I often get asked how I make friends with so many great people. This is sort of a funny question because I think most people actually don’t know just how great my friend group is, since they only know a few people who are well known. So in a way, it’s an even better question than they realize. On the other hand, maybe I should be offended that they think those people wouldn’t want to be friends with me naturally!
Joking aside, I believe very strongly that having a good friend circle is one of the most important things you can do, and that it’s very smart to proactively think about how to be the best friend possible and build the best friend group possible.
If you’re interested in going deep on this topic, you should read my book Superhuman Social Skills, which covers it extensively.
A fundamental idea which I don’t believe is really talked or thought about is that most people don’t understand what it’s like to be someone who is sought after. The priorities and values of a person like that are very different from a person who is actively trying to increase their number of friends.
Most “aspirational” friendships desires are directed towards people who are well known. They have to have their guards up, because most people are looking to get something from them, disguised as friendship. Maybe it’s something tangible like money, or maybe it’s just prestige through friendship.
The other big factor is that most of these people already have a big social circle of people they know and trust. Any time they spend with you will take away from those people. That’s why I like bumping into random people who recognize me when I’m out traveling, but will never agree to meet people when they cold email me.
When attempting to make friends with someone like this, you have to provide as much value as possible and be as unneedy as possible. For example, if I meet someone who I believe is more sought after than I am (or than they perceive me to be), I will basically try to make sure they have a great time hanging out with me and will not impose upon them at all. I’ll even do things like try to end the hangout first when I feel the energy dying, to signal that I’m not the type of person that’s going to take up too much of their time. I won’t ask them any advice that’s in any way related to their work. If I can offer them any advice one anything they need, I’ll do it.
Whether or not this is fair is totally irrelevant. If you’re seeking someone out, it’s your responsibility to make it worth their time. Once you become friends that responsibility shifts.
It’s also very useful to be a connector. This is how I made several great friends in San Francisco. I would tell someone new about some of my existing friends and invite them to something that we were all doing. Meeting five potentially cool people is a lot more interesting than meeting just one.
You should also hang out in places where people you’d like to meet are likely to be. It’s a lot easier to get a few minutes of time from someone who’s already in front of you and not busy than it is to get them to change their plans to meet you.
For example, I emailed Leo Babauta before moving to San Francisco and he never replied to me. We ran into each other at Samovar in San Francisco when I got there, and we chatted a bit. A few weeks later we were both there again and we had tea together. Now we’re great friends.
When we were in Taiwan recently a guy emailed him and offered to make him amazing tea in a special park, so he agreed. Much better than when naïve old me tried to email him to get him to help me with something!
I don’t think fame is a great reason to get to know someone, but more well-known people tend to have their ideas and values shared publicly, so sometimes it does make sense to try to meet them. Just make sure that you’re making it a big positive for them and that you aren’t trying to get anything from them.
Heading to the island for the first real trip of the season. Can’t wait to get my hands dirty. First project is to get a little solar panel setup for my cabin, and then continue the neverending task of putting shingles up.