Is It Time to Clean Up Your Tribe?

Is It Time to Clean Up Your Tribe?

This quote has been stalking me for weeks now:

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”– Jim Rohn

It gets me. It really gets me. And here’s why:

In the business books and blogs we all love, there is constant talk of finding our ‘tribe’, our most ideal clients. We create elaborate customer avatars to dig down into the demographics and psychology of our tribe.

And we spend no small part of our time strategizing where we will locate potential tribe members, how we can connect with them and the key influencers we need to give us credibility.

Cultivating a tribe (even if you don’t call it that) is what most good marketing strategies are all about.

But in order to build and maintain our business tribe while still producing our actual products and services, there is another sort of tribe that we cannot ignore. It’s the tribe that Jim is referring to in his quote.

The Foundational Tribe

This is the tribe of significant others, friends, family or colleagues that we turn to when we need a break. They are the ones we call when we score a new client and they’re also the ones we call when we lose a client. They’re the people we lean on.

Most of us spend a lot of time thinking about and cultivating our ideal business tribe, but hardly any time creating our best possible foundational tribe.

Why is that?

We need a strong foundational tribe in order to be able to create an awesome business tribe. It’s basic common sense: if you feel alone and unsupported, all of your endeavors, business and otherwise, are going to be a heck of a lot harder.

Our foundational tribe is the engine that drives us to run our business, complete the marathon, publish that book or take that vacation.

Pretty important tribe, huh?

So ask yourself this: when you think of the average of the five people you spend the most time with, are you happy with that idea? Or do the names you come up with disturb you a little?

Maybe it’s time for some tribe cleaning.

Is there someone in your foundational tribe who really shouldn’t be there? Someone who takes and takes but isn’t giving you much value in return?

A lot of us are holding onto people that aren’t contributing to our rock solid foundation. Instead, we’re allowing them to put cracks in it.

And let me reiterate: If you’re not getting the support you need outside your business, that weakness will eventually sneak its way into your business.

So this isn’t even a purely personal question. This is about creating sustainable, solid businesses that thrive for a long time to come.

Without a strong foundation to stand on, your business will suffer.

It’s your tribe. You choose who stays or leaves. You are not chained to any of these people. If you’re not satisfied with the relationship, do something about it.

Easier said than done. Taking action in these situations is tough, especially when we have history with the person, mutual friends or maybe even live on the same street.

I get it. I’ve been there a bunch of times. If there was an easy checklist to make this less painful, I would give it to you. But there isn’t.

For some people, walking away isn’t the solution. Maybe these are your right people but neither of you have been investing in the relationship. Maybe it’s not too late and you can still get the train back on its tracks.

For others, walking away might be the only solution.

I can’t tell you which option is best and neither can anyone else. And you don’t need me to. Deep down, you know what needs to be done.

Yes. You do.

Are there people in your foundational tribe that are hurting you more than they’re helping? What are you going to do about it? Are you going to let them keep affecting your business negatively?

Or are you going to replace them with a tribe that truly helps you flourish?

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Post by Annika Martins

Annika is currently based in the Cayman Islands. When she’s not standing in her kitchen eating sun-dried tomatoes by the gallon, she spends her time coaching entrepreneurs (and the wanna-be self employed) to bring in the revenue they need to live the lifestyle they want. To read more (and watch her cool videos) about her passion for tomatoes drowning in olive oil and her belief that every entrepreneur needs a good swift kick in the ass, visit her blog.

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  1. This makes a lot of sense. My personal, foundational tribe is probably only 2 people, a longtime teacher friend and my wife. I’m in the process of setting up my professional tribe, which still is fairly small. It sounds to me like this is the same idea as having a writing mentor?

    • Yeah, Glen. I definitely see a mentor as part of this foundational tribe. Anyone who provides the support and guidance we need. I found it took a while to find the right mix, but once I did, wow! Things really took off for me. Good luck with finding the right additions for yourself!

  2. Gutsy and true.

    Sometimes, as a writer, I can sequester myself and think that I’m my own tribe. Gotta be careful about that one too.

    • Absolutely. There’s a line btw seeking supportive relationships and needing external validation to convince us that we’re any good; as long as we stay on the right side of it, we’re golden:)

  3. I included this post in my latest Freelancing Weekly:

  4. Gutsy post indeed. But that’s only because it takes guts to actually put it into practice. The advice Annika gives here is something I suspect more than half us us need to follow, but won’t. I still don’t know if I have the cojones to stay out of that group. I’m working on it.

    But thanks Annika. You so hit the mark with this post. You mention that we may sometimes need to nurture the relationship with a tribe member instead of just walking away. I’ll add one more scenario that is more common than people may think. There are important tribe members who have issues so big that its not so easy to decide whether or not walking away or investing more is the right thing. I’m not talking about the relationship here, even though that is affected too. But see, we are part of someone else’s foundational tribe too. And in the long run, when we invest in the people we love, the rewards are immeasurable! Sometimes the only correct question is, HOW best to invest.


  1. […] As motivational speaker James Rohn succinctly put it: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Rohn may be oversimplifying, but it’s hard to deny that spending time with irritable complainers, for example, pushes us towards moaning, or that those exposed to daily risk-taking or ethical lapses can become more accepting of these behaviors. Which is why you should consider carefully the company you keep, according to a recent post on Men With Pens. […]

  2. […] Is It Time To Clean Up Your Tribe? In spite of the fact that I’ve come to loathe the word ‘tribe,’ James Chartrand over at Men with Pens ponders an uncomfortable but necessary question. Opens with a great quote from Jim Rohn. […]

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