What I’ve Learned About Finding And Building My Tribe

This year, I have finally begun to feel like I am finding my “tribe.” I’ve heard this term bandied about for several years now, but was never able to really connect it to me, until recently. 

I’m very idealistic and have strong beliefs about ethics and purpose. I learned about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in high school and part of me grabbed onto the concept of the ideal/pinnacle of achieving self actualization and never let go. Somewhere along the way, I linked my self-actualization with achieving positive change in the world.

Working in corporate America, I always felt like a bit of a unicorn, in that, if others like me exist, they are rare and that finding one is nearly impossible. Also trying to find a workplace where I could feel at home (defined as one where I didn’t feel there were ethical concerns or problems that were hurting the humans who worked there) made me feel like a unicorn. In myths, unicorns can’t stand to be around the “impure” and it has often been challenging for me to work long-term in organizations with ethical “impurities” so to speak, which has left me without the oft-desired “2+ years” per job on my CV. 

As I’ve been working on my Ph.D. and begun to focus on my interest in working within businesses and technology from a transformative psychological science perspective, I have finally begin to find my tribe.

I cannot tell you how much of a relief it has been to begin to find others who care about the same types of mental, physical, and emotional challenges that people in the world are dealing with. I’ve begun writing for If.Me, and participated in the Transformational Technology Academy (TTA), which have both been amazing and wonderful groups where I have begun to make friends and connections. I also was part of the YC Startup School, but in particular, joined a few others who started a separate Slack channel for healthcare related startups. 

Since even the CDC endorses community as being important to mental health and wellbeing, I wanted to share a few tips from what I’ve learned about how to find my tribe for others who similarly might feel alone or at least, less then supported. While we love our family, often, our families aren’t always able to fill the gaps we need for support in all areas. For example, while I have now begun to build and connect with my tribe of wellbeing creators working in transformational psychological science, there are other areas of my life where I am still seeking and working to build my tribe.

5 Insights I Have Gained From My Experiences In Finding and Building My Tribe

  1. Look for groups you can join that relate to your interest that have some sort of “live” component, and be active in responding and making recommendations, participating in the discussions. Look for a format that works for your personality. For example, live networking events don’t work well for me because I’m a shy introvert if I try to just attend and walk around. At the same time, if I volunteer for an organization or have the money to pay for a booth for my organization where people will be approaching the booth who are interested in information, I can connect with people who walk up to my table, no problem. Also, online groups such as TTA work well for me because they combine group learning with live discussions and small group live (virtual) settings where we have a chance to learn and talk with smaller groups. While participating in TTA, I was able to make some connections with people who I hope will continue to be part of my tribe in the future because I read comments and responded to posts and also posted thoughts, suggestions, and ideas during live video calls that others responded to.

  2. If you find someone on Facebook or LinkedIn who shares an interest of yours, or read a book by an author you admire, reach out. For shy people like me, one great thing about reaching out “virtually” is that rejection is almost painless. I have never yet had anyone respond meanly to a connection request though some have questioned why I contacted them, which is where I learned that when e-connecting to someone, always include in the request why you are connecting and what you share in common. If they aren’t interested, they will usually just ignore or delete it. Also, I learned not to think too hard about waiting for a response, as well as not to take any non-response personally. First, some people just don’t use social media very much (ie, me). Second, people can be really busy. There are a plethora of reasons why they just may not be able to respond, or may not be interested in adding you to their social network. Especially with Facebook which is considered more of a personal forum, if someone you want to connect with doesn’t respond, see if you can reach out on a more work-related format like LinkedIn, instead.

  3. Be willing to ask for a few minutes to discuss an area of common interest, but don’t waste people’s time just trying to shoot the breeze. Time is a valuable commodity, so respect the time of those you are seeking to build relationships with. Once you have made an e-connection, try to followup with a call only if or when you have something in particular that you would like the individual’s thoughts or suggestions on, that relates to an area they have experience or expertise in.

  4. Where possible, build relationships by helping them out, first. If they have a need for something where you can help out, doing so is a great way to begin building a relationship and increasing your opportunities to learn more about them while sharing about yourself.  

  5. Define in your head the difference between “tribe” and a “friend”. Today, society uses the term “friend” so casually, it has essentially replaced the now rarely used term of “acquaintance.” I think this leads to some confusion regarding who one’s friends are, and what expectations one might have of a friend. Thus, many people stare at a long list of “friends” on Facebook, yet sit at home, alone, and lonely. Rather than have your idea of “tribe” suffer a similar fate, decide for yourself what “tribe” means to you. There are likely hundreds of different opinions on this, but for me, I define my tribe as people who inspire me and who I can share with, connect, help and inspire, within a particular topical area, such as wellbeing tech. While some tribe members may be friends, not all tribe members are what I might define as a friend. Certainly, not all tribe members are the level of friendship that I internalize as being a a close enough friend that I can call them out of the blue and just ask them whatever, or talk to them about my personal problems, or know that if I was visiting their town for a conference, I know I can call and crash on their couch or in their spare bedroom. Create some sort of mental definition for yourself to create this separation, so that you do not harm your budding new tribesmen with potentially unrealistic hopes or expectations. Then, you can work on turning tribe members into friends, but expect this process to take time and repeated interactions to create the bond of trust required for a more lasting friendship.

What about you? Do you define tribe or friendship differently? Have any great resources you recommend on the concepts of tribe and defining and/or grouping differences psychologically between classes and/or categories of tribes and/or friends? What additional tips have you learned about how to build your tribes?

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