Finding Your Tribe May Be the Hardest Thing You Do

Chris Brogan is unfollowing 100,000 people on Twitter to find his. Carlos Whittaker is doing the opposite to find his. My friend, Kyle, is meeting people over coffee to find his. And I wrote a manifesto to find mine.

Photo credit: Kheel Center (Creative Commons)

We are all looking for a tribe.

Our 1000 true fans. A place to belong. We want to be heard and known, to actually make a difference. We know we need community.

So why can't we agree on how to build it?

Some say it's a numbers game. Others say it's all about relationship. Who's right? Who's wrong? Maybe everyone.

The paradox of building a tribe: A fable

There once was a man who had 10 good friends. These men would do anything for him, even die. But this was not enough. He wanted more.

So he campaigned and lobbied and raised support so that he could become famous.

Soon, he had a hundred friends. Then, a thousand. Pretty soon the man was a rock star, with millions of adoring fans, following every move he made.

At first, the attention was nice. But soon he found that there were expectations associated with his new-found status. People asked for favors and handouts, wanting special attention. They made demands he couldn't meet.

He felt trapped, overwhelmed, and confused. Isn't this what he wanted? Why was he so discontent?

Not knowing where to turn, the man went in search of his true fans.

He weeded through the crowds of countless admirers and “yes men,” looking for a few, dedicated followers. Finally, he found 10 people. They were his original true friends. Turns out that was all he ever needed.

Together, they went and changed the world.

The irony of it all

My friend Annie manages a social media account that reaches over 300,000 people. I once asked her what it was like to be able to speak to so many people every day. She shrugged off the question.

I don't know. As with anything, you're really just speaking to your tribe.

She was communicating with over a quarter of a million people every day, and it didn't matter. There were only hundreds (or maybe thousands, on a good day) who were really tuned in. For the rest, it was just noise.

The irony is thick here, is it not? We build our fame to reach a lot of people so that we can influence a few.

Can't we just skip the in-between part? If you're reaching whom you need to reach now, why not forget all the marketing hype and go deep?

Intentionality is key

Last night, my friend Laura was lamenting how hard it is to respond to every Twitter mention she gets. She's gotten so big that it's no longer scalable to be available to all 2000 followers like she was before.

This may be inevitable. But the problem is that some marketers, leaders, and entrepreneurs see this as a foregone conclusion.

They assume they have to attain “rock star” status to succeed. And nothing could be farther from the truth.

Before you begin growing your brand and building your tribe, take a moment and decide: When will you be happy? What's success look like? Is it a book deal? Someone hiring you? A million visitors to your website?

You must choose and commit to a path.

Don't leave it nebulous. If you do, you'll chase opportunities, enamored with the promise of fame, and never be satisfied. You'll end up with a million fans and no friends.

If all you're looking for is a tribe of committed followers, consider the possibility that you may have already found it. What would change if that were true? Would you stop campaigning and just get to work?

Maybe that's exactly what you need to do.

You have to find your own way

Whatever you do, I hope you do it your way.

And I hope you're intentional, so you know when to stop building and start doing.

And please, don't give in to the pressure of what other people are doing. What works for them may not work for you. And it shouldn't. You have to find your own way.

Your tribe is waiting. However, the trail to find it must be blazed by you and you alone.

(By the way, if you like this post, you may consider being a part of the tribe that is being built here. A good way to begin is to sign up for the weekly newsletter.)

Have you found your tribe yet? Tell me about it in the comments.