T.R.I.B.E. The Relationships That Sustain Us How To Find Them And How To Keep Them

My mind is a place of words and images, zillions of them all flying around chaotically in my head like butterflies in a field. And so too most likely is yours.

Have you ever tried to make sense of a butterfly’s flight patterns? It’s pretty much impossible as the butterfly’s erratic flight is an evolutionary tactic that makes it harder for any would-be predators to predict the insect’s flight-path. The problem is that in this dance for survival, the butterfly may be free and living it’s best life, but in our headspace, the airborne information is a complete mess.

How then do we organize these words and images that make up our thoughts? How do we discern which to give relevance to and which to prioritize? How do we work out which to trust?yes, I just suggested that perhaps we shouldn’t trust all of our thinking (a frightening thought for many, “if I can’t trust my thinking then what the heck do I trust?“).

It is after all our own thinking that most often leads us to make decisions that we regret. So we need to learn to apply a more critical thinking lens to specifically our own mind meanderings. We need to learn to make better choices.
When these ill thought through decisions involve other people, which is most often, we create difficulty and upheaval in our own lives.

We often blame others for our challenges, our heartache, our failures, our everything negative… but what if we became more accountable for our choices, our decisions… our thoughts? What if we had a way of setting ourselves up for success more easily, more systematically inside the chaos of our mental processes? What if we could install a better and more effective operating system for decision making, for action, for relationships?

To do this, I build models and tools in my mind. They capture some of the words and images and organize them, line them up as discernable and logical, and in a way that I will use to guide my thinking in the particular area of my life for which they are designed. I have designed man; a 4-part model for my physical exercise ritual, a visual measure tool for my work-life balance strategy. I even have a lengthy 14-point zero tolerance guide for romantic partner selection (it didn’t start out as being that lengthy, but we live and learn).

What about the relationships that sustain us, those people we invite and keep in our lives because they add value. If asked why these people are your “tribe”, you should easily describe the value that they bring and why you keep them in your life, why you choose to.

There are many definitions and descriptors for what a tribe is, Dictionary.com describes a tribe as “a group or class of people with strong common traits, values, or interests“. This definition resonates most for me, particularly the values reference hence I’ve used it as the basis for my T.R.I.B.E model. This is the tool that I use as my temperature check for creating, building and sustaining the relationships that I invest in, and that I hold most dear for what they bring back to me in mutual exchange.

The five letters of word tribe each stand for one of these key traits—the characteristics I gravitate towards both consciously and unconsciously, and in a healthy way. On the flip-side, the elements that I gravitate towards in an unhealthy way (and need to manage carefully, and most times avoid) I will perhaps describe in a separate article that I’ll write some-time in the future.

But for now, the good stuff…


  1. [ T ] TRUST
    Without trust there is no relationship. At least not a positive relationship construct. Trust is the foundation of security, of knowing that another has our back and that we can take this as a given unconditionally. Trust is borne of consistency, showing up in ways that foster deeper connection and a willingness to be vulnerable because it is safe to do so. If there is no trust, nothing else matters to me, and we’re not going to be of each other’s tribe.
  2. [ R ] RESONANCE
    For me, this is an authentic values alignment. It is something that I experience as an energy, how I feel about the way a person shows up and demonstrates who they are in terms of what matters to them, their actual values. Misaligned values are a slippery slope to relationship downfall and often ignored as critical in forming a sustainable and meaningful connection. I flow effortlessly with people with whom I have a values resonance, and possibility in that space is close to limitless.
  3. [ I ] INTEGRITY
    I learned a long time ago that integrity is doing what we say we’re going to do when we say we’re going to do it. It’s fairly evident that this ties into trust and resonance as well. Still, I find that I am easily switched off from engaging with another person when they have a low integrity muscle. They don’t deliver as promised – when promised. It is essential to check our commitments, make sure that we can deliver on them before promising that we will, and maintain the integrity of our promise incorruptibly once we have given it. And even then we will be challenged, life happens! It’s how we navigate the challenges to our integrity that creates the connection as a tribe.
  4. [ B ] BUILD
    Human beings can both build and/or break each other. I have a low tolerance for people who choose to behave in a manner that lessens another, and I gravitate strongly towards those who elevate others. It’s not difficult to be intentional about being kind, constructive, positive, and engage others with a growth mindset.
  5. [ E ] EXCHANGE
    High-quality relationships are based on mutual exchange, on give and take. They are not one-sided and are abundant in sharing willingly as opportunity presents itself and seek out the non-obvious ways of creating value for others in their tribe. Generosity is a crucial feature of my successful tribe relationships.

These qualities that I have described are five of the key traits that I experience in all people that I would call my tribe. I didn’t design this over-night, I built on learnings gathered during years of experience and exploring, making mistakes and making smart decisions. They are also qualities that I work hard to deliver consistently to the best of my ability in all of my relationships. And, it’s a constant work in progress.

However, in the time, energy, and reflection required to stop and craft our own T.R.I.B E model, the real journey of insight into oneself occurs. It is through the consistent application of your model’s principles that sustains the muscle.
This may seem like hard work, having to stop, think, think deeper, commit and then follow through. Just as important is getting back on board if slight mishaps occur. Of course, it’s hard work, challenging and meaningful work.

But I assure you it’s easier than always being in the wrong tribe.

Or no T.R.I.B.E.

As a closing provocation, let me ask you this, how do you show up as someone that others want to have in their tribe? And is how you’re showing up getting you to be in the tribe(s) that best serve you and your best life?


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