Tech Life You Tell Stories

Your People

In your career as a geek, there’s a list of essential career intangibles. These are the things you need to do in order to be successful, which are also maddeningly difficult to measure. There is no direct correlation between completing these activities and a raise. It’s unlikely that accomplishing these indefinite tasks will end up in your review, but via organizational and social osmosis, you’ve learned these intangibles are essential in order to grow.

I want to talk about one: networking.

There are two types of networking. Basic networking is what you do at work. It’s a target-rich environment with co-workers, your boss, and those of interest in close proximity. It’s work, but it’s easy work because your day is full of those you depend on, and you’ve learned that professionally befriending these people keeps you comfortably in the know.

The other type of networking I’m going to call people networking, and it’s harder work. This is when you put yourself out there. 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. It’s a leap for the socially awkward, but the infrequent reward is that you discover Your People.

Your People Header

I don’t have a good definition for these people, so I made a list. My hope is that as you read this list, you’ll think of at least one person you know who is already Your People:

  • Your connection with Your People is instant and obvious; it transcends age and experience.
  • The best way to discover if someone is Your People is through absence. If, when they return, it’s as if they never left, they are Your People.
  • There are more of them than you expect, but their number is disguised by the ebb and flow of their presence in your life.
  • An investment of time with them will be repaid, but not in a way you can predict or expect. That is the point.
  • Your People will piss you off because the relationship is genuine. They do not coddle, and they do not spin. Consequently, Your People error-correct you in ways that others cannot.
  • You may call on each other without reason, randomly. During these random visits, hours of time will vanish, and neither you nor Your People will notice.
  • Conversely, long silences are also acceptable and comfortable.
  • Your People have a knack for showing up when you need them, even if you didn’t know you needed them prior to their arrival. I don’t know how they do this, but the more People you have, the more likely it is that this will happen.
  • 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.
  • Your People keep you in balance. Their presence reminds you first that you’re never flying solo and, second, that there are two sides to every story.
  • Your People instinctively know who you are and are able to say accurate and valuable things to you and about you with stunningly little data.
  • You get mail all day from everyone, but you always stop to read mail from Your People.

When I’m talking about Your People, I am not thinking of your best friend. Sure, your best friend might be Your People, but I’m talking about a larger population who aren’t necessarily your friends and who isn’t your family. These are a strange lot of people you’ve discovered in a motley array of places because you were searching for them.

Furthermore, I am not suggesting that those who are not Your People are somehow less valuable. In fact, the majority of the folks in your life are going to be extraordinarily more work than those who are instantly familiar. The work in bridging the gap between you and those who are harder to know is also an essential intangible skill.

Lastly, while Your People may be less work, they are harder people to have in your life. 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. If they did not do these things, they would not be Your People.

Your People Footer

You Tell Stories

All day. It’s a constant story being composed in your head. You’re doing it right now. You think you’re reading this paragraph that I’ve written, but what you’re actually doing is telling yourself the story of reading this paragraph. It’s your inner dialogue, and it’s often full of shit.

I’m not saying you deliberately lie to yourself. Ok, maybe I am, but we’re all doing it. We’re all gathering data over the course of the day and creating a story based on that data, our experience, and our moods. It’s a perfectly natural phenomenon to guide the narrative in our favor. We see the world how we want. A carpenter sees all problems as a nail. I see problems as finite-state machines.

As we edit our days into these stories, there is always a risk of fiction. This is why you need to identify and nurture Your People.

You tell these stories to Your People without reservation. Your People love your stories — fiction and all. They love how you tell them; they laugh about the lies you tell yourself, and then they stop, and they tell you the truth.

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. Check your phone and see who you call the most and who calls you. I’m certain that, right now, one of Your People wants to hear a story, and they have one for you, too.

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20 Responses

  1. This is exactly why I subscribe to your blog. Thanks for the insight, as usual.

  2. I wish Rand was in repose more often!

  3. @Sean – I too am inclined towards that desire, but then I stop and realize that what makes Rand good is that he writes when he has something to say, not to fill the daily self-promotion quota as admonished by the blogosphere-domination-top-10-lists.

  4. Not sure how the term “geek” can possibly apply here.

  5. This is dead on! Good points and a good read!

  6. Rik Hemsley 15 years ago

    Nice, but why do we need to scalp them again?

  7. Mike Woodhouse 15 years ago

    How very true and how very useful to see it laid out like that. I’m struggling with the pronouns, though. Are my Your People actually My People, who have Their People in turn? Is it, as I suspect it must be, always bi-directional, so when someone is one of My People, I’m automatically one of Theirs?

    And is it transitive? If you’re My People, how likely are Your People to become My People should the opportunity arise?

    (Sorry, suffered a mild Geek attack there)

  8. You lost me at the “You tell stories” formula.

  9. Volunteering is a great way to network. I have several “Your People” who I met via volunteering. The common cause and the openness to explore new ideas seems to make volunteers great to talk with.

  10. Though you claim otherwise—for me, the People you describe are indistinguishable from my friends.

    Maybe if you go to a lot of conferences, or work in a lot of places, or live in a country like the US with lots of city hubs, you get to meet a larger group of People who fit this description but aren’t your friends. Living and working in London, that’s not been my experience.

    Maybe I am too young and just haven’t met them yet. Maybe I am just not Your People.

  11. ranatalus 15 years ago

    thank you for putting into words what i’ve thought for years

  12. akirekadu 15 years ago

    I read this blog on Friday and same evening I went home to find the movie “I Love You, Man” (recommended!) that my wife had ordered on Netflix. Was it a coincidence or what.

  13. sytaylor 15 years ago

    This is true of non geeks too. The music community has people who will sit and talk about which guitar is slightly superior to the other an awful lot, and has successful networks without being mainstream.

    Networking is the way forward, especially non work based.

  14. The points are all very true. I’ve built my network because of conferences, volunteering at events and just generally finding like minded people by being a good host wherever I am. Its great to have online networking friends like linkedin but at least for me I want face to face time to see if we really gel.

    While attending a conference I’ve met people that were actually in the same company I was in but our paths had never crossed. It was great because we got to bond outside of our everyday work life and then worked together for the common goals we had in our respective groups.

    You’d be shocked at how small the world really is once you start attending events or volunteering to help organize one.

  15. Блог отличный. Вам награду бы за него или просто почетный орден. +)

  16. Discovered most of my people via online relationships.

    As the tools have grown and matured, so have the chances to discover and grow more of my peeps.

    I admit to looking for more of my people as I get older. I’ve not interest in being totally alone.

    Cheers to a post I want read and read again.

    Todd aka @tojosan

  17. I say we should boycott any retailer that agrees to this. NC has no claim to those dollars! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you bought something in SC or TN you paid sales tax there and you are not required to pay sales tax in NC when you bring it back. So how is this different? The sale didn’t happen here, I just didn’t have to drive all the way across the line

  18. xenki 14 years ago

    great article and infos i didn’t know this

  19. Irving Ruan 11 years ago

    Reading “Your People, Once Again” brought me to this piece, which I clearly have not read.

    This is why I like your work and you. Looking forward to our next lunch.

  20. Unfortunately, I figured out (only after many years) that My People by and large do not work in technology. I do. Probably I shouldn’t, but I do. Sadly, this means that I rarely encounter any of My People in my work life.