June 22, 2009
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.