It’s attending a conference where you know no one. It’s driving to the city to sit in a coffee shop with ten strangers bonded by a programming language.
You’d think that occasions like this are no longer needed in times of the Internet, since you simply join a community of people with common interests and hang out there. Having spent a lot of leisure time on the Internet though I can say that having a great time at a conference or other type of event is something different altogether.
Amongst my favorite memories are the many times I joined the Linuxcouch at university where I met great people who I get along with extremely well. There is not only a basis of common interest but it’s the mutual respect that is given to people who have accumulated a certain expertise in their respective fields. Helpful friends who either try to help you when you need advice in technical (or other) matters, who may on occasion defer you to someone else but who also offer suggestions on whom to ask when they don’t know the answers themselves.
One of the big reasons why this tends to work out well is a willingness to learn from each other. While the finer aspects of interests can differ, there are topics which may cross over between your areas of expertise and theirs. I’m not saying your topics should be restricted on the things you work with. I’m trying to tell you that exploring one’s stance towards a particular issue or idea can be its own reward. If you are similar to me, you prefer to work in silence or behind your headphones with which you drown out distractions but can enjoy the detailed discussions going hand in hand with technical decisions.
Your People rarely demand anything. But when either you or they make a request, neither the request nor the agreement to do it is ever in question.
You don’t question the request because your trust in them is enormous. You assume - and rightfully so - that they know what they are doing. You don’t have to question them because of your unwavering certainty that their reasons are as legit as yours are when you are in the position of having to ask them.
You get mail all day from everyone, but you always stop to read mail from Your People.
You don’t stop to read their mail because you think it’s more urgent than your regular mail. It’s because you care. It’s because their issues are more interesting, because their fate is dear to you. Admittedly, you often assume that they act the same when you contact them. That’s okay, because that spiritual connection you feel is probably mutual.
These are not people that let you sit in place, these are people who hold a mirror up to your fuck-ups, and who explain, in excruciating detail, exactly what you don’t want to hear.
They know that constructive criticism is what you need to improve yourself. They also tell you what you need to hear in order to be better, not to feel better. You are better of leaving last part to a loved one anyway.
Networking is the art of finding those who are willing to listen to and critique your stories, so go look at your Inbox. Better yet, go look at your Sent box.
Instinctively you may already know who exactly Your People are. That’s because they are the ones you are relying on when you need honest feedback. They are the ones you like to spend your time with if they are in the vicinity. They are the ones you try to keep in contact with even if it’s been an unspeakably long time since your last communication.
You already know their value which you hold dear and are keen on keeping that bond intact. Rightfully so, as they can improve your whole attitude towards life in ways you will have a hard time wrapping your mind (and imagination) around.
Your people are your people because while you may not always agree, you are comfortably on the same frequency. Because of this frequency alignment, you invest in them instinctively because while people look at you like you’re crazy, they do not. You answer their emails quickly. You arrange drinks when they are in town – always. They are your people and in a world chock full of people, your people are uniquely yours.
In closing, I’d like to say one last thing: If you do one thing - just one little thing - that should be keeping true to your people. Never feel uncomfortable because they might not be respectable company in the eyes of judging others. Never feel like you have to apologize for them, their customs. You belong among them.