Recently I posted an Instagram story that said something down the lines of “surround yourself with awesome people” and I shared a photo of some fellow photographers who’ve been a huge blessing to me. Throughout the years, together and individually they’ve encouraged and challenged me, helping me along to where I am today.
And I got a lot of messages back. One said “Yah but I never get invited to be with the awesome people.” Another said, “I’m not good enough for them.”
Or a really popular one folks say when they don’t feel included, “They are so cliquish!”
And then there are those who come at you like, “How did YOU get an invite?” And it straight up sounds like, “How do you rate?”
I think we’ve all, at one time or another in life, found ourselves on the outside looking in. We feel jealous of the people on the inside. The outside is not a fun place to be.
I’m not just talking about photographers. I’m not just talking about the western or wedding industries. We all have our own situations we can plug this scenario into. Church groups anyone? LOL
When someone asks me “How did you get invited?” I answer:
“It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know.”
Cue rolling eyes, heavy sighs and throwing arms up in the air…“Whelp I’m outa luck then.”
No. You aren’t.
Desire the Right Crowds – Not everything is a good fit for you. Not every group has a healthy environment. Look for places that share similar values and are full of driven, positive individuals. Don’t waste your life trying to join the mean girl club. They’ll only drag you down and you’ll look guilty by association to everyone around.
Have Good Work – (If your approaching this from a business/marketing train of thought.) Then put it out there even when no one is watching and keep hustling until it just can’t be ignored.
Be Genuinely Nice – You simply never know when being genuine, kind and friendly to everyone you meet personally or in business will have an incredible impact on your life…often unexpectedly and years down the road. Which means you have to be the sorta of person who is friendly even when you aren’t expecting anything in return.
Be like Nelson – Aka Be the kind who’s never met a stranger. You know who I’m talking about. The ones who walk into a room knowing no one and leave with 10 new BFFs because they aren’t afraid to walk up, introduce themselves and want to know all about the person they are visiting with. Key, notice I said “want to know about” and not “tell them all about”. Go listen to this podcast called Mastering the Art of Listening by Brian Buffini.
Be Visible – When you are on on the outside looking in, you’d better be
Invest – Like. Comment. Compliment. Wave. Repeat. You want to be a name that is popping on the “insiders” notifications every day so that they recognize that name when you go to shake their hand!
Do the Grunt Work – There’s always tactful ways of offering your time, services and energy in a way that will put you a step closer through the door.
Show Up – Open invites are out there…show up to them. Even when everyone looks at you and whispers to the next person, “Who is that?” It’s hard, awkward and awful sometimes. But do it. And then do it again. And again. And eventually, you’ll know people and people will know you.
Be Respectful – Don’t didn’t try to shove your way into established “tribes.” Be quiet and patient. A friendly bunch or two will see you out in the cold and invite you in.
Don’t Be Resentful – Resenting (and gossiping about) already established tribes who aren’t opening their doors isn’t going to get you anywhere. They aren’t always being “cliquish”, its just they’ve built a support group that has bonded and built a “safe place” of trust with each other through years of growing together. Trying to force yourself on them isn’t going to gain you their respect or trust. Give it time. And keep repeating all the previous steps.
Avoid the Drama – Honestly, I’ve seen some who stand in the gate of a wide open invitation, not going through simply because they love creating drama about not being inside more than they care to put in the effort to walk through the gate or earn a formal invitation. Don’t get balled up at the gate with those folks. Go on through and form your OWN opinions.
Send Out Your Own Invite – Look around. Who else is looking for connection? Maybe you only THINK you want an invite to an established “tribe”…when what you really need is to start one of your own. Don’t spend your whole life waiting for the perfect invitation to the perfect group. If doors aren’t opening, buy a place and open your own! Also read Tribes by Seth Godin.
DON’T GIVE UP – It won’t happen overnight! But it will happen! I am here because I’ve spent YEARS building genuine connections. I showed up when it was awkward. I shook hands when I was scared. I invested in the chance to rub shoulders. And I spent a lot of lonely times at the front door. But I hung in there and it’s been so very worth it!
(Photo from a session with leather artist and designer @westernskieshandmade)
*Disclosure: Keeping it real around here. Sometimes (not always) the links in my posts are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. (Like a whopping $0.13 you all.) You will never get charged extra through affiliate links…and sometimes you’ll even get a discount! BUT you can always trust that I link these products or companies only because I BOUGHT them with real money and USE them in real life…and not because of any commission I may or may not receive from your purchases. Whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.