Back To The Primitive: Finding Your Tribe.

How do you think of your teammates? Do you see them as a few welcome acquaintances that you meet with a couple of times per week? Or are they something more, a necessary support group you can’t live without?

In many martial arts (and fitness groups as well), we often hear a term, but we aren’t always clear on what it means to us. That word is “Tribe.”

In essence, it hearkens back to a time in humanity where we lived in smaller communes and each person or family had a function in the community.

The concept of a tribe is in our nature, even if we don’t see it in our modern societies. Jack Donovan writes, “Humans have always been social animals. We live in cooperative groups… These groups aren’t arbitrary or cultural––they’re basic and biological.”

In antiquity, tribes were essential to survival. The famous Game Of Thrones quote, “The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives” illustrates the idea well. When we surround ourselves with people who have our interests in mind, we can rest easier knowing we can survive the winter or the war.

But how does “Tribe” work in peace and prosperity?

James Clear suggests that a tribe is essential to creating a better lifestyle. “One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior. New habits seem achievable when you see others doing them every day… Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have yourself. You’ll rise together.” 

That last phrase makes me think of a saying made famous by President John F. Kennedy and which I often repeat: A rising tide lifts all boats.

When we all pitch in and work to make the tribe stronger, we all reap the reward for our efforts.

In martial arts, we push ourselves to better our technique or get more reps. In fitness, it may be to eat better or be on time for that workout. As we see others in our group improve, we are forced to either do our part, or leave the pack and be a lone wolf.

Being in a tribe is about sharing the responsibilities, burdens, and benefits of each individual in the group. Clear writes, “Nothing sustains motivation better than belonging to the tribe. It transforms a personal quest into a shared one… Growth and change is no longer an individual pursuit.”

As a caution, though, the tribe gets to select whom it allows into the group. If you aren’t pulling your weight, or the tribe feels you are keeping others within it from reaching their full potential, you may find yourself outside the camp.

Donovan recommends that you define your group. “You need to define who is in and who is out… Everyone will have to contribute to the group’s survival,” he writes.

Find your tribe. Do your part. And if you put in the effort, get ready for a rising tide.

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