October 17, 2008
note to my "tribe": where are we all headed, anyway?
Crystal from Ohio sent me this picture last night. Apparently she liked one of my cartoons so much, she went ahead and got it made into a tattoo. Thanks, Crystal! That's a huge compliment.
This is the second time I've seen this happen with my work. The first time was with the Microsoft Blue Monster.
So if people permanently embellishing their own human skin with my work is anything to go by, it seems my "Tribe" is building (with all these thousands of people seeing my work online every week, I suppose it's to be expected).
And as our mutual friend, Seth says, every tribe needs a leader:
The next frontier of marketing is in leading groups of people who are working together to get somewhere.
I concur. So I'm guessing that "Leader" job now falls down to me.
Don't get too excited. I'm not Gandhi, I'm just a cartoonist in West Texas with a few crazy ideas up my sleeve. I find the prospect of leading a "tribe" a bit daunting, to be honest.
Leadership does not exist in a vacuum, you need somewhere to actually lead your tribe to. Moses had the Land of Milk & Honey. MLK had The Promised Land. Thomas Jefferson had the newly-formed United States. Putin has a strong and proud Russia. Doc Searls has The Cluetrain. Steve Clayton and his friends within Microsoft have The Blue Monster.
Me? I have no idea. Like I said, I'm just a cartoonist...
The good news is, to lead a tribe you don't necessarily have to have a promised land, a utopian vision, or a new world order to lead a tribe. You simply need what my other great marketing friend, Mark Earls calls "The Purpose-Idea", which as a bona fide Social Object, is THE REASON why people are joining together in the first place.
I've been telling my clients for years now, if you're going to have a following, a community, a "tribe", it can't just be about you and your lovely product. It's got to be about something higher than, and beyond... yourself.
What is true for them is, yes, also true for me. Like I told my good friend, James Governor on Twitter the other day,
If I'm to lead a "Tribe", it needs to be for MUCH better reasons than "Please buy my lithographs, they're very nice etc."
Or my original drawings. Or my book. Or my consulting services. Or my speaking gigs
. Or whatever.
So WHAT IS my Purpose-Idea, beyond getting people to read my cartoons and hire me for the occasional paid work? In spite of all the advice I'm always giving to other people, I'm not always 100% sure, myself.
Yes, it's still a work in progress, though I DO know that doing what I can to help other people and companies learn "How To Be Creative" figures heavily in the equation.
Posted by hugh macleod at October 17, 2008 11:23 AM
This concept of Tribe and leadership has been coming up alot lately for me and my clients. There must be something to it. I like your take, I like your art and I like your sharing it all.
I think it has something to do with Finding Meaning in the hardpan existence of Terrestrial Life.
Digital nomadic crofting, from the desert to Manhattan. The way you live & work, as something people can believe in and aspire to.
Feel free to lead me in buying rounds this weekend Hugh! Thanks for the thoughtful post.
Ask us something hard, Hugh!
Your mission is clear. You are leading us where we want to go. You are pushing us to demand the possible, not to accept the status quo. In an extraordinarily direct and passionate way, you push yourself (and us) to look at what we do honestly and to remove the bullshit and get down to what matters.
That's where I want to go, anyway.
Don't be afraid to lead. I think the focus of your self-talk should be on why do people follow? There are always more followers than leaders. I ask myself this all the time at work and in social environments. What compels these people to follow a person, product, or idea? I think Mark's Purpose Idea is accurate. The Tribe following you, like what you have to say, enjoy your creative talents, your voice, and valuable insights. Through your posts, tweets and art your story is unfolding. It's compelling, fun, educational, humorous and most important - Real.
In my personal opinion, you're leading by example. Your showing others through action, honesty, words and art, what it means to lead. As Nike proclaimed way back in the '70's - "Just Do It!"
I look forward to your posts, but will probably never get a tattoo. Maybe a lithograph. :-)
I can only speak for myself but your purpose-idea to me has always been the idea that with creation comes meaning and creation can be found anywhere that there is passion.
Where are you leading us? You're leading us (and, clearly, yourself) to our own definition of a great life and success.
Just keep doing what you're doing, Hugh. We're along for the ride and creating the same thing in the meantime.
You already ARE leading, Hugh. Concepts like the Social Object and Global Microbrand are yours, and I use them frequently. I 'Follow' you on twitter because you already ARE a thought leader.
Just keep doing what you've always been doing.
Having just read Anethem by Neal Stephenson, and then reading this article you just posted, and then looking back at my past eight years of producing comics and trying to build my own business, I came to a thought.
Although it's good to strive to find out what your purpose or your goal actually is, because you might be able to use it better, I don't think it's necessary!
As long as you're thinking about it, it should color your actions and thus the people who are drawn to your actions. It seems to, in fact, based on my experience.
In fact, I suspect that the minute you define your purpose-idea, it'll slip away from you. If for no other reason than that you or your subconscious (or your superconscious - your group) will refine it!
In other words, you may be having trouble defining your purpose-idea because it's constantly changing.
You fill the gaps of absurd in the void of our lives with new meanings. And you do it so well that other people start doing the same. Or at least they start trying. Filling the void with meaning is not a bad mission for a tribe. And - as a bonus track - it's not to be accomplished.
Concurring with Seth and Dan. It isn't necessary for a leader to *LEAD*, it is only necessary to go. Followers follow. As you strive to be creative so do others, each in their own way.
They follow you on their own path.
The fatal mistake of political*leaders*. Trying to get *followers*.
Yes, you are already leading. Do not be afraid. Go boldly. Be daring. You aren't alone. The world is reading your "How To Be Creative." I have read yours and love it. It all depends on how to be yourself, be original, be creative no matter what inspiration has conjure upon on. We all have our idealism in our own world. We should not let others' opinion affect us. We have alot of things to learn no matter what century we are in. I believe everyone knows age is just a number. It all depends on how good we are to achieve something. Everything is always a chapter we always flip through in our yearly growth of lifehood.
Till then godspeed. Truth to be told everyone wants to lead but like I said in my previous post. Leading is not an easy task but strive for it. It is a great thing that you love to share you knowledge. It is nothing wrong. Life is always an experience. Oh yes nice tattoo. ^_^
May the great adventure awaits you.
I'm proud to be a member of your tribe. You don't have to lead me anywhere though because I pretty much think I can lead my own self. =)
Greetings from the Philippines.
Agree with others who point to the path you're already on, which is now narrowing and becoming more clear and visible. Don't overthink. In fact, try to avoid thinking altogether. Your gut is and will lead you.
Thanks in advance.
I think the concept of tribe and purpose-idea is great, but I'd like to extend it. Even with a great purpose-idea, for tribes to grow organically, they need more. They need the "Story". It has to be a great story. For humans ,the story has to be a flowing narrative that has to catch them. The more it catches them, the more your tribe will follow you, and the more individuals will join the tribe. The story should be consistent, compelling and embedded with the DNA of the Purpose-Idea... now your following can follow. So, to me, growing a tribe is about giving them a story they can use to follow you.
BTW, one of my favorite things about your art, is the stories it tells.
twitterhandle: robtyrie (gapingvoid follower)
"There go my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader" so said Ghandi. That certainly seems relevant. Your body of work (i.e., your art, tweets, posts, writing, contributions on Gillmor, et al) speaks for itself. You are living out loud, earning respect and appreciation for your refreshing candor, integrity and engaging audacity. You bring Goethe to mind "It is the great triumph of genius to make the common appear novel." Count me a member of your tribe. Rock on.
One of the most fascinating aspects of tribes (for me anyway) has been to learn that I've been leading a tribe all along - and I didn't even realize it. It makes me think differently about the members and how I "care for them", etc.
My suggestion - don't over analyze this - just accept it and continue as you were.
My final tip - continue to stay clear of those activities that cause "tribal destruction". In other words, the tribal concept can become critical to you should you decide to make some major changes.....
If you'd done nothing other than write "How to Be Creative," you would have served your tribe, my tribe, our tribe well. That and the pleasure I get from my husband's disapproval when I pass out my/your "Was it good for you?" blog business card.
I've been thinking a lot about Seth's Tribe concept. I'm buying it in the sense that connection is the intent, a much better value than buying stuff to me.
What I'm still working out with it is the question of the meaning of the tribe itself. A superficial take is that people tatooing and/or otherwise following is great or equals success in some fashion. That changed for me the other day.
I was looking on YouTube at videos made by author/illustrator Keri Smith's Tribe. Her latest book asks the readers to participate with the book itself in order to gain its value. The vids, made and posted unprompted, were of the readers engaging with the book. My problems with the tribe concept arose when I considered closely the people in the video.
Surely success must include more than having a large bunch of questionable personalities latched onto to what we are doing.
There's got to be another stage of this in order to make it genuinely transformational.
Why do we follow? For me it's the clarity I find in some of your drawings. It's the chuckle I get as you fine-tune the day to day grind into concise, often snarky, cartoons. Seeing that yes, there are other people who must juggle to make life make sense. Leaders are those that give of themselves while doing whatever comes naturally. And you think about what you're doing. Reflect. And make us want to do the same. So keep moving. You're already leading.
These tattoos will soon look soooo dated
talking about your status as "tribe leader" can only serve to diminish your status as "tribe leader". i've learned this the hard way. play your cards close to the chest hugh.