Tribe Building 101

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Every man has lone-wolf moments: motorcycle rides, runs, excurions, and fist fights. But even the lone wolf is better in a pack, and so are you. No, I’m not talking about breeding yourself a family, getting married, or anything even remotely as drastic as that. I’m talking about tribe building, which is basically connecting a group of men who share at least one thing in common with you. As a guy, you have lots of interests, so obviously you need a tribe. And here is a tribe-building system that’s easy to get started:

1. Get Curious

First, start paying attention and get curious. Most likely you’re surrounded by people all day. Drop your work place opinions and start asking people leading questions like, “Hey, so what do you have going on this weekend?” If it’s a Monday, try, “So hey, did you do anything fun this weekend?” Forget the normal, “Hi, how are you?” question all together — for men of action, it’s useless. You might as well say, “I don’t really care what you do, so I’m asking a polite question that I don’t expect an answer to before we communicate about work — or handle a transaction at the checkout stand.”

Once you start, Don’t be discouraged when you first get the, “Ah, I watched the game,” response. Briefly, tell them about something interesting you have going or want to get going and invite them in. Often they won’t be interested, but it lets them know you’re open to doing things. Next: repeat, repeat, repeat. And remember the 1/3 mantra: 1/3 of the people you meet won’t like you, 1/3 won’t care, and 1/3 will connect with you. Focus on finding the 1/3 that matters and forget the other 2/3.

2. Cast Far and Wide

Cast a wide and long net, and don’t discriminate. Your tribe needs to be as diverse as your interests. You will be surprised that the IT guy actually hunts bear, the CFO runs Warrior Dash, and the engineer actually plays basketball. It’s great to get people who are not clones of you. For instance, the Admiral in our tribe leans to the right while I lean to the left, so we have some great conversations while kayak duck hunting.

Once you have your approaches down, take it to your current hobbies. When you’re waiting to play a pick up game, take the opportunity to grab a short piece of conversation and learn a name. An easy approach: “What do you do when you’re not playing ball?” You’ll be surprised, and so will they when you reply that you hunt, fish, kayak, hike, bike, swim, are completing your MBA, work occasionally, and have a great family. You have something in common, so go for it. When you have something going on, make sure everyone knows they’re invited. I was surprised to find that I can easily fill up a charter fishing boat just from the guys I play basketball with.

One don’t rule here: Don’t peer pressure — if someone can’t make it, so be it. They can make the next one.

3. Start Now

Start now. Yes, now. Look for groups that are doing what you’re interested in and get involved. You can also jump all in and do some kind of event with other people or just voyeur around some groups online until you feel comfortable connecting in person. If you’re not ready to be a tribal elder, so to speak, try helping other people reach their goals by volunteering to help them. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can connect with people while putting a Habitat for Humanity home together or by helping your neighbor with his first deck installation.

While I’ve seen that some studies show that happiness is contagious, I know it for a fact: I’ve been affected by guys with positive energy and I’ve been able to lift a few faces myself. Some financial authors have even argued that your income is equal to that of your five best friends. Perhaps most importantly, we humans have a tendency to model the behavior of those around us . . . so get moving and start connecting.

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