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Finding your Tribe

I’ve often written negatively about tribalism. It’s one of my pet hates, and something I’ve experienced from a new perspective since moving to France, where so many English people live in almost complete isolation from the French, never attempting to learn the language or integrate. They go to English owned restaurants, only employ other English people, and seem to spend a lot of their time moaning about our hosts, the French bureaucracy, and the price of good old English products like HP sauce (which, ironically, is made in the Netherlands).

This sort of tribalism builds walls and reinforces them. It creates a vacuum in which misunderstanding can breed, and where resentment, anger and eventually hatred grows. It’s not a good thing.  

So, it might surprise you to hear that this week’s blog is about the positive benefits of ‘finding your tribe’.

A few months ago, I was approached by someone who asked if I’d be interested in hosting her for a weekend’s writing retreat. She’d been an active member of a short-lived online creative writing club I’d established in the pandemic.

I’ll admit, I was apprehensive. I’d barely written creatively since the club’s demise and wasn’t sure I had the motivation to start again. And although we’d met online, I wasn’t aware that we’d ever met face-to-face. (Tracy has since told me she attended a course I ran many years ago, which is a bit embarrassing.) 

The idea of a writing retreat also sounded a bit pretentious to my ears and made me self-conscious. But, despite my reservations, I said yes, and before long, two had become three as another member of the old club said they’d also like to join us. 

As soon as we met, there was an energy between us; and I think we all knew instantly that this was going to be a positive experience.  

We laughed, we walked (and got wet), we went on trips for inspiration, and we wrote. We wrote a lot. And, more importantly, we wrote new material we were proud of. Tracy, who is one of the most talented poets I’ve ever met, found she could write stories with equal prowess. Janette’s incredible descriptive pieces were an inspiration. And, for myself, I started new stories with what I think is amongst the best writing I’ve ever achieved. 

Janette explained what had happened perfectly when later in the weekend she said, ‘we’ve found our tribe’.

This sense of finding your tribe is very different to the tribalism I described at the start of this blog. That is all about protection, avoiding the unknown, and shutting yourself off. 

Finding our tribe wasn’t about being with a group of people who thought alike, who had the same beliefs, or indeed, experienced life in the same way. It was about finding people who had very different experiences but, nevertheless ‘got each other’. 

Yes, finding our tribe brought with it an element of protection. I, and I’m sure they, felt protected supported, nurtured, appreciated. But it was a protection that encouraged us to explore beyond our natural boundaries and to look outwards and overcome our negative self-talk. In short, it created the perfect learning environment.

It was such a powerful experience that we’ve already met again online, and we’re all getting back together for another writer’s retreat over a long weekend in March.

So, I’m curious, what tribes do you have that have helped you grow? And, as a Learning and Development professional, how do you help your learners find their tribe, both within the formal learning environment and beyond it?

Until next time...

November 7 2023Rod Webb

Rod Webb

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