Book Review: “Tribes” by Seth Godin

After reading “Trust Me, I’m Lying” and “Growth Hacker Marketing” by Ryan Holiday, I subscribed to his newsletter… which is primarily just his reading recommendations.

I’ve picked up quite a few of these books, among them, Seth Godin’s “Tribes”.    It’s a relatively quick read, roughly 150 pages, written in short segments (most likely entries lifted from his leadership blog).   I don’t think I’ve dog-eared and highlighted any non-academic book as much as I did with “Tribes”.  While reading this book, I’ve already purchased two separate copies for people I’m working on projects with and encouraged them to pass them on when they are done… and will likely send it to others.  I genuinely cannot say enough positive things about this book.

I will give fair warning: this is the kind of book that can get you in trouble.  It inspires you to step up and take the lead on whatever you are passionate about.  Challenging the status quo isn’t always favorable, however it seems that growth is almost always dependent on change.


A few of the (many) quotes that stood out to me are:


“The one path that never works is the most common one: doing nothing at all.  Nothing at all feels safe and it takes very little effort.  It involves a lot of rationalization and a bit of hiding as well… Leadership is a choice.  It’s a choice to not do nothing.”

I’ve been in positions before (even recently) where I identified a problem, but I also identified it as “not my problem”.  I’m too busy and it will work itself out if it’s supposed to… right?  I’m reminded of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s statement “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.  He who accepts evil without protecting against it is really cooperating with it.”  Replace the word “evil” with “being uninspired”, “boring”, or any number of other verbs and it effectively works out the same.


“Almost all the growth that’s available to you exists when you aren’t like most people and when you work hard to appeal to folks who aren’t most people.” 

Stop trying desperately to appeal other people’s audiences.  It’s ingenuine.  Develop your own.  They’ll be more loyal, anyway.


“Leaders who set out to give are more productive than leaders who seek to get… The benefits to these leaders aren’t monetary or based on status… instead, they get their compensation from watching the tribe thrive.”

Leadership by service is a theme that has always rung true with me, although this isn’t the first place I’ve read about it.  There was that other guy who kind of wrote about it too… what was his name?  He was, like, pretty famous.  Oh yeah!  Jesus.


“Leadership comes when your hope and your optimism are matched with a concrete vision of the future and a way to get there.”

Seems like a pretty solid formula for leadership to me.  I’d add “and the willingness to do something about it.”  Although that’s added pretty frequently throughout the book, so I assume it just goes without saying in context.


“Find leaders (those who are doing things differently and making change), and then amplify their work, give them a platform, and help them find followers – and things get better.”

I’m pretty sure this whole idea is really a central theme in public relations.  Everything you read about “opinion leaders” or “power users” or “brand ambassadors”?  They’re basically all just fancy ways to mobilize the aforementioned idea.


This is a good book.  You should own this book.  I’d advise picking up this book.  And then reading this book.  And then re-reading it.  Perhaps annually.


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