“Who on earth wants to jump into ice baths and run through fire and wallow in mud on a Sunday afternoon, just for the hell of it?” my professors asked. My gut feeling was—plenty of people. Will Dean, founder of extreme obstacle course Tough Mudder, shares the thrilling inside story of how a scrappy startup grew into a movement whose millions of members feel like co-owners. He shows how other companies can embrace the Tough Mudder playbook by nurturing tribes of passionate fans while constantly experimenting with new risks. After five years as a British counterterrorism officer and two years at Harvard Business School, Dean was determined not to follow his classmates to Wall Street or Silicon Valley. Instead, he pursued his unique vision for an extreme obstacle course—a ten- to twelve-mile gauntlet pushing participants to their limits and helping them surpass those limits together. Instead of cutthroat competition, Tough Mudder would be about continual self-improvement and collective energy.
It would be about the power of a tribe.
Dean and his small team launched the first Tough Mudder event in May 2010, hosting 5,000 pioneers at a deserted ski resort in Pennsylvania. Just seven years later, more than 3 million people on four continents have participated at least once, and hundreds of thousands have done so repeatedly. More than 20,000 are so committed that they sport a Tough Mudder tattoo.
Mudders prove the power of fierce and unshakable loyalty to one another and the challenge itself. Proudly sporting orange headbands and team uniforms, they’ll run through mud, climb steep walls, face electric shocks, and slide down the side of a mountain. The tougher the experience, the greater the satisfaction.
It Takes a Tribe shows you how to embody the Tough Mudder spirit and capture the same magic. As a Tough Mudder slogan says, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”
About the Author
Will Dean is the founder and CEO of Tough Mudder Inc., which now has annual revenues of more than $100 million and has raised more than $13 million for charity. His honors include EY’s Entrepreneur Of The Year® Emerging Award; Crain’s annual 40 Under 40 list; and Fortune’s 40 Under 40: Ones to Watch list. A native of a mining town in the English Midlands, he now divides his time between London and New York.
“A wonderful, highly recommended book that will inspire all readers, including those interested in starting a business and those who have overcome personal obstacles.” - Starred Library Journal review
“At its core, It Takes a Tribe is a book about us. It goes beyond our ability to overcome obstacles and delves into how shared adversity is actually a powerful force in building deep, lasting bonds with others.” —Simon Sinek, optimist and author of Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last
“Convincing people to spend hours running through the mud is no easy task. Building a business where millions of people pay money to do this would be ridiculous. But Will Dean has done it, and this gripping book takes us under the hood to describe how. It Takes a Tribe reveals what it takes to stand by your values and create an organization that stands for those values.” —Adam Grant, author of Originals and Give and Take, and coauthor of Option B
“Will Dean is one of the most important leaders of his generation-boldly pushing back on our digitally obsessed culture to get us out of our comfort zones, into the mud, working as a team, and discovering all sorts of potential along the way. It Takes a Tribe is loaded with brilliant stories, lessons, and inspiration that will make you want to jump off your couch and go make an impact somewhere!” —Sarah Robb O’Hagan, CEO of Flywheel and author of Extreme You
“It Takes a Tribe isn’t just a gripping read. It’s also a thoughtful argument about what really drives business, and how success comes from standing by your values.” —Richard Reed, cofounder of Innocent Drinks
“The power of internal motivation, great leadership, and team building. Will Dean demonstrates all this and more in It Takes a Tribe.” —Brandon Webb, former Navy SEAL, author of The Red Circle and Total Focus, and CEO of Hurricane Group
“This book shows that an entrepreneur with imagination and nerve can make a real difference by creating life-changing opportunities for thousands of people across the world.” —General Sir Nick Parker, former commander in chief of the British Army
“While building our companies alongside each other in Brooklyn, Will Dean and I have shared many best practices. He has created one of the most original and inventive brands in the world, and his story will be valuable for anyone looking to change the rules of business.” —Brett Yormark, CEO of the Brooklyn Nets
“It Takes a Tribe offers an honest, no-holds-barred look inside of one of the most original and inventive businesses in the world and one of the most dynamic CEOs. This will become a business classic.” —Jennifer Hyman, CEO and cofounder of Rent the Runway
“Will's story - and his races - are proof that the obstacle is always the way.” —Ryan Holiday, author of The Obstacle is the Way