Are you building your network?
Plan Your Next: Letter No. 4
At this very moment, we’re sleeping in at a friends home in San Diego. Scheduled publishing is grand.
This past week I had two creative therapy calls (I guess I’m calling it that now?) and have really enjoyed setting those up. Please schedule a time if you need a nudge.
To push this forward, I created a site at www.planyournext.com and plan to build that out slowly. First, I think that I’ll post articles, with interviews following thereafter, but I’m sure it will remain empty for awhile. Ideas are welcome.
For this newsletter, I plan to always publish here first before anywhere else.
Today’s letter is about networks. Enjoy!
When I lived in Minneapolis, I have to say that I was pretty proud of my network. The different groups of friends I had were special. My professional network game was pretty strong too, and the two rarely ever mixed. I enjoyed that contrast, and although they would cross over every now and then, I found that balance pretty healthy. I was always very active in the startup scene, going to events or offering my help on the side.
This was all very normal to me. Be active; be involved.
Since moving, it has pushed me out of my comfort zone entirely. What seemed effortless before, suddenly felt like a chore, and required me to take a hit to the ego.
Part of the problem is that I was working remotely, and that really increased the friction it took to meet other people. Or, if I did go out, I wasn’t following Networking 101 best practices by following up.
I consider myself a pretty friendly guy, but I’m also an introvert. Without having that network to encourage me to participate, this strength seemingly became my weakness.
Going to an office everyday is one of the more speedy ways to build your everyday network, but doing that on your own is considerably more difficult.
Maybe it’s just age, and my insecurity of being able to offer enough value, but I think it comes down to desire.
Before the internet, our social networks consisted mainly of our family and friends. These were localized and intimate. We could feel comfortable having conversations in private without having a troll step into the room, stomping around and throwing a fit.
In those early internet years, the popularized networks were message boards that closely resembled how we communicated in real life. Heavily niche topics, with like minded people, but ultimately lacking diversity and still relatively small.
I’m an optimist when it comes to the people building scaled networks. When Zuck was first building his network, his intentions were much different than they are now. Do I believe that he thinks a 100% connected world is a better place to live in? Yes, of course. Do I think he has malicious intent to do so? I personally don’t think so, but neither was he fully prepared to deal with the ramifications of a network at that scale, and consequently its susceptibility to abuse.
With scale, a network losses its intimacy that you had with more niche message boards—or the OG networks—your friends and family.
Same thing goes for Twitter. The company can have much more impact at scale, or most likely it wouldn’t continue to have the same impact that they have had. Are they positioned to deal with scale and its effect? Far from it. Most days it feels like they are sticking their heads in the sand.
The upside to scale is its massive diversity in the conversations that we can be a part of. This just wouldn’t happen with smaller networks.
But at scale, the noise becomes louder, the signal becomes buried. You have to be loud to be heard. This is ultimately going to bring out the extremes of the network.
Nuanced and quiet conversations can be pummeled by those extremes. Suddenly, these scaled networks become a shouting match and you have people like me not wanting to really participate in that.
Decentralized networks based on values
What would it take for a company like Facebook to be dethroned?
The problem with unplugging yourself from these networks is that you are confined to the network. It’s like a cage. If you leave, the people don’t follow you.
Have you tried to leave Facebook? I deleted my account long ago once, and surprisingly, I wish that I hadn’t. I’ve learned to better manage how I spend my time on it. Being connected to your friends and family is a good thing in most instances, although I limit my attention to them.
Part of the problem of these networks is that they’re actually too big. It’s wide open for anyone to join. But what if the answer is in smaller networks, that are value based?
I like this idea of specialized networks that are value based. Wikipedia is a decent example of one that exists. You can add something, but the underlying value of its network means that it will try to uphold it to certain standards.
NextDoor is another one that while it prioritizes scale over values, it does try to authenticate you as a real homeowner/renter, adding in a layer of trust, as well as showcasing its mission as being community oriented. If you don’t really care about the area you’re in, you most likely won’t value its network.
I don’t think this is a situation that will happen anytime soon, but what the blockchain is teaching us, is that there will be new ways to decentralize these types of networks.
Are you connecting with the right people?
To me, the importance of a network is not about who you know, but who knows you. It’s what can lead to a greater diversity of work, mitigating risk if something tragic happens, and people you can trust to help you if you ask.
It’s a reason why I started this newsletter. To find and get to know people who are interested in the same things as I am, and slowly build a value based network that isn’t dependent on a platform.
There are also so many platforms and ways to engage in conversation, I find myself not quite feeling beholden to one. Is that a bad thing?
The networks that I am connected to or use regularly are Twitter, Dribbble, Farnam Street, NextDoor, Wikipedia, Craigslist, AirBnB, Instagram, and Facebook. I don’t know if any of them are helping me grow my own though.
I think that’s a problem.
How are you growing your network?
Having a professional network is not about having 500+ connections on LinkedIn, but more about finding those 1,000 true fans. What are you doing to grow your network?
Who should I connect with?
Since I’m also growing my network, if you know of anyone in the general design/art/tech space out here in Los Angeles, I would love to be introduced! My only ask would be that it’s not a cold intro. Please ask for permission first.
This is Plan Your Next. It’s a conversation about being ready for what’s next. Well, because there is always a next. I’m Nate, designer and conductor of this group.
If you have something to share or add, please hit reply and expect a response!