Finding your tribe is a survival skill

I wrote recently that foraging in our modern food system is a modern take on an old skill. Increasingly, I’m thinking that the ability to find your tribe is just as important.

What do I mean “finding your tribe?” I mean, finding the people that are into what you are into, will push you, and that connect with you in a deep way and keep you from feeling weird.

When I was younger, I was really into French. I was working at a French company, had never studied French in high school and became really obsessed with learning the language. So I bought Pimsleur, read everything I could on the subject, and kept studying. But I was weird. None of the other Americans at the company did that. Certainly no one I knew in my social life did that, but I was obsessed. Just an obsessed weirdo, listening to French music, watching French movies.

Then when I switched jobs I took the time between jobs to spend a week at a French immersion course in Quebec City. The rules were simple – speak French all the time. If they caught you speaking your native language, they kicked you out. So I arrive, and meet the people in my dorm, and immediately this kid comes up and starts playing French rap, just geeking out on it, and explains the lyrics. And it dawned on me then – I was not a weirdo, I was simply a guy speaking French, who wanted to speak French, like everyone else at this school – there was nothing unique or anything about it. This was my tribe.

That’s what I mean about finding your tribe. In the past, your tribe was your family and the people who live near you, and I don’t see that particularly changing, except now they are one of many tribes. The Internet has created near infinite groupings of people and made it possible to form all sorts of new associations – and made it socially okay to not all be of the same tribe. It’s not the 1950s, when conformity was the order of things. And it becomes essential, a success skill, really – to find your tribe.

How do you do that? Well, you need to be adept at signaling, and that takes courage. So you need to be able, in conversation, to say things like, “I’m exploring French” or “I’m really into the history of Rome,” or whatever. If you don’t get good at sending out those signals, your tribe won’t be able to identify you, and identify themselves.

Once you find your tribe, or more likely, tribes – then you get that same feeling I got at French school…there’s nothing weird about you, you’re quite normal, and you’re about to supercharge your interests. So be courageous, get good at finding your tribe, and supercharge yourself.

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