Earlier this year I was in Asheville, NC, and bumped into CwK member Stephanie Lanier. It was an incredible and fun coincidence, and during our conversation Stephanie asked if I had read Seth Godin’s book, Tribes. I was forced to admit, no, and became interested when I learned that Stephanie, in her interpretation, felt that I was in the process of forming my own Tribe. A week later, I received a surprise package with Tribes inside, a present from Stephanie. I have just finished the book—it’s an excellent read—and want to say THANK YOU to Stephanie for sharing it with me!
The book is an eye-opening read, and after the long books I’ve read of late, the short length is refreshing. I actually finished the book in one day… so if you’re wishing for some powerful, life-altering content you can consume while relaxing in the hammock on a Saturday afternoon, this is a good choice.
For those that don’t know, a personal practice of mine is to read one business book a month. After finishing the book, I write a short narrative about what I learned from that book and how I plan to implement these new ideas into my companies, GoodLife Team and Coffee with Krisstina.
This practice enables me to go beyond just reading the content to actually soak in the many lessons offered in any great business book. It allows me to turn many of those new ideas into action items that ultimately help me become better—personally and/or professionally. It is rare that I don’t adjust something about my business or myself after finishing my monthly GoodRead.
Because you are reading this, you are in my journey, and if you read every post, you will quickly discover where I am in my life journey, as I reveal through my writings my life and business contemplations, lessons, and decided actions. I write primarily to myself, but post my musings publicly for others to read just in case my lessons can benefit others. I write to what I now understand is my Tribe.
With this said, please note that when I write my GoodReads, they are not full summaries. I simply pull from the book those teachings that speak to me in the moment. In other words, they are not complete summaries or reports, just the parts of the book that I wish to ponder. Please join me in my interpretation of Tribes and its implications for our industry.
. . .
What is a Tribe?
According to Seth Godin, a Tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. Tribes are about Faith, about the belief in an idea and in the community. They are grounded in respect and admiration for the leader of the tribe and for one another as members.
Godin goes on to explain that though there are many groups, communities, or organizations, they may not necessarily be Tribes. The difference between a group of people and a Tribe, Godin suggests, is Leadership. Tribes have leaders who are a voice for change, an idea, or a mission that others maintain a passionate connection to. Tribes make change through the power created from the tight relationship and connection between the Leader, the Members, and the Mission.
Compared to the ordinary group or community, a Tribe has a strength that oftentimes becomes a movement that will seriously impact the world in some way. Movements manifest from the work of many people, all connected and seeking something better, following a leader to achieve their goal. For example, on a smaller scale, a neighborhood may join together as a Tribe to “move” the local municipality to put more cops on the street to help the area become a safer community.
Or, on a large scale, think of Martin Luther King, Jr. His message and Tribe became such a forceful movement that it overturned generations of deep prejudices, unfair treatment and the regulation of a demographic of people that had nothing different about them but a skin color.
And yet, over time, even the best of tribes many times become stuck. Where they once fought the status quo, the Tribe slowly starts to become it. Where once they were the voice for change, they grow to avoid it. As a result, these Tribes drown out any member who dares question the authority or the accepted order of the way things are done. At this point the Tribe is gone, and a group of people without passion and purpose are left in the gap.
I’m not a heretic. Or, am I?
Godin declares that “Heretics” are the new Leaders. He says today’s leaders of Tribes are heretics—the ones who are willing and not afraid to challenge the status quo. Heretics don’t settle for the mediocrity.
The word heretic to me is a strong one that conjures up mixed emotions. I mean, who really wants to be called a heretic? Weren’t they the heathens who were burned at the stake?
To ease my confused emotional response, I searched for a synonym of heretic in order to discover another word I could more easily relate to. I found the word nonconformist. And yes, this word characterizes me. A nonconformist “do(es) not conform to the conventional way of doing things.” Heretic is synonymous with nonconformist. Heretics challenge the Status Quo. Don’t settle. Hate mediocrity. Am I one of those people?
In April, a hero of mine, Marc Davison of 1000 Watt Consulting, was a Keynote speaker at RETSO. Unbeknownst to Marc, I was at this conference and was in the room as an attendee for a talk he gave on “Disruption.” To my surprise, my small Austin-based real estate firm, GoodLife Team, was used as an example of an “Industry Disrupter” in his presentation, right next to Red Fin and Sawbuck.
In this presentation, Marc stated, “These brands do not conform to industry norms.” I have to admit, when I first saw my brand on the screen, I wasn’t sure if I liked being categorized as a disrupter; I mean, both the Red Fin and Sawbuck brands are controversial and not spoken of favorably in most water cooler conversations. And, like the word heretic, the word disrupter can carry with it a negative undertone.
But, as I think about it, and as much as I don’t like the sound of the labels, I realize that both Godin and Davison are correct.
I am a Heretic and GoodLife Team is a Disrupter.
We do not conform at GoodLife Team. We are making our own rules. We are making change. And, we are calling out and disrupting the way many things in the industry have been done for a long time. We are challenging the status quo.
But I digress – let’s get back to the book.
Tribes today require bold leadership, says Godin. Bold Leaders are daring enough to create the changes they believe in, despite knowing powerful forces exist that strongly oppose change (which includes opposing the Heretic pushing for change).
Godin continues by suggesting that change is the enemy of the large bureaucratic-run companies. Change is a serious threat to their way of being (decades worth) and current leadership status. This means these companies will fight, HARD, to keep things the same. In addition, they have size, money and power on their side. It’s a common occurrence. Imagine a tug-of-war: the heretic against the bureaucracy. David vs. Goliath.
Change is necessary, but when one finds themselves up against the “Force of Mediocrity,” as Godin describes it, he or she quits. Godin says, “To the many people who would be leaders, they fall victim to the threat rather than a promise.” He reminds us that remarkable visions and genuine insights are always met with strong resistance. And, when the visionary starts to make progress, their efforts are met with even more resistance. Traditional models threatened by change will align to stop the bold leader, and they will not back down until it’s over.
And so, Godin describes, few are brave enough to take on the challenge to make change and fight the force of the status quo. The yin and yang are clear: “Without people pushing against your quest to do something worth talking about, it’s unlikely to be worth the journey. Persist!” coaches Godin.
I know from personal experience that it’s hard to crack the already established rules. It’s frightening to pull on the rope when it’s clear far more are yanking back from the other side. It means many days of feeling defeated while confronting constant resistance and attacks. It’s risky to invest in new ideas and innovations with no guarantee of success. And, it requires enormous amounts of faith; faith that change is a better way, because it’s this deep-seated belief that is the pillar of strength while standing alone. This is all you have before a Tribe of other believers joins your mission.
Yes, if Godin’s distinction for heretic is correct, this is how I know I am one. What most people don’t know is that GoodLife Team was only an idea—a vision—just 5 short years ago. I dreamt of a better way; I desired to change the industry for the better, for both the consumer and the agent. I deeply cared for the work that true real estate professionals offer the homebuyer and home seller. And, I believed with conviction that without change, our industry was (is) at jeopardy with the emergence of companies like Trulia.
I was, and am still convinced that unless we, as brokerages, get back into the real estate business (instead of the recruiting business) and begin caring for the best interests of the consumer, our entire industry is at risk in that the consumer will see little to no value in what we in the real estate profession offer. The consumer will see more value with the innovations offered by third-party technology companies. Companies that, we all know, cannot take care of the customer like real estate professionals do. But, both the consumer and the agent will lose long before that fact finally gets figured out.
It was lonely 5 years ago. It was scary. It still is. But, I am passionate and encouraged to make change – we can pull more of the rope in our direction. Five years ago, GoodLife Team as a brokerage didn’t exist; today, we are known as “Disrupters.” After reading Godin’s book, I realize the only thing stopping us now is a Tribe who wants change as much or more than I do!
My company, GoodLife Team, and I are anything but mediocre,
and we like it that way.
In Tribes, Godin allocates a good number of words to stressing what apparently is a strong belief of his, “LIfe is too short to be mediocre.” This quote is an underlying message of the book. He reminds us that no one watches a mediocre YouTube video, no one passes along a boring email, and who really wants to be just part of the status quo delivering average products and services to average people? He suggests that baby boomer management in the typical company of today are simply working to produce reliability and predictability, cut costs and make a satisfactory profit in order to not rock the boat and keep their job until they can collect their pension.
Godin goes on to claim that the leaders and organizations that destroy status quo attitude and behavior will never win. Why? Because moving forward, hierarchal bureaucratic command and control leadership and organizations will not hold the power. The Tribe will. So, winning today is about building a Tribe, and no Tribe forms to be simply mediocre. Tribes form from a passionate desire to want to change the rules, to thrive, to separate from the status quo and the “way things are because they’ve always been this way.”
I agree with Godin here. One of my life mottos is “mediocrity sucks,” and as a result, GoodLife Team is anything but your average real estate brokerage. The status quo stands against who we are and what we stand for as a company. Our innovation and creativity come from an intense desire to want a better real estate industry and a better experience and superior level of care for the homebuyer and home seller. Every member of our Team, agents and staff, pursue operational and professional excellence. I mean, we are after a good life after all, and I don’t know a good life that is mediocre.
What I’ve learned (the hard and expensive way) is that not everyone in the real estate industry shares our ideal. Sadly, one can do pretty well in our industry by being average while offering average service and an average level of care—for the time being anyway. So, if you can get by with average, why do more? At GoodLife Team, we see few real estate agents pursue professional excellence with a desire to trump the status quo. This means GoodLife Team will remain small, but we are okay with this. In fact, it’s what we want. We choose to stay small on purpose, to only attract and work with other professionals who fit our culture of being a 5-star experience brand.
Is your company a Factory?
Godin describes the status quo culture of today’s company originating from what he calls “The Factory.”
When using the word factory, Godin explains how he doesn’t necessarily mean a place with heavy machinery and greasy floors. He means an “organization that cranks out a product or service, does it with measurable output and continuously tries to reduce costs as time goes on.” He continues, saying two things conspired to bring us The Factory:
1. Efficiency – starting a factory and filling it with factory workers is a good way to make a profit
2. Human Nature – part of us wants stability, the absence of responsibility that a factory job can provide.
Because of these two components, The Factory is a deeply embedded part of our lives. The factory pays, it’s steady and, at some level, we want it. But, as Godin explains, what you won’t find inside the factory is a Tribe of employees who are happy, creative, and possess an energetic mission. And, what you won’t find outside the factory is a Tribe of customers excited about the brand.
I think Godin nails it here. When I look at the ‘old guard’ companies, I see factories that are detached from the new, rapidly changing marketplace of consumers wanting innovation and excitement. And, the real estate brokerage industry is, in my opinion, the epitome of a Factory as Godin describes it. The real estate brokerage is a Factory of constant new recruits on the assembly belt. As long as recruiting continues to be the focus of the brokerage, consistently squeezing out a few sales from the family and friends of the new recruit before ejecting them from the assembly line for not passing muster (can’t pay the bills), the Factory tradition will continue.
Can we demolish the Factory?
After reading Tribes I’m left with this question, “Is the real estate factory here to stay, or can we build a Tribe that can take it down?” Why demolish the Factory, many may ask? In my opinion, it’s necessary for the real estate industry to survive. The real estate brokerage factory is not good for the consumer, and today’s consumers rule. In Godin’s words, “If you want to grow, you need to find customers who are willing to join you or believe in you. And, the only customers willing to do that are looking for something new.” He gives an example of the $100,000 electric supercar, the Tesla Roaster. He suggests the success of this car would have been impossible 30 years ago, but today it’s consistently sold out (It’s true, I checked!). The company has assembled a Tribe—eager followers and customers who are cheerleaders and vicarious fans. I don’t see any consumer cheerleaders for the real estate brokerage.
I think we can demolish the Factory. But, I agree with Godin—it will take a Tribe to do it.
Followers Make the Ruckus
Godin spends a good amount of the book taking about Leaders of the future—the Heretics. But, he also makes it abundantly clear it’s the Followers who make the desired change happen. The Followers embrace the mission spoken by the Leader and are loud about it; the followers make the ruckus. Middle-of-the-roaders don’t bother joining a Tribe, Godin says. Passionate people who despise the status quo, who are tired of settling, and who deeply desire change and wish to make a difference are the ones who join a Tribe. It’s Followers who make change by enthusiastically spreading the word, thereby attracting others to the community and creating motion. This outward motion becomes a vibrant viral energy and force created by a Heretic Leader with a Mission for Change combined with the ruckus of the passionate followers who believe in the mission. This motion can become a Movement. And, a movement can and will take a factory down.
Who do Followers Follow?
Today is about being remarkable, says Godin. The most important Tribes are bored with yesterday and demand tomorrow. He reminds us that the oldest and some of the largest brands are no longer the fastest-growing ones. The market place has raised its voice to say we want products, services, and companies that are novel and great. The market place says, “If you want us to follow you, don’t be boring or just good enough.” As Godin explains, “Good enough stopped being good enough a long time ago.” Today, followers want innovation—things that are fresh, remarkable and new. A remarkable product or service, Godin says, is “like a purple cow. Brown cows are boring, but purple ones are worth mentioning.”
I’ve been asking myself the question of late, “How is it that my small company of 25 people has created a buzz in the industry?” Honestly, I can’t get my arms around it, in that we are a new, small brokerage that is a microscopic fraction of size and production of the industry leaders. But, somehow, the GoodLife Team name has spread and is well known among many. After reading Godin’s book, I think I finally get it. GoodLife Team is remarkable; we are remarkable, not because we are big, but because we are different. Our model is novel. So, as Godin puts it, we are a “purple cow” for the industry. I’m guessing this is what makes us worth mentioning?
Godin brings forth that caring is the key emotion at the center of a Tribe. The Leader cares so much that he or she drives for something better. Each Tribe member’s commitment to caring is what connects them to the mission. And, everyone in the Tribe cares for the Tribal goals and for one another. If no one cares, there is no Tribe.
In Closing …
Godin leaves us with a reminder that the marketplace (marketing) wants change. Change doesn’t happen overnight, nor do big ideas happen in a flash. Success is always a matter of accretion. Improvements happen a bit at a time. Leadership is the ability to stick with the Dream long enough that the critics realize you are going to make it happen one way or another, so many give up the fight and eventually follow.
In closing, I remind myself, and others, that GoodLife Team is sticking to the Dream. The Dream that real estate brokerages return the true real estate business and seek to serve the consumer, and the agent, with the high level of care and fiduciary responsibility that the American home seller, homebuyer, and professional agent deserve.
Be part of my Tribe.
Case study: CrossFit
In the book, Godin uses Cross Fit as an example of a recent Tribe. CrossFit was conceived by Greg Glassman in 2000. As of 2012, there are approximately 3,400 CrossFit-affiliated gyms worldwide. Glassman called BS on the traditional gym and workout routine and invented a unique strength and conditioning system that he claimed produced superior results and better health. If one wishes to get “CrossFit Certified,” they will likely find themselves on a waiting list, as most programs are sold out weeks, if not months, in advance. Every day people are joining the Cross Fit Tribe, all coordinated by the central website. The CrossFit tribe is strong and getting stronger.
What’s most impressive is that this Tribe is largely the work of Greg Glassman, otherwise known as “Coach.” Coach has built the CrossFit Tribe from scratch, inspiring, cajoling, and laying down the rules. No Coach, no Tribe. Godin says Glassman innately understands how to lead the tribe—he leads and pushes his Tribe members to the limit every day. He creates an environment where the Tribe not only wants to share news and ideas and camaraderie with one another, but is ABLE to do it.
As a result, CrossFit Tribe individuals proudly segregate themselves and speak up on behalf of the tribe. And, as with all Tribes, CrossFit excludes outsiders. Godin suggests that exclusion is an extremely powerful force for loyalty and attention. “Who isn’t a part of your Tribe matters almost as much as who is,” he says.
This is an awesome example that Godin offers, and I agree. CrossFit certainly is a Tribe. Every person I know who is into CrossFit is fanatical about it! That’s what I want for GoodLife Team and Coffee with Krisstina. I wish to create a unique place where those who are part of our Tribe are just as passionate and fanatical because they believe in a better way just like we do. So, join my Tribe.
8 Responses to “GoodRead – Tribes by Seth Godin”
Leave a Reply