The Buddha Mind And The Perils Of Tribalism
“Man is the creature who does not know what to desire, and he turns to others to make up his mind. We desire what others desire because we imitate their desires.” — Rene Girard.
The Story Of Buddha Breaking Away From The Tribe
Siddhartha Gautama is a young, charismatic, and profoundly spiritual heir to the throne of Kapilavastu. Up until the age of twenty-nine, he leads a life of comfort, away from the evils of human life. On a journey to the city, he notices the suffering that mortal beings suffer through in their lives. Something shifts within him, and one night, he decides to leave his wife, princess Yashodhara, and son, Rahul, to quench his thirst for the “truth” — to understand what life is really about.
In the Buddhist tradition, this is called the Great Renunciation — the departure of Gautama Buddha from his palace at Kapilavastu to live a life as an ascetic. It is a pivotal moment in the history of the Eastern spiritual tradition. At this moment, the young prince decides to break away from the tribe and follow his journey into the wilderness. He gives up the comforts of his rich and luxurious life to find the truth. At this moment, he decides to break away from all the beliefs he had built up as a young man and rebuild his entire view of the world from scratch. At this moment, he found himself for the first time in his life.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” — Robert Frost.
Clark et. al define a tribe as being a human social group sharing a common interest. They define tribalism as the tendency of human beings to be loyal to and favor one’s tribe. live together in tribes and act in accordance with the collective view. An individual’s behavior closely mimics the behavior of the majority and the majority mimics the alpha being (or the leader of the tribe). The behavior plays out in a social, cultural, or economic setup.
In this blog post, I argue that breaking away from the tribe is one of the core elements of finding our true purpose. The underlying thesis behind the argument is that each individual is unique and has a different purpose of pursuing. We are all born with different capabilities and instincts. However, we have indeed been primed for millions of years to follow our tribe, to believe in what the group believes in, and to agree with the collective conscious. While this tendency makes us secure and keeps us within the soft cushions of our happy-go-lucky mindset, it prevents us from breaking away from the imposed glass ceilings that we bring to our lives.
Tribalism And Evolutionary Psychology
Let us first try and understand the purpose behind tribalism from an evolutionary psychology perspective. The early humans lived as hunter-gatherers in small collective groups where codependency was paramount to survival. They would not have the luxuries of the free market, transactional systems based on money, global supply chains, or network access to get essentials online. It was probably a period where being an outcast from the tribe meant that one might have to hunt for food for survival or end up dying. Going against the tribe would have meant harm to oneself and their successive generations.
In such a world, it would make a lot of sense to follow the masses and do what the war-lords demanded one to do. One would die if we were outcast by your tribe since resources were shared, and there was no way to buy resources from other resources. However, while our society has evolved, we are still caught up in the old mindset. This leads to a “herd-mentality” mindset wherein we become cynical and involved in zero-sum games. Our evolutionary memory ensures that we do not leave our tribe, so we tend to be more agreeable to what others believe is true. It also prevents us from innovating, trying new ideas, and standing apart from the crowd.
While it made sense to remain with the tribe in the past, why do we still act by the primal instinct today? Is the instinct a vestigial remain — a survival mechanism that we have inherited from our ancestors, or does it still serve a purpose in the modern world? I would argue that while tribalism isn’t as necessary for survival in a free-market economy where the buyers and sellers tend to be opaque to one’s descendancy, it is still arguable that tribalism helps in complex international, geo-political, or social warfare.
Let us take an example of Hitler's atrocities committed in Nazi Germany. Imagine a God-fearing, morally correct German soldier. What choices did he have back then? Does he go with the narrative of the Third Reich and ensure that his family survives, or does he join the small group of rebels and do what the right thing to do is? Evolutionary psychology would certainly predict he should do the former and work towards exterminating the Jews. This was tribalism at its peak, where all hell broke loose, and we lost society’s moral compass. However, each individual being still acted in accordance with the primal instinct of their own survival.
Our affinity to live in tribes is deeply wired in our neuro-physical setup to the extent that our brain size and structure may end up dictating the number of people we associate with. According to the British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, the “magic number” that closely correlates with the number of people we can form strong bonds with (i.e. the size of the tribe) is 150. He further theorized that According to the theory, the tightest circle has just five people — loved ones. That’s followed by successive layers of 15 (good friends), 50 (friends), 150 (meaningful contacts), 500 (acquaintances), and 1500 (people you can recognize). Dunbar became convinced that there was a ratio between brain sizes and group sizes through his studies of non-human primates.
Tribalism And Modern Society
While it is true that tribalism has a major impact on our decision-making process in extreme scenarios in modern-day civilization, the world is moving towards a more individualistic society. In today’s society, we believe in the freedom of the self, an egalitarian society, and a world order where a single individual can stand against a collective power. The fabric of modern society has been heavily shaped by science and technology. This metamorphosis has resulted in the evolution of the individual and elevated much higher up the pedestal. The richest human today is richer than 75% of the countries of the world. That is quite an astounding fact in itself and shows how much we have changed in our outlook. In this section, I argue what the perils of tribalism are and why we need to avoid them as a society.
The Perils Of Tribalism
Modern societies that depend solely on the conservative view of tribalism will eventually fail to succeed. In this section, I present four reasons why I think this is the case.
Peril #1: Modern society works on rationality.
We live in a post-enlightenment era where we believe in rationality, reason, facts, and data over beliefs, faith, and anecdotal theories. Anyone who wishes to succeed in such a society needs to be able to come up with a rational framework to support their beliefs. Tribalism often plays on blind faith and the instinct of following the leader. There tend to be several cognitive biases that play into our minds when we follow the tribe. Take, for example, the narratives crafted by those on the extreme ends of any spectrum. In the political arena, it is the voice of those on the far-right or the far-left. It is preposterous how we have come to believe that it is the voice of reason and rationality and yet it pervades. The followers then tend to follow the narratives at face value without questioning the claims’ authenticity or soundness. Do organizations succeed with such a viewpoint? Definitely not. We eventually tend to see the truth emerge as ideas that rest on shaky grounds tend to fall faster than those that do not.
Peril #2: Diversity breeds success.
While tribalism is bred out of the need for survival, it is also true that societies that are altruistic tend to do well. We live in a globalized world — a world where we are interconnected every single moment of our lives. A recent study published by the Harvard Business Review found that diversity significantly improves financial performance on measures such as profitable investments at the individual portfolio company and overall fund returns. Venture capital firms that increased their proportion of female partner hires by 10% saw, on average, a 1.5% spike in overall fund returns each year and had 9.7% more profitable exits (an impressive figure given that only 28.8% of all VC investments have a profitable exit). A 2019 report by Mckinsey finds that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile — up from 21 percent in 2017 and 15 percent in 2014.
It is useful to think about why tribalism builds on the anti-diversity viewpoint. It is hard for humans to accept a view that is counter to their core beliefs. We tend to live our lives in a stringent set of values that get solidified every passing moment. However, when we are challenged with a viewpoint that is counter to our own, it brings in a sense of survival angst. One can argue that collections of humans tend to behave similarly. Any tribe when faced with a different view of the world will oppose it first and live in denial mode. The diverse views get ostracized and segregated from society. It is a collective instinct of survival. Views that break the norms of the society can break the society itself (or that is how the bias and contempt) breed in. It is this wishful process that forces groups to disallow the “others”, before eventually accepting those viewpoints.
Peril #3: Altruism is essential for survival.
We live in a codependent world. The water we drink, the food that we eat, the car that we drive, and everything within the home that we live in comes from the efforts of hundreds if not millions of people in the world. Then, a question is if we can live solely by ourselves in this world. The answer to that question is a definite no. Yet, we tend to live in closed groups and are motivated by our instinct to be segregated. I argue that altruism is essential for the survival of the selfish gene —
The male is dependent on the female to procreate its gene;
The child is dependent on the mother to feed and grow;
The elderly are dependent on their children for support in the old age;
The sick are dependent on the healthy to survive through;
The sad is dependent on the happy to go through the pain.
The human-animal is a social animal. In the modern era, we have become ever so more interconnected. Here is a trippy thought. The first phone was invented in 1849. Back then the phones were small and clunky tin can devices that one would use to communicate over very short distances. This was the beginning of a new era — the era of connected beings. In just two human lifetimes (~175 years) we have gone from tin can wires to zipping high definition videos over the internet in a matter of seconds. Imagine the number of elements and human hours that would be required to rebuild the iPhone from scratch today! It is through the power of altruism and collective consciousness that human society has succeeded in reaching where it is today and one would argue that we are better having done so.
Altruism and Animals.
I would take a small tangent and go deeper into exploring the role that altruism plays in the animal kingdom. When a ground squirrel sounds an alarm call to warn other group members of a nearby coyote, it draws the coyote’s attention and increases its own odds of being eaten. Although choosing not to help is typically the best choice for an individual’s fitness in the short term, it could mean that the individual will not receive reciprocal help from others when it is needed in the future. It is intriguing to think about why animals show this behavior and what benefit the gene pool gets from it. There are a couple of reasonable theories for this behavior.
The first idea came from Robert Trivers, who considered a hypothetical group of animals who would take a small risk to help another group of animals. The rationale for such a behavior is that they would end up getting help from the other group when they themselves were faced with danger. While the behavior may be harmful in the short term, it will be beneficial for the gene pool in the long term as it helps in their own survival.
The Kin Selection Theory: William Hamilton was among the first scientists to come up with the idea that an individual should be willing to help another by the degree to which those individuals are related. For example, a person should be more willing to save their own blood relative from a burning building than a stranger because they end up sharing a larger overlap in the gene pool. The theory argues that altruism at least when individuals are related can have some form of genetic advantage.
Peril #4: Tribalism inherently leads to non-meritocracy
The last argument I have against tribalism is that tribes and groups of people which are traditionally closed tend not to imbibe meritocracy as a core principle. A merit-based group tends to be hyper-rational, fact-driven, and closer to objective reality. However, tribalism pushes groups towards deep-seated beliefs in conservative ideas, and stringent rules that cannot be argued for or against. The idea that you need to act in accordance with collective intelligence does not make a progressive group because progress requires change, and change requires adapting to new situations with a different mindset. Tribes tend to reject ideas that go against the accepted norms of the social-cultural structures that glue the tribe together.
Let us take a proxy example and say that the characteristics of tribal behavior reflect more closely in close-minded behaviors within autocratic societies. The societies that believe in autocracy believe in conservative ideas, archaic systems, and absolutism. The counter social structure to autocracy is democracy. Democracies tend to be open, ready to accept change, and relatively distributed in their power structures. It can be argued that democracies tend to be more meritocratic by design — given that no single individual holds the power that controls the socio-economic fabric.
Tribalism And You
Imagine if you went back to 500 BCE and were given a chance to observe how the young prince was able to break away from the tribe and apply those lessons to your own life. In this section, I meditate on the question and share my framework for cultivating a mindset that can help us break away from the tribal instinct. I list out the following seven key elements that can help you build a framework to break yourself away from the tribal instinct.
Rule #1: Build A First Principles Mindset.
A first principle is a basic assumption that cannot be deduced any further. Over two thousand years ago, Aristotle defined a first principle as “the first basis from which a thing is known.” (Reference)
The Buddha And First Principles Mindset
The story of Buddha embodies the idea of first principles thinking. Let us break down his chain of thought processes and understand how a prince goes from living a comfortable life of luxury to building the underpinnings of the Buddhism movement.
Step I: Siddhartha Gautama observes pain and suffering for the first time in life.
Step II: He decides to give up on the luxuries and go in search of truth.
Step III: He experiments with the idea of suffering and comes up with a hypothesis.
Step IV: He meditates on his own body, mind, and emotions and tests whether the hypothesis is true.
Step V: Once he convinces himself, he tests the hypothesis on the world through his preachers.
The hypothesis that Siddhartha Gautama develops is the idea that “desire is the root cause of suffering.” It turns out to be the insight that underlines a lot of Buddhist philosophy. One can argue that it may not be the most original insight, yet for him, it serves as a truth that he can follow and preach to the rest of the world.
Einstein And First Principles Mindset
For more than 350 years, physicists believed in the Newtonian principles of gravity. Sir Issac Newton, the discovery of the theory, described gravity as an instantaneous force between two celestial bodies. In 1905, a young scientist the name of Albert Einstein published a groundbreaking theory that overthrew the Newtonian view of gravity. He argued and showed theoretically that nothing in the world travels faster than the speed of light. How did a twenty-five-year-old with relatively little experience in the field of physics come up with such a fundamental insight into the reality of the cosmos? The answer is first principles thinking. Here is a typical “thought experiment” that Einstein performed.
Experiment-I: Chasing Light
Imagine you are sitting inside a train and your friend is standing outside the train. Two bolts of lightning strike at the ends of the train at the same moment. Your friend will perceive the two bolts at the same time. You will observe the lightning that strikes at the front of the train earlier than that at the rear end of the train. Einstein deduced that time and space are relativistic and that simultaneity doesn’t exist.
Experiment-II: Standing In A Floating Box
Imagine that you are standing within a Box and the lift is experiencing a free fall. It would be hard for someone within the Box to deduce whether gravity is pulling them down or they are being accelerated by a tight rope pulling the box. Einstein deduced that acceleration and gravity are the same to the person within the floating box.
Now, he combined the deductions from experiments 1 and 2 in the following way:
Time and space are not absolute;
Motion can affect time and space;
Gravity and acceleration are indistinguishable.
It is evident that gravity must impact space and time. This line of thought led him to disprove Newtonian mechanics and frame the ideas behind relativistic mechanics.
Each of these experiments was built from the ground up and does not require one to agree with any notions that society holds. Instead, if you live far off on an island, you could still come up with the three thought experiments. This was the genius of Albert Einstein.
Tribalism is the very antithesis of the idea of thinking from first principles. To be an independent thinker, one needs to break away from the common conceptions that society holds today and begin to think out of the box. Would the great scientists of the past, including Issac Newton, or Albert Einstein, be able to come up with ground-breaking theories on light, and gravity if they went with the status quo? Imagine a world where Galileo would have given into the pressures of the Church and accepted that his theory (of the Sun being the center of the universe) was false. Would we have been able to make such rapid progress in the advancement of science? If J.K. Rowling accepted her fate and taken a job, would we ever have seen the world of Harry Potter? Certainly not. Human society moves forward at the periphery of our knowledge. Most of the knowledge comes from a process of revolutionary thoughts that need to break the barriers of the commonly held beliefs.
Rule #2: Embrace Fear.
Breaking away from our tribe can certainly be difficult and the journey could be filled with fear. We could suffer from the fear of financial loss, community loss, or loss of health. While the upside may be limited, the downsides may lead us to ruin. It is this narrative that our monkey mind crafts for ourselves and we find it hard to find evidence against it.
The first step in dealing with fear is understanding the role fear plays in our psychology. The famous American psychologist Martin Seligman proposed that the fear of individuals (with phobias) is to learn adaptation of our brains in response to survival threats. Fear is a survival tool that nature has bestowed us with so that our gene pool can survive through. From a neuroscience perspective, fear starts in a region of the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala activates whenever we sense a danger to our survival and releases stress hormones and triggers our sympathetic nervous system. The brain becomes hyperalert, pupils and bronchi dilate and breathing accelerates; heart rate and blood pressure rise; blood flow and stream of glucose to skeletal muscles increase, and organs that are not vital to survival such as the gastrointestinal system slow down.
Fear And Objective Reality
Having looked beneath the surface of fear and what triggers it one can understand it as a neurochemical response triggered by our primal survival instinct. However, is it justified for humans to accept fear in every situation? Not necessarily. If you are faced with a lion or a grizzly bear, being afraid and giving into the flight or fight responses make sense. However, when confronted with an unconventional path where we can rationalize ourselves to safety, fear may not have a large role to play. For example, if you were beginning an art project, you might have a fear of judgment from your audience. You might put a lot of time, energy, finances, and emotions into your project. It may fail completely, and you may have to go back and start from scratch. However, you would still have learned many valuable lessons from the journey. You will have a better starting point to do your next project.
If we think about the causal chain of fear, we may realize that it is not the situation that is inherently bad. Instead, I would argue that for the artist the situation is better having gone through the experience. It is our reaction to the situation — the imagined pain that we bring into our minds that leads us to extreme fear and disappointment. Fear is never the objective reality — it is a projection of our survival instinct on reality. The objective reality is a project that didn’t work out but enriched us and made us much better for future endeavors. Fear, thus, doesn’t need a special place in our minds.
Rule #3: Embrace Uncertainty.
To find one’s own journey and break away from the long-held notions, one needs to go through long passages of darkness and uncertainty. During the phases of uncertainty, our minds tend to wander into uncharted territories and make it hard for us to carry the struggle on. Is uncertainty necessary for success? Does it lead to positive or negative outcomes? What is the impact of uncertainty on creativity? In his book, Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance, Jonathan Fields brilliantly deals with the questions and provides useful insights into combating uncertainty.
Uncertainty And Asymmetric Outcomes
Uncertainty is necessary for asymmetric and exponential outcomes. If you go after goals in life wherein you are very sure of the path to take and the outcome is certain to be positive in your favor, then success tends to be generally lower. The rationale for this comes from the fact that it is highly likely that someone else would have figured out how to get to the goal already. Thereby, the associated value of the outcome becomes lower. Let us take, for example, the goal of building the first nuclear bomb. During the second world war, the erstwhile Nazi Germany and USA were in a heated battle to be the first to build a stable weapon system. The US government brought some of the best minds to work on Project Manhattan and ran it in extreme secrecy. They were ready to sacrifice infinite resources to be able to make the weapons work before the Nazis were able to figure it out. The Manhattan Project began modestly in 1939 but grew to employ more than 130,000 people and cost nearly US$2 billion (equivalent to about $23 billion in 2020). This was a time of extreme uncertainty given the technology wasn’t yet proven and it was a matter of life and death. It was not until 6 August 1945 when a Boeing B-29 Superfortress of the 393d Bombardment Squadron, piloted by Tibbets, lifted off from North Field with a Little Boy in its bomb bay and dropped it on Hiroshima killing around 70,000–80,000 people. This was the dawn of a new era — the beginning of the age of American supremacy. Since then eight other countries have developed nuclear weapons. However, it is hard to challenge American supremacy. It is primarily due to the fact that the US was the first nation to build the weapons and dictate terms for a significant portion of the latter half of the twentieth century.
Rule #4: Find Your Certainty Anchors.
Jonathan Fields describes a certainty anchor as a practice or process that adds something known and reliable to your life when you may otherwise feel you’re spinning off in a million different directions. Every major religion in the world inculcates certain rituals and practices to ensure that the practitioners can remain anchored in the practice and get a feeling of sameness every time they begin the practice. Our minds abhor changes. Changes bring uncertainty and our minds need to adjust and adapt to the new world order. On the other hand, rituals and practices help us remain grounded in the reality of our being.
In his book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, Mason Currey outlines the rituals of 161 inspired minds, including novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians. They describe how they set up their daily habits to maneuver through the many subtle distractions of human life and find a way to become the creative geniuses that they ended up becoming. I list down a few examples from his book below:
“His breakfast was coffee, which he prepared himself with great care — he determined that there should be sixty beans per cup, and he often counted them out one by one for a precise dose.” — Ludwig van Beethoven.
“I must write each day without fail, not so much for the success of the work, as in order not to get out of my routine.” — Leo Tolstoy.
“The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind…(and) physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.” — Haruki Murakami.
Rule #5: Accept Criticism.
It is true that breaking away from the tribe leads to extensive criticism and backlash from the society that you were once a part of. Why do humans criticize the outliers? Why is it hard for us to accept the misfits, the round pegs in the square holes, and the swimmers who challenge the currents?
Before we go any further into the understanding of criticism, let us first try and spend time on understanding where criticism emanates from. Destructive criticism often comes from a place of darkness in the human mind. It is when the devil becomes potent enough within us and we tend to believe that we understand the reality of our being so well that nobody can question the authority. It comes from a place of anguish, pain, unhappiness, and narrow-mindedness. We criticize others when we cannot deal with our own struggles; when the voice in our head has nowhere else to go and needs to vent out the anger on an external entity; when our mind becomes so full of the storms of anger that we can no longer hold it within ourselves and need to let it out and unleash it onto the world. We criticize others when we want to cause pain and make the world a worse place than it was before.
However, criticism can be constructive as well. As someone who breaks away from the tribe one should be open to constructive criticism and be ready to accept and adapt the path we take based on the criticism we receive. Constructive criticism is feedback worth its weight in gold. Any creative endeavor requires data from the outside world to understand whether the idea is working in the real world or not. Good ideas often come from many small insights which may originate in different minds. That is why it is necessary to build a diverse team of mentors who can provide non-personal judgment on the quality of the work being done.
In his book, Trailblazer, Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce, talks about the origin of the idea of the App Store on the Salesforce platform. Benioff, company CTO and co-founder Parker Harris, and fellow co-founder Dave Molenhoff took a trip to Cupertino to meet with Steve Jobs. At that meeting, the legendary CEO gave the trio the idea that they should build out a software platform ecosystem on the Salesforce application. Marc Benioff let the idea simmer in and revisited the idea many months later when he had an epiphany. What if every developer in the world could build and deploy their own applications on the Salesforce Platform? This was the origination of the AppExchange which opened up a multi-billion dollar opportunity for Benioff and his team.
Could Benioff be able to get to the idea of AppExchange without the insight from Steve Jobs? Maybe or maybe not. Is Salesforce better off with the collaboration of the founders? Certainly yes. This is the gist of being open to feedback. It makes a team anti-fragile and able to grow in difficult circumstances.
Rule #6: Learn And Adapt.
Going out into the wilderness requires one to think from first principles, be open to the uncertainty of outcomes, and be ready to get feedback from the environment. There is certainly less doubt in the process. However, survival in the wild can be a challenge in itself. There are negative and destructive forces out there in the world that will come and get you, literally and metaphorically speaking. It is, therefore, critical to be able to come up with skills that can help you learn and adapt to the environment around you.
Cindy Sherman, one of the leading artists in contemporary America, initially failed her required photography class (due to difficulties with the subject’s technical side), and decided to focus on her major of painting. Later, however, Sherman studied with a photography instructor (Barbara Jo Revelle) who inspired her to just take pictures. Sherman found the immediacy of photography more appealing than trying to paint perfect copies of things and switched majors.
The creator of the famous Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney’s life is nothing of the perfect lesson in learning and adapting when you break away from the tribe. At the young age of 10, Disney with his elder brother Roy launched his own cartoon business, Laugh-O-Gram Studios, in 1920. However, the company went bankrupt a couple of years later. With $40 in his bank account, Disney packed his bags and went to Los Angeles to try his hand at acting. Having realized that acting wasn’t his cup of tea, he decided to set up shop in California and got his first taste of success in the creation of Oswald The Lucky Rabbit. Traveling back to New York to renegotiate the terms of his contract, Disney found that his producer had taken his team of animators from under him. He gave up everything and returned back to California to start all over again. On his way back, he created the idea of the Mickey Mouse which he believed would propel him to world fame. However, it wasn’t before several years of living through depression, poverty, and facing hundreds of rejects (~300 in total from bankers) before he could bring the idea of the Mickey Mouse on the big screen and stamp his authority as one of the most important creators of the 20th century.
What are the lessons that we could learn from the lives of Cindy Sherman and Walt Disney? Did they find success in being a part of the tribe they started out of? Did they struggle when they initially broke off from their tribe? Yes.
Early in her career, Sherman decided to break away from her tribe and find her own path, her own journey. This would have been extremely stressful and painful for her as she got rejected (by failing her exams). However, by learning and adapting to what she wanted to do (i.e. take pictures, paint self-portraits) she found her way out. She designed a way to get what she wanted from the world and how she could contribute to her tribe.
Walt Disney took a century and a half before he could achieve any major success. He wanted to create something truly original and that meant he had to break away from the already held perceived notions of cartoon design. He had to invent feature films that were fully animated. He had to create characters such as Oswald The Rabbit, and The Mickey Mouse. He had to face rejections from his tribe before he could hit success.
The core lesson to be derived from the aforementioned stories is simple. When breaking away from the tribe, one needs to be able to learn and adapt to the changing situations. The world out there will be rough, and harsh. New ways of doing things may not come that easy. More often than not, ideas will fail. However, if we are ready to learn, grow, and adapt to the feedback we get from the world, we can find a way to success.
Rule #7: Give Back To Society.
I believe that the last element of the mindset when breaking away from the tribe is being able to give back to the society whence one comes. When we venture out from the world we learn many significant lessons from our search for the truth. Some of these experiences are positive, some negative; some are incremental, others revolutionary; some ideas remain ambiguous, others become sufficiently clear in our minds. The hero has to return from the journey and contribute to the tribe. Else, the learnings that they have had in their quest for the truth may remain hidden from the world. The culmination of life is death; the culmination of preparing oneself is fighting the battle itself. Thus, a hero returns to the ordinary world and gets to share his knowledge, ideas, and lessons to ensure that the world benefits from it. It is necessary for the hero to be empathetic to the world he left behind.
“He was never proud or vain; he could find something to value in anyone, however insignificant or wretched, and I believe that his early losses endowed him with great humanity and sympathy. I shall miss his friendship more than I can say, but my loss is nothing compared to the Wizarding world’s. He was the most inspiring and the best-loved of all Hogwarts headmasters cannot be in question. He died as he lived: always working for the greater good and, to his last hour, as willing to stretch out a hand to a small boy with dragon pox as he was the day I met him.” — Albus Dumbledore’s obituary by Elphias Doge.
Albus Dumbledore, a fictional character from the famous Harry Potter series, was a hero in his own right. Starting as a wizard, he fought several wars with the dark powers, became the headmaster of the wizardry school, Hogwarts, and sacrificed his life fighting the dark lord, Voldermort. Yet, his most significant contribution to the world was training and mentoring Harry Potter to fight and kill Voldermort. This brings me to the most crucial aspect of breaking away from the tribe — the connection to the tribe itself. It is essential to move away from the world and gain knowledge, power, and discipline to alleviate oneself to a position of supremacy. However, if one cannot remain grounded, enter and live with the world, and contribute back, the efforts will go in vain. The grandmaster, Dumbledore, was no exception and depicts the importance of being valuable to the tribe one breaks away from.
Our evolutionary memory leads us to behave as tribes in the modern world.
The modern world works on rationality and tribalism is inherently dogmatic and irrational.
Tribalism leads to non-meritocratic and non-diverse, suboptimal outcomes.
To break away from tribalism focus on first principles thinking and embrace fear and uncertainty.
To succeed on one’s own journey, one needs to accept criticism, learn and adapt, and give back to society on the way back.