just a thought – cracking cliques

It is the eternal lament of the talented-but-socially-insecure – success rarely seems to have much to do with what you do – success is more about who you know.  It seems like the avenues of media and money are controlled by a cabal of “insiders” who are intent on supporting eachother and keeping new people – people like you – on the outside.  Sure, there is some truth to that statement, but as I have had the opportunity to see things from both sides, I’m beginning to feel that the clique complaint is used far too often as an excuse by the unsuccessful.  My experience is that cliques are rarely as tightly guarded as they seem.

  • True: Success is who you know.

Or even more likely, who knows about you.  You can be the world’s greatest artist, but if no one has ever heard of you, you’re not likely to make a living of it.  Successful people are surrounded by a supportive network of people in their industry, clients and patrons, and media.  So what if you’re not?

Crack it. You may not be the world’s greatest schmoozer, but the good news is you don’t have to be (I’m certainly not).  You just have to be confident and outgoing enough to be able to approach people beyond your immediate circle – especially the right people!  If you make a good impression on someone who is already well connected, you are instantly once removed from an incredibly valuable network.  If you are able to bring that confidence to everyone you meet, your goodwill and connections will multiply every time you meet someone new.  Sure, not everyone is going to like you right away – it takes time to find the people you click with, and develop trust and friendship with those people – but if you never make a move, you’ll be limited to the people you already know and you will limit your success as well.  Why would you want to do that?

  • False: Successful people are jerks who don’t want to help you.  They want to keep all the success for themselves.

Most successful people got to be that way by having others help them.  Sure there are some jerks out there who have let it get to their head, but in my experience many successful people want to pay it forward and help others who are in the position they once were.  Success isn’t a limited resource that diminishes if you share it, and there are plenty of kind, accomplished people out there who get that.

Crack it. Attitude is everything when you are trying to get to know busy, powerful people.  They have a lot of demands on their time – and they have a lot of demands from people.  One of the best ways to win their respect is to demand nothing from them – simply treat them as you would any other human – you know, friendly and casual.  Even better, offer to help them.

  • False: Cliques are tight little crews who only help eachother and try to keep everyone else down.

The thing that makes cliques different than clubs is that there is no such thing as official membership, and there are no written rules.  Wikipedia says:

A clique is an exclusive group of people who share interests, views, purposes, or patterns of behavior. Membership in a clique is often, but not necessarily, exclusive, and qualifications for membership may be social or essential to the nature of the clique.

The word “clique” is often used perjoritavely and the association with high school social dynamics is pretty strong, but the definition itself is neither a positive or a negative one.  Cliques form naturally around any shared interest or purpose.  Of course people who know eachother want to support the people they know – so get to know the people you want to know!

Crack it. Here’s the thing: cracking a clique is just as simple as supporting the members of that clique, sharing their views or behaviors.  In Toronto’s fashion scene there are many groups that could be characterized as cliques – but there is a surprising amount of overlap and porousness to them.  From the outside they can seem quite impenetrable, but in my experience many (not all) of the individuals involved are very open and curious about new ideas and people.  They are often enthusiastic to introduce new friends to their friends.

Now of course not all cliques are as easy to crack and not everyone is curious.  Not all cliques are worth belonging to either – and sometimes apparent membership of one can void your acceptance to others.  Pick your “cliques” according to your own beliefs and passions.  Consider that most cliques are nothing more than a loose collection of people who share something in common – it is really a lot like picking your friends.

What I am trying to express in this post is instead of avoiding cliques, to approach them.  Be careful not to apply assumptions to the character of a clique before you make the effort to introduce yourself to the individuals involved.  There are some genuine benefits to belonging to a group of like-minded friends and associates – I recommend it.

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9 thoughts on “just a thought – cracking cliques”

  1. This is a great article – it’s important to be reminded that we’re all just people, and not inpenetrable!

    Another thing I try to remember is that if you give support, you’ll get it – sometimes from unlikely places. If you think something (an article, a design) warrants mentioning, say something…and who cares if they’re in your clique!

    In the same vein, if I get mentioned by someone else, I’m always more interested in checking out what they do, too. It’s a great way to start your own connections (or cliques) without forming a prejudice about who is “worth” talking to.

  2. I love this article!

    As a member of one of the most exclusive groups in Toronto (or what i would like to believe is so) we definately get some serious slack based on misconseptions that we are unapproachable and intimidating. But it is quite the conrary! The Nightshades are some loose lipped ladies who are always willing to share, give and take advice and make new friends. I do realize that a bike gang can be a bit of an aggressive label, but as you can see we ride bicycles and save the environment in our spare time.

    great job writing a great article…

    Here here!

  3. This is an excellent post! When I attended fashion week for the first time, I made sure to talk to as much people as possible and I got some awesome opportunities because of it.

    Keep up the great posts!

  4. great article! cliques!! i hate it. i’ve never really had big trouble throughout school with cliques – i think i’ve been lucky because i’ve made friends with a lot of different people. but after i moved to japan and now to new york, i realize how bad the situation can really get. and really i despise it all. in new york, the fashion industry is the most clique-y bunch of b.s. people i’ve ever seen, and half of them don’t know what they’re doing but they got to where they are stepping on people and sucking up to who matters. it’s disgusting and i hope i never go down that road.

  5. I’ve written about this many times. You are equal to your five closest friends.

    People in the know are NO DIFFERENT from you. Like you, they:
    *Don’t know everything.
    *Look for others who can help them.
    *Seek relationships with those who share their interests.
    *Look for people at a level above themselves. People who are at a level they want to be at.

    There’s one critical difference btwn them and you, they’ve already figured out they’re not going to find help where ever it is you’ve been looking. They are more discriminating in the quality of content. If you want to be on another level, you have to move up to another level yourself.

    Sure you get mutual support from friends experiencing the same things you are but being on your level, they can’t help you move up. For example, there’s tons of places on the internet where you can find people begging for information on how to start a clothing line. The thing is, the people who are already doing it and most likely to have useful information, aren’t there because their peers or people a level above them aren’t there so there’s nothing they can gain from it. They will give but like you, want to get something out of it too. Do you join a community just to give give give, with nothing to gain for yourself? Of course not. Thus, those a level above you are not bad people either if they don’t choose to do that.

    There is a bit of gatekeeping but it’s easier to get in than you think. What you won’t find is a high quality community that is free. Free forums, having no barriers to entry, usually won’t focus on what you want to know because anyone can join; it’s a free for all. Now, if you do want to learn how to start a clothing line, you’re better off joining a community that is already doing it. One, they know better, they’ve already done it. And yes, they will help you if your questions are well thought and it’s obvious you’ve done some work.

    The last thing I see in my experience (on my forum) over and over, is whether you apply the advice you’ve been given. If you ask questions and numerous people have given you variations of the same advice and you decide you are the one exception to the rule, the one person who can make your way work, they’re not going to give you more advice because you really don’t want advice; you only want confirmation for what you’ve already decided to do. We do like to see people grow but if you can’t see your way to follow advice, they’re not going to give you more if you haven’t listened to what they’ve already said.

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