then have earned your way into the company of others who take responsibility for their lives: “awakened adults.”  When those adults commit to protecting the children of the world, starting with their own “child self” they become members of what I would call my own “Tribe.”


Similar values, similar perceptual filters and priorities.   There are clusters of such people interested in martial arts and writing.  My tribe.


Other clusters concerned with issues around race and gender.  My tribe.  In fact, I could go so far as to say that my tribe is largely confined to those concerned with these issues, and their allies.  Philosophically, however, not politically. I couldn’t care less what some knot of politicized people has decided I’m supposed to think about issue X or Y.   What experts say about Z, unless what they say makes sense to me.


Humans are communal creatures. Most don’t do well in isolation.  As individuals, we are pretty small and weak.   As groups, sharing our knowledge and tool-using capaticity we are the planet’s alpha predators.


Making the right CHOICE of your tribe is essential.  “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future” is a savagely realistic statement.    Want to know how much money you’ll make?  Add up the twenty people you spend the most time with, and divide by the number of people.  You’ll be right in the middle of the pack.


Want to increase your fitness, success, relationship stability and passion?  Upgrade the people you hang out with.   You will begin to absorb their values, perspectives and behaviors.


Remember Lonnie Athens’ theory of the path to creating a murderer?

  1. Subject them to brutalization or violent horrification.
  2. Let them rebel “I’m  mad as hell, and I won’t take it any more”
  3. Have them act out with increasing intensity and success.
  4. Have them find a tribe of similar people to reinforce their values.
  5. Let them internalize those values so that they become part of the “voices in their head.”



By the time you get to step #5, there is no known form of rehabilitation that will help them.  It would require an epiphany on the order of Saul on the Road to Damascus to save them. All we can do is protect society from them.



The trick is to interrupt that process BEFORE they reach #5.


Note that versions of this pattern can be seen in any number of immersive educational experiences, including education, social clubs, martial arts, or the military.  It is simply asking you to emotionalize your desired area of excellence, take actions, and find role models of success to associate with until you internalize their belief systems, mental syntax, and use of physiology.


Easy Peasy.


HOW can you earn your way into such a higher-order group?  Remember the secret of Mastery?  It is a verb, not a noun, a vector, not a position.    Get on the path.  Take daily actions.  Be sincerely interested in their efforts and accomplishments.  BE HONEST AND POSITIVE.


People of accomplishment need friends and tribe as much as you do. They will select that tribe from those on a similar path, because they need people who understand their obsession, their investment of time and energy and “self”.   If “focus over time” is the most important factor in skill, then accomplished people NEED to associate with others who are focused, who are  committed.  People who understand the price they’ve paid to be who and what they are.


Of course, they also need fans.   I remember when T and I were at a party at Prince’s house, and he was playing for us. He said “don’t look at me.  Just dance.  Dig the music.”  In other words, when people are looking at him, he becomes self-conscious.  He pops out of “flow” and is no longer one with the music.  To achieve the highest level, you have to release yourself.  As long as you are worrying what people think, how people will react, you CANNOT reach your highest level of performance.


(By the way…remember when I asked if you’d fight harder for your children than for yourself?    I anticipated, and was not disappointed, that one of the most common answers was that if you were fighting for your children your attention would be on destroying the threat.   If fighting for yourself, your attention is on what they might do to you, or what people might think of you afterward.   As the secret to excellence in anything is taking attention OFF yourself and onto the task, you have to learn to  do this thing, or remain at the lower levels of skill.


Your tribe needs to be either people who can reinforce these positive tendencies, or those who will support you emotionally in achieving them.  If you cannot find a tribe, you find one person to be with.  If you cannot find that, you must be aligned within your own heart.


That’s where it all starts. With YOU.  Stand alone against the world if you must, but frankly, I don’t believe a healthy human being has any more problem than a healthy chipmonk finding a partner.   If you are aligned, you can find a person who is aligned.  The two of you together can stand against the world together.  But they won’t have to: they will find tribe.



And all of THAT starts with your daily actions. Every day, EVERY SINGLE DAY is another opportunity to ask the most important questions: “who am I?” and “what is true?” Know who you are, and you know what you want.  Determining what it will take to achieve it is your next step, and you must take DAILY actions, so that the feedback loop is short and direct, not spread out over months or years.


“Who am I” is the determinant for your goals.

“What is true?” determines the nature and results of your actions.


Who I am is a being seeking awakening.  What is true is that I must solve the mundane puzzles of life to reach the point where my basic “life stuff” is all at the level of unconscious competence: “chop wood, carry water” so that the subtle voices have a safe place to make themselves clearer.


What is also true is that I need friends, family, mentors, mentees.  Tribe.  We’re simply stronger together, although we are born, live, and die alone.  Tribe makes the journey better.






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