Tag Archives: Beliefs

Thriving and surviving as a tribe

As individuals, we have the ability to develop a unique set of views on the world. We can believe in X about topic A, Y about topic B, and Z when it comes to topic C.

However, the problem with being an individual is that, while it gives you the freedom of belief, it limits what you can do. Doing most things requires coordinating with other people. This is why we form groups.

However, a group’s effective functioning benefits from its members holding similar beliefs. It’s more difficult for groups where the members of the group hold different beliefs to get something done than for groups where the members hold similar beliefs. As a result, some individual beliefs are sacrificed for the belief of the group. This transforms the group into a tribe.

The advantage of tribes is that they make it easier to get things done. Their disadvantage is that they do this by trading away individually held beliefs. In other words, they produce power at the expense of dissent.

In a romantic view of the world, we can each thrive as an individual. However, that’s not a steady state outcome. Due to the benefit of tribe formation on getting things done, individuals have an incentive to defect from their individuality to form tribes. And these tribes are more likely to thrive than non-defecting individuals.

In other words, game theory shows that you can’t thrive without being part of a tribe. In today’s world, you can fortunately survive. If you had lived sufficiently in the past, you wouldn’t have been able to even do that.

If this trend continues, maybe there will come a day when you can thrive as an individual.

Until then, if you want to get something done and thrive, you have to form or join a tribe.

When you do, it’s important to recognize the tradeoffs that everyone in your tribe is making in their individually held beliefs. This will help you balance the need for the similar beliefs which ensure that your tribe thrives in the short run with the need for the voicing of the different beliefs which ensure that your tribe addresses the blind spots it needs to address to survive in the long run.

Goals and beliefs

If you aspire to achieve a goal, there are two ways to go about it. The first is to dive straight in and hope that everything will somehow work out. You could be successful with this approach. However, I’d recommend a second strategy.

Most things that people want to achieve have been done by someone else in the past. It may not be exactly the same thing, but chances are that someone else has achieved something very similar to what you want to do. The strategy I recommend is to think deeply about what beliefs the person who achieved what you want to do must have had in order to reach that outcome. This is much more effective than simply going after the outcome.

By identifying those beliefs without which the person couldn’t have achieved their goal, you’re able to evaluate how these beliefs compare to yours. If you believe the same things, you might already be well equipped to achieve the same goal. Luck will always play a role in determining whether you reach your outcome but you can move forward confidently knowing that you have the same mindset as someone else who has achieved the goal in the past.

If you find that your beliefs are different than those which helped someone else achieve your targeted goal, then you’ll need to change your beliefs in order to increase your chance of success. Sometimes this will be easy and sometimes it will be hard. You may find that you’re not willing to make the changes to your life which are necessary to internalize a belief that’s critical to achieving your goal. If this is the case, you may want to change your goal now rather than start your journey and quit later.

This is especially true for entrepreneurs. Being an entrepreneur requires certain beliefs that the vast majority of people don’t have and aren’t willing to adopt. For example, among other factors you need to be pretty obsessive about the importance of what you’re doing and believe that you’re the best person to do it. Most people would laugh if asked whether they held these beliefs.

Before you start working towards a goal, ask yourself whether you believe the same things that people who achieved your stated goal believe. If so, get started. If not, give your beliefs a little nudge and see if they change. If they don’t, you might want to find another goal that is compatible with what you believe.