The Secret Society Infiltration Model for “Networking”
From my book How to Be Cross Eyed: Thriving Despite Your Physical Imperfection — a mémoire and lifehacking manifesto
Networking: now that’s a word with a not stellar connotation. Networking brings to mind…
- These meetups in bars that we’ve all attended which are seemingly awkward by design.
- Those annoying people that send you unsolicited messages on LinkedIN asking to get coffee with you to talk about some opportunity.
- That guy you barely know who calls you up out of the blue to invite you to attend some MLM recruitment pow wow.
I don’t blame you for being not interested in networking, but it really is one of the secrets to success and happiness. Networking effectively really does ROI in the form of…
- Peak life experiences
- Getting invited to awesome parties
- It’s the inside track to great job and business opportunities
- Along with finding true love and companionship
It’s worth figuring out.
When I was a younger man I spent a lot of time sipping $7 drinks at networking meetups in Denver, Colorado exchanging business cards with accountants, nightclub promoters, fashion designers, interns, MLMers, models, journalists, attorneys, mortgage brokers and seemingly thousands of realtors! Over time it actually did help me build a high utility social circle, but it wasn’t the most effective way of doing it.
I’ll suggest that instead you implement…
The Secret Society Infiltration Model for networking
The fundamental lifehack to networking more effectively is to focus your networking efforts on those who are within groups that you have a high affinity with. This means finding groups that have very strong shared values, interests or philosophies. Which is kind of the opposite of going to a meetup with a bunch of random strangers in a bar who have as commonality only that they are on the mailing list of some event marketer.
I suggest that you infiltrate groups that you have stronger ties with — I call them “secret societies”. There’s four secret societies I’m a part of…
The 1st is Biohackers; people who take their personal development really seriously and hack it — using smart drugs, technology, diet and mindfulness to gain an unfair advantage in all the arenas in which they compete. If the idea of a Biohacker secret society intrigues you, watch this.
The 2nd I’ll describe as dudes who do business on the Internet and aren’t afraid to travel to dodgy countries. There’s a certain kinship we have because we know that it takes a keen savvy, boldness and a little madness to make one’s living working digitally while disregarding borders and geopolitical-political risk.
The 3rd is Natural game pickup artists, this is different than the idea you may have of guys in silly hats, negging and using pickup lines in bars — this is guys who take a very holistic approach to seducing the fairer sex. They often do meditation, study social dynamics and philosophy, read personal development books, do yoga, are nutrition and health freaks, do NOT drink socially, learn languages and are nomadic travelers.
The 4th I’ll describe cheekily as paranoid libertarians, people on the political right who are (justifiably!) worried about big government power strangling our human rights. We dream of a world with no government at all and we believe strongly in free market ideas.
Sometimes, I’ll meet someone new and within minutes from just a few subtle gestures, mannerisms or expressions I’ll know they are also in one of these secret societies.
We have a bond immediately. We’ll become good friends literally overnight often. We’ll go out of our way to help each other.
We play a little game of trying to be the one giving the most value to the other. Our private conversations will be frank, useful and free of political correctness or meaningless small talk.
The prolific author and podcaster Tim Ferriss is famous for the interview question…
What do you believe that most people think is crazy?
I’ll ask you that same question. What do you believe that is really far outside of the mainstream? That you don’t even share with your friends and family for fear of ostracization? Go find other people who believe the same thing and they will be instant high affinity connections.
You’re certainly welcome to join one of the four secret societies I describe above but these are definitely not the only ones worth considering…
Political groups are pretty good places to find those with similar values; they have a strong in group preference. If you contribute to a political group in one way or another they will (hopefully!) take care of you.
Popular authors, podcasters or bloggers will often have local meetup groups. Go to the website of some of your favorite public thinkers who’s ideas you spend time consuming and often you’ll find a forum or events area where you can connect with other people who subscribe to these same ideas in a major city near you.
If you live in a big cosmopolitan city you can Google swingers parties or adult sex clubs and you’ll find some very interesting and surprisingly inviting people to exchange bodily fluids with.
Charitable organizations, people worth networking with are often altruistic. If you’ve ever wondered why business leaders and wealthy entrepreneurs are so fond of giving their money away, it’s because it actually yields a return for them because of the really high level networking that goes on in the elite social circles around charities.
Racial or national solidarity groups, for almost every race or nationality you can find organized groups in any major city that advocate for their own interests. Get identity politics working for you! Like if you’re Chinese and you live anywhere other than China, I can almost guarantee you that you could find a well organized group in your area that you can join and you will meet local Chinese businessmen, attorneys and other influential people.
Religions are the original secret societies; they are actually some of the very best places to network your way up. Those in your religious denomination are likely to have very strong shared ideological and intellectual values with you. I often consider becoming religious again just to get plugged into the great social networks that churches can be.
Masonic lodges, Shriners or other fraternal orders are likely to have a local chapter in your area that you could join. These orders promote from within and while you’ll have to pay your dues (literally or figuratively) the senior members of your local chapter will definitely go out of their way to hook you up with business and work opportunities.
University Alumni, If you went to a major university it’s likely there’s alumni organizations that hold functions which will be highly conducive to networking where you can meet others from your alma mater who are five, ten or twenty years more advanced in their careers than you and can help you get a job or an introduction to someone that you really need to meet. The more elite a university probably the more worthwhile it is to get plugged in their alumni groups.
Certain athletic, martial arts schools or hobbyist groups can have strong underlying ties.
The other day I was describing this secret society networking model to a new friend and they asked if my salsa dancing was a secret society. Not really.
We all like to tear it up on the dancefloor but our commonalities really don’t extend much further — same thing with entrepreneurial startup or website development meetup groups that I also like to attend from time to time.
There’s no guarantee of deeper connection. If I meet someone cool and friendly seeming, I have to go through the longer process of banter, small talk, and rapport building. I have to keep things politically correct and polite for at least the first two times we hangout. It would be tactless of me to assume that we will be great friends or confidants just because we have salsa dancing, Joomla or entrepreneurial interests in common.
I also wouldn’t include travelers or nomads as they like to call themselves as a secret society. Travelers have very disparate shared values; even though I’ve been a hardcore long term traveler I find many travelers boring and vapid, what little values they have are mostly just flimsy platitudes that often I totally disagree with.
Perhaps you’re thinking…
Ok so identify and join secret societies that I have a high intellectual or ideological affinity with… but how do I do that practically? Where do I start?
Well, part of the reason I call them Secret Societies is that they are often not real aggressive about publicly advertising for membership. You’ll have to take some initiative in infiltrating them…
- Often this means sending emails. Find a member or group in your area and privately email one (or some) of the members asking if they have events or informal meetups.
- If there’s a public thinker you follow drop them a line thanking them for their work and ask if there’s any groups or people they recommend you connect with in your area.
For example: I made a couple of great friends when I saw that an influential blogger I read was in my same city — Kiev — for a little while. I dropped him a tweet inviting him for a coffee. He declined but invited me to a private meetup where I met him and some very cool guys. Instant high affinity connections.
Sometimes it’s just best just to pay to play; many secret societies you can join just by paying dues or making a contribution.
You get what you pay for
If you’ve found networking unfruitful up to this point, it’s likely because you’re limiting yourself to the free options where you’re just going to meet other people who can afford free networking. The top influencers, entrepreneurs and thought leaders invest thousands of dollars (or more) every year in networking.
You’ll hear about a conference or a retreat done in some luxury resort at some far away exotic locale and you may think…
All those people wasting all that money to travel all that way just to do the same networking they could do over Skype!
The high cost is precisely the reason it’s worth it! By setting the barrier to entry at several thousand dollars they filter out everyone who’s less than totally elite from attending. While you don’t have to drop thousands of dollars to network effectively, a modest yearly or monthly budget devoted to it will seriously ROI.
A lot of jaded people who aren’t very good networkers will tell you that…
Public events and networking groups are a big waste of time… Just a bunch of pretentious people!
I disagree, I think such events and groups can actually have a lot of utility but you have to be picky about what you attend.
Not all online social networks are equal. There’s some that actually will help your Networking game and some others that will do very little for you.
I list this one first because I’ve found it’s a pretty great network. It’s a social network that connects expats with locals at events that are best described as swanky. They do parties at venues that are a little more upscale and often charge a cover to keep out the riffraff. At Internations events I’ve met doctors, inventors, local business people and even politicians. They have a free membership option and a $80/yearly option that includes more niche events and the option to host events. I’ve actually gotten paid and laid thanks to Internations so if you want to do some power networking it’s probably worth the $80. If you join Internations, add me.
The world’s most popular event directory and ticketing platform. Since a lot of the events on Eventbrite you have to pay to attend, you’ll find a lot more professional organization. As a social networking website I don’t think there’s a function to connect with other users. You’ll have to actually collect people’s contact details at the events. You’ll find a lot of courses and classes on Eventbrite, which could be great places to meet people if you don’t mind spending some money. They have a smartphone app that I recommend downloading and taking a look at like once a week.
Here you’ll find interest groups in your local area that have between several and several hundred members that will host events weekly or monthly. Meetup.com is very geeky, a lot of the groups and events you’ll find on it are focused around software development and IT, which can be great for business and job opportunities if that’s what your career is.
One advantage is that it’s pretty easy to connect to the moderators of the groups who are often more influential.
Download their app, as far as I can tell all the meetups and functions of the social network are free.
The popular flatsharing and vacation rental directory is actually pretty good for meeting people. You’ll either host or rent a space via the site, it’s definitely not just a digital transaction, there is some expectation of interaction and socializing between the two parties. Traveling the world I’ve met a couple of Airbnb hosts that I really got along with and we’ve remained friends.
This is the social network for travelers; ostensibly its purpose is for travelers to find locals who will let them sleep on their couches for free, I’ve never actually used it for that purpose though.
I’ve been to a lot of Couchsurfing events around the world and they are almost always just a bunch of rowdy backpackers swilling cheap beer, swapping tales of drunken buffoonery and talking about how cheap the drugs are in this country and how cheap the hookers are in that country. And they are usually sausage fests.
However, I have actually made some friends through it and found cool things to do via CS. It’s worth joining, logging into your account dashboard and taking a look at what’s going on once or twice a week.
The world’s most popular social network is surprise, surprise actually quite useful for networking if you use it right.
Facebook Events, is the section of Facebook where you can see popular events going on near you. A lot of times I just use this function to find good parties, nightlife and salsa events. The benefit is that you can see how many people are likely going to attend an event. In my experience if an event has +40 people marked as attending it’s usually pretty worthwhile.
Facebook groups, are where some of the more meaningful discussions and connections happen on Facebook. The best way to find Facebook groups is just to search interest+city (for example) and you’ll find local groups devoted to almost anything you can think of. Often you’ll have to ask to be a part of the groups before you can contribute to the discussion.
Facebook can be quite detrimental to your networking gravitas if you waste time browsing the newsfeed (stop wasting time doing that!)
Unless you have a really great profile (like I do) and post things that really engage your friends and followers; more is less on Facebook. Sometimes I’ll meet some new person that seems cool but upon connecting with them on Facebook I’m revolted to see that their profile simply consists of bathroom selfies, drunk photos, snarky political outbursts, reposting platitude picture memes and sharing pop music videos. Don’t do this.
There’s a lot of great networkers out there that flat out refuse to use Facebook. It’s not mandatory for networking.
Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat
The popularity contest social networks are quite useless for meaningful networking if you are…
a) Not very popular
b) Not a hot girl
I follow some popular thought leaders on these platforms but they have been almost completely ineffective at connecting me to people on the ground that I want to meet.
If there’s one social network that’s worth playing the popularity contest game with, Youtube is it! I will with some frequency meet people in real life who have found me through my Youtube channel.
On Youtube your discoverability is based primarily on the quality and quantity of your content. Youtube comments were a (bad) joke for a while but due to some recent changes by Youtube the quality of the conversation has improved. You can actually make some meaningful connections by commenting on the right Youtube videos.
Networking is kind of like sex, if it’s not fun you’re not doing it right. In your networking interactions between 25% — 50% of your conversational content should be banter, joking and flirtation. The psychology experts will tell you that one of the biggest keys to effective networking is just being fun to be around.
I recently met a quite successful guy in Split, Croatia for lunch who manages a Facebook group with +12,000 entrepreneurs in it. Now I did just a little research before hand and I know that this guy also runs a mastermind group of a few hundred members; where he is taking questions and doing consulting. He’s highly compensated to answer people’s questions about business all day long. So as opposed to picking his brain my approach was just to keep the conversation pretty light and chipper; joking about travel, misadventures and chasing girls.
You’ve probably already heard that to be a more effective networker you need to bring value — which is totally true but it’s a topic worthy of its own chapter so I’m just going to mention it in passing here.
Most really effective networking happens offline; as in not via a screen, outside of your house with handshakes and raising of drinks not with swipes and clicks.
- Networking matters. It’s not just a fad for pretentious, stylish people. It pays off if you do it right.
- You can 10X your networking by doing it within high affinity groups instead of just going to “networking” parties.
- Often with free networking functions you get what you pay for. The best networkers invest a not insignificant amount of money in their networking.
- The social networks can be good for your networking if you use them right but they can also be a big waste of time.