If I could only teach one thing in The Forest, it would be how to Find The Others. Nothing I've done these last few years has had a greater impact on my life, creative work, or business than finding my internet homies.

By “the others” I don’t just mean identifying a target market, or niching down, or defining your ideal customer avatar. Traditional marketing is the way to go if the goal is to maximize your sense of control, and reliably get a specific group of undifferentiated people to buy stuff from you. There's nothing wrong with playing that game, of course. I did it for years. But that's not what we're doing as we navigate our way through The Forest. We're here to do The Real Work. We're here to make our businesses joyful.

When I refer to the others, I'm pointing towards something deeper, messier, and more human. The others are the small handful of friends, allies, scenes, or subcultures that create a sense of enjoyment and belonging when you're with them. They’re the people around whom you can be unapologetically yourself, and who value and reward for you for that authenticity. The others are the people you want at the center of your creative work and business, because spending time with them is enjoyable for its own sake. In other words, finding the others isn't just a means to an end to help you build a business. It's an end unto itself. We only get one life, and embedding yourself with the others makes that life richer and more nourishing. In a world plagued by atomization and loneliness, finding the others might just be the most important work we ever do.

A note for humans who contain multitudes (all of us)

Chances are, you will have multiple groups of others in your life, which will feel alive in different contexts. I'm not sure I believe that we need to be our "whole selves" around everybody all the time, especially not on the internet.

For instance, as a diehard fan of Colorado Avalanche hockey, sometimes I just want to hang in a group chat that's full of other people who love the team. It's rad that we can all congregate around our love of this one thing, and it's actually better that we're not bringing our work or politics or family or anything else into it. For that one aspect of myself, these are totally my others, even if we have nothing else in common.

I think of this process more as weaving a diverse tapestry of others over time. We all contain multitudes, and the people we surround ourselves with can absolutely reflect that.

It's also worth pointing out that this is a two-way street. Just as being around the others enriches your life, them being around you enriches theirs. It’s not a tit for tat transactional thing, either. Giving your gifts and being generous on an ongoing basis is a crucial part of the process. It’s about cultivating a sense of interconnectedness and interdependence. It’s about finding your people, making friends, and doing life together. Scary as it may sound, that means beginning to notice and let go of the hyper-individualism many of us were conditioned with. Breaking those patterns is way outside the scope of this lil essay, but it's a seed worth planting.

There are, of course, business and marketing aspects to all of this, which I'll get to in a moment. But I think it's important to emphasize this messier, emotional, relational stuff first. When you put business interests first, it's easy to view people as a means to an end, which undermines the whole endeavor. Your intentions matter a great deal when it comes to finding the others. There's a distinct energetic difference between reaching out to someone because it will hopefully grow your business, and reaching out because you enjoy someone's vibes and suspect friendship might be possible. People can sniff out the former from a mile away, and it's frequently off-putting. The internet has flooded all of our digital lives with endless hoards of spammers who just see us as resources to be exploited. They can try to disguise their intentions all they want, and put on a friendly mask, but it's always easy to tell that something's off about them. There's a reason that people are cynical and guarded on the internet these days. The water is full of sharks.

Frustrating as it may be, there's no way to fake or perform your way into finding the others. That's not how this works. It comes from understanding who you are, and what you care about. And it comes from developing a genuine intention to connect with people like you, and doing it for its own sake. This work is vulnerable, and there's no way around it.

With all of that said, let's finally talk business and such!

In a traditional marketing and business context, the value of finding the others as I've described it would be a pretty dubious. An investment banker or VC would laugh you out of the building if you presented this as a core part of your business plan. However, for those of us on the 1,000 true fans path, we're not playing the "control and scale" game. For us, the business value of finding the others is hard to overstate. Taking this slower, more nourishing path actually makes it more likely that you'll build a Joyful Business that can survive the ups and downs of a turbulent world.

For starters, when you find the others, don't be surprised when these people become paying customers and True Fans at a disproportionately higher rate than anyone else. Not only do they already share your worldview and care about the same things, but they already know, like, and trust you, which is like 98% of what marketing is supposed to accomplish. Plus there's something about financially supporting cool people in your social ecosystem that just feels good. I touched

Next, when you find the others and make friends, word of mouth starts to take care of itself. You're essentially "solving for distribution" as Visa likes to say, but you're solving for distribution to more of the right people. When your homies recommend something of yours, not only is it likely to land in front of people who are predisposed to like it, but that recommendation will carry more weight than if it had come from an ad or a brand or an influencer. Once you find the others, they will help you find even more of the others. It's like a snowball of internet friends, constantly picking up momentum as it rolls down the mountain. You don't have to engineer growth and force it to happen with this approach. Growth is an organic byproduct of you connecting with homies and doing work you care about.

And lastly, when you find the others, you open the doors to all sorts of collaborative possibilities. Anything from small collaborative projects, to gigs or jobs, to full scale business partnerships. All with the added benefit of working with people who are predisposed to have a shared worldview and sense of connection. My best example of this is the work I used to do with the Foster Collective. Three years after first joining them as a customer, I became a core member of that team, working towards a more beautiful internet for writers. Plus it helped me create new customers and coaching clients for Ungated, and I've met some great friends there, and even found a bit of romance.

It's hard to overemphasize how much unexpected magic can unfold when you find the others, and open yourself to the emergent possibilities that arise. It will be good for business, of course, but it's also good for making the most out of the gift of life.

This essay is primarily about the why of finding the others. If you're excited about the what and how, the Find The Others quest has all of my best advice for how to do this. Good luck to you out there, and godspeed.