How I Hacked my way into making the most Successful friends in my City

How I Hacked my way into making the most Successful friends in my City

A Step by Step Guide

Finally, the pandemic is lifting and we can be around people IRL again! 🙌 But wait, how does that work? At a housewarming the other week, a stranger shuffled over and said, "I don't remember how to do this, and I'm awkward, but, hi?" and I dunno if I've related to anything more in my life. Especially as an out-of-college adult who lives alone and works remotely, like, I dunno about you but I was intimidated to go out and make friends again. And frankly I was never great at meeting people in the first place; I'm way more cozy sitting in a coffee shop (where I'm typing this) than at a party.

Maybe you're an introvert too, or maybe you're like my Dad, who despite being on the Autism spectrum (which a lot of smart techy folks are), and being a newcomer in a podunk little town in the middle of nowhere, managed to make some of the most interesting and accomplished friends I've ever met.

Dad always says, "Who you hang with is who you're gonna be." I saw his great friendships shape his life's course (he retired in his 40s, owns a lot of beautiful land, and is happy and healthy), and I wanted to do the same.

So I thought of the most inspiring people living in my new town of Austin, TX and I thought, "If someone can be friends with these awesome folks, why not me? And if there's any time to do it, why not now?"

But how do I meet them? Everyone probably wants to meet these people. And they aren't at meetups or events, unless they're the main draw, in which case they're not gonna talk to me anyway. I suspected they were surrounding themselves with other captivating people behind closed doors, helping each other learn, grow, and succeed.

I had no idea how to reach them.

And yet here I am today:

Giving an 'Are you an Austin Basic Bitch' quiz to Sam Parr (founder of the Hustle) and others

I still can't believe it worked, no really, crazy goals like this are actually achievable! I'm surrounded by some of the smartest, most forward-thinking intellectuals and doers around and I feel thankful every day. Luck played a part, but I was also methodical and tried to leave as little to chance as possible.

I wrote this to help you befriend whomever it is you want to meet in your town/city, no matter how cool or out of reach they may seem right now.

Here are the steps I'll break down in this article:

  1. 🏙️ How I figured out where 'my people' were
  2. 📊 How I used data to show me how to meet them
  3. 💡 How I created friendship 'lead magnets' to get IRL meetups
  4. 🔁 How I created a 'friendship loop' from those initial friends
  5. 🧑🏽‍🤝‍🧑🏽 How I put my friendship loop on steroids by discovering collectors
  6. 😎 How I leveraged collectors to meet anyone I wanted in my city
  7. 🤩 How I stayed top-of-mind with little effort

BONUS 💥: How I manifested my dream friends via an excel spreadsheet

SECRET SECTION 🤐: What has and hasn't worked with fascinating people

And finally I'll cover, Was it all worth it?

And if you have any feedback as you go through this post, tweet me.


Step 1: How I went where 'my people' were

Paul Graham once said, "It helps most to be in a place where you can find peers and encouragement. You seem to be able to leave, if you want, once you've found both. The Impressionists show the typical pattern: they were born all over France (Pissarro was born in the Caribbean) and died all over France, but what defined them were the years they spent together in Paris.

So how does one find the modern day 'Paris', a city where you can meet and collaborate with amazing minds? While nomading around the world for three years, I noticed that in some cities, I met life changing folks, and in others, I felt more alone than ever.

hanging with Pieter Levels in Seoul

What made the difference? Turns out there are two main factors to making successful friendships in a city:

  • Social Circle Size: how large is the group I want to be a part of?
  • Circle Accessibility: do they actually want new friends?

So, Silicon Valley has a massive circle of smart humans doing cool things, but where does it begin or end? And how does one break in? I have no clue. On the other hand, tech hubs such as Denver have really nice folks that are eager to help and make awesome things together, but the circle is somewhat small.

But Austin, TX, has a quickly growing, sizable tech scene that's still accessible. The circle is large without being overwhelming, and if I was strategic, maybe I could befriend the most fascinating folks in the city.

I have a flexible lifestyle and it felt right, so I moved. If moving wasn't an option, I'd focus on online friendships via twitter and elsewhere. But I think that any city has really fucking cool inhabitants somewhere, I mean if my Dad could do it in a rural, mostly uneducated town of 5,000 people, I think there's hope for any place.

Step 2: How I used data to show me how to meet people

I wanted to make the most interesting friends with the least amount of effort, so during my first month in Austin I made a goal of 15 coffee hangouts in a month. I ranked everyone I met from 1-10 while noting how I met them. Yes, I hated judging people like this (still gives me shudders to think about it), but a year later those ratings turned out to be pretty spot-on so 🤷. I graded them on a gut feeling based on who I thought would be the best long-term friends for me.

By the end of the month, I'd met w/ 23 people and I put the data into a graph.

Here is that graph:

Twitter gave me the highest quality of potential friends. So after that, I doubled down on twitter for making IRL friends.

Step 3: How I created friendship 'lead magnets' to get IRL meetups

A lead magnet is a marketing term for online content that's "free"– as long as you give your contact info to get it. A good lead magnet usually solves a problem so important that visitors will happily let you follow up on them in order to read it. So I asked myself, which important problems are my ideal friends facing? How can I solve their problems and get them to meet me at the same time?

If I was starting from scratch again today, I would probably write down a list of the things I'm curious about and solving/learning about, and then see if any of them line up with the people I want to meet. And if nothing does, then maybe I'd be trying to meet the wrong kinds of people; I want to meet folks I have something in common with, after all.

So my list would look something like: growing fruit trees, tracking my health, real estate investing, making friends, buying a self-sustaining ranch in the middle of nowhere in case the apocalypse comes, becoming a better writer... you get the picture.

Some of those things don't line up with my potential friends at all (none of them care about growing fruit). But many of my potential friends are interested in health hacking, friendships, sustainable ranches (weird, right?), and real estate investing. So one of those would make sense to start with.

Around this time I was house hunting and wanting to house-hack. Like, potentially putting two homes on one lot and selling both, that sort of stuff. Turns out most realtors I spoke with didn't have a clue about the regulations that go into house hacking. I started writing personal notes for myself and then I realized, holy shit, I should use this to make friends! Especially because the content appealed to my ideal friends. If you're looking to buy a house in Austin, then you're likely here in person, and if you can afford a house here, maybe you've done/built some cool things to earn that down payment. Plus if you love all data in the guide, you're probably a nerd, and nerds are the best.

So I wrote an in-depth home buying ATX guide and posted it on twitter.

I had one, simple CTA

  • I asked that if you liked this guide, to get tacos with me.
  • I didn't want to ask for too many things (subscribe! add me on twitter!) I made my one goal super clear. And it worked! People reached out!

I tweeted before the guide was finished, and tweeted every update

I asked for help getting data for the guide (and I'd give people credit.) This led to a few people DMing and then meeting up, some of which are still IRL friends over a year later.

Then, every update I had, I'd post it to twitter and get a brand new set of eyeballs. I ended up reaching a lot more folks than if I'd posted only once.

My twitter-friendly 'ATX Real Estate' guide led to almost every friend I have here.

I made some of my closest friends here from those twitter DMs! I also never met one single person from that guide that I didn't get along with, which kind of blows my mind. I guess when we nerd out about things we love, we attract others with similar minds/values.

Plus, over a year later, I still get reach-outs from that guide asking to meet up. And I don't have to put in additional effort. The guide works for me.

PS- I got close to my ideal romantic type with friends from this guide too. I could have probably tweaked this kind of content for dating. Btw, if you'd like to read how I hacked my dating life (bc of course I did), subscribe below and I'll email it to you when I've got a guide on it (currently I have a half-baked outline, so be patient, but it'll get done!)

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Bonus Tip: the simplest thing I did to make friends from twitter was tweeting about how happy I am with friendships in my city. This actually works. Each time I tweet about how great my friends are in Austin, people DM me to meet up. So easy!

Step 4: How I created a 'friendship loop' from my initial friends

My new twitter IRL friends wanted to make friends too (obviously), so they intro-ed me to the most interesting folks they'd met.

We were all each other's wing people; each time someone cool moved to Austin, we'd rope them in and meet them for coffee. We never asked each other to do this, it just happened organically.

So every person I'd meet, on average, would intro me to ~2 additional interesting people and I would do the same.

Soon I was meeting more cool people from my original twitter friends than I was from twitter itself... and putting in little extra work.

Step 5: How I put my friendship loop on steroids by discovering and leveraging 'friend collectors'

A collector is someone who makes it their hobby to gather interesting people. They have large, curated networks, and I know I've found a good collector when their get togethers are full of captivating people that would take a ton of time and effort to meet by myself.

Note: this is different than meetups or open-to-the-public events (though collectors can host these, as well). A good collector should have a private group of people that you need to be pre-vetted in order to meet.

How I met my first (and favorite) Collector

I came upon Nick Gray by accident. Our mutual friend, Taylor, loved how I was meeting people. "You should meet my friend, he also hacks friendships for fun!"

Nick and I then chatted on the phone to share how we made friends and what types of people we wanted to meet. He invited me to his next gathering, but only after he made sure I was the right fit for his group. Nick cares a lot about inviting the right people to his events. After every party he holds, he'll ask various guests, "Who did you like most? Who do you remember talking to? Who did you add on Instagram?" to see who he should invite again. This keeps his group high quality at all times.

Nick (my favorite collector) and I having fun out on the town. You'll also notice he's in most of the pictures in this post!

Why collectors like Nick like me

Basically, I'm a stand-up person at his events. This advice should work with most people I'd want to stay friends with:

  • I try to show up early (he says that hosts tend to love this)
  • If it makes sense, I'll help set up, or I'll help to clean up during/after (merely offering is a kind gesture)
  • I bring someone interesting that I think he'd like to every event
  • I try to be a really likable guest, listening intently to other guests, sharing fascinating information, etc.

I also try to be warm, responsive, and engaged. See the stat below:

"This is an interesting data point. Even if you're "low status", people generally want to hang out with people that make them feel good." -Will Roman

What's it like being a collector?

The best collectors earn a group that will literally change their lives– people who speak their unique language, who show up for them, and are the types of people who bring over food when they get sick. Or if they're looking for something more business oriented, collectors' friends can help with book deals, invest with them, offer funding for their companies, hire them for lots of money, etc.

Codie Sanchez, owner of Contrarian Thinking, summed it up better than I ever could: "There’s a magic that happens when a friend of yours gets published let’s say. They then introduce you to the publisher. Then you get a book deal. Then you get on Good Morning America, so you introduce the producer to your other friend. Then you get on a big podcast and tell them they should have your friend on. Then you get a big investor and you mention your friend also is looking for funding."

But there's a dark side to being the 'connector' of groups. No one talks about this but I've witnessed less-savvy collectors do a ton of work gathering people together, but no one knows them as anything other than a collector. They fail to form real friendships with the people in their groups. They know everyone, but no one would come help if their car broke down at 2am.

My acquaintance "Scotty" (name changed) hosts groups of hundreds of people but no one I've met in these groups actually knows anything about Scotty, nor cares to know him. These events take a ton of time/effort, but Scotty is stagnating in his career, he's still single (despite wanting a serious romantic partner), and from talking to him I get the sense he doesn't actually have any real friends.

What separates the stagnating Scottys from the nifty Nicks of the world? I've noticed that successful collectors have a clear goal around what they will get out of their collecting and they have a way to track if they're getting it. They have the minds of engineers or scientists and they treat their connections a little like a project (while having fun along the way!). Their goals can range from 'meet people who light me up inside' to 'make great business connections', the point is, they know what they want and they stay focused on their aim.

Anyone with a goal and a love for fun can be a good collector. For the last few years, Nick has been testing techniques at every single party he holds and he's been recording what works. He taught me about the optimal days to hold gatherings (it's not what you'd guess), what times work for maximum attendance, why happy hours are always better than dinner parties, and he just wrote a book about it, which I've read and is super-actionable with no bullshit. Highly recommend if you're serious about connecting with people in an efficient and proven way (you can buy it here, and I'm not getting a kickback or anything, I just think it's solid!)

Step 6: How I leveraged collectors to meet anyone I wanted in my city

Two things that make it possible to meet maybe anyone in my city:

First: Any decent-sized city has many good collectors

Second: The guests at collectors' events tend to also know other collectors

I stumbled on this after some new friends invited me to gatherings held by other collectors. I'd get invited those collectors' next events, meet the spectacular new people there, and get to know the collectors those people knew, too.

It became considerably easier to break into other circles after I'd gotten into my first collector's group. Fascinating people are busy and they often rely on reliable shortcuts to tell them who is worth knowing. This is crazy but all I needed was one person at the top to accept me, and everyone else used it as a cheat code, like social proof that I was good enough to be in their group, too.

Other surprising things that have worked

I met two famous people simply by talking to the person in front of me while in line for events. I didn't know who either person was beforehand- I just liked their outfit and we got to talking. When someone is in line, they have nothing else dividing their attention, so it's been a great way to get to know someone in a deeper way.

For that reason, I prefer arriving at events or parties alone and then meeting my crew once the party or gathering is in full swing. It gives me more availability to make new connections before they too are tied up with their friends.

Step 7: How I stayed top-of-mind with little effort

How could I easily keep up with the people I was meeting? I went to social media. Every city seems to have a preferred platform to keep in touch with friends, and in Austin, it's Instagram.

This might be obvious, but it's as easy as adding all new friends on Instagram and updating my stories whenever I do something fun. I don't post boring or mundane activities, just the things that make me stand out or make it seem like I'm always hanging up to something fascinating.

This gives the impression that I'm always interesting all the time (even though I'm an introvert who spends her free time gardening and watching K-dramas with her boyfriend).

I've seen other people stay top-of-mind by:

  • scheduling friendship calls in their calendar. My friend Boris pre-schedules one friend in his calendar each week to call and catch up with.
  • having email newsletters just for their friends: Nick Gray does this (and Andrew Wilkinson and others read it, pretty cool Nick!)
  • hosting weekly co-working sessions at a coffee shop- I've occasionally used this to stay in touch with a bunch of people at once and is sort of a 'collector' thing to do without a bunch of effort

Bonus Section: I manifested my dream friends via excel 😂

I made a short excel sheet of dream people to meet IRL. They were kinda-famous entrepreneurs in my field who I thought it'd be almost impossible to befriend. But this list turned out to be ✨powerful✨. Almost every single person on my list, I met over the last year!

How did it work?

  1. Humans are goal-oriented creatures- so my brain was sorta always working on my list, and if I met people similar to my list, it'd hone in on that. And since those people were similar to my dream friends, they might actually know a dream friend or two on my list!
  2. Everyone wants to help someone with a clear goal and skin in the game. I'd tell new friends that I had a dream friends list, and people would get excited. Maybe they knew one of the people, or had a friend who did, or they were attending a party the person would likely be at.

Here's my list (I deleted those I've already met bc I'd feel hella weird about sharing it haha).


Secret Section: What has and hasn't worked with fascinating potential friends

Wanna learn from the fuck ups I've made with super interesting folks, and what's worked really well with them too? Subscribe to my newsletter below 👇 and I'll send it to ya right when you subscribe. I'll also email you my very best articles as I write them. No spam, ever.

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Was it Worth it?

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer.” - Jim Carrey

Short answer: I don't know?

I recently stopped making an effort to meet successful friends, and have intentionally fallen off of the 'fancy friends radar' in preference of more normal, average Joe kinds of friendships.

I don't regret going for it– all of us should try and realize our dreams just for the sake of, like, being alive. But there was a night last year where I got dinner at my literal hero's house (she was amazing by the way) and I left and was like, "I don't want any of this."

Just because someone is cool doesn't mean they're my kind of cool. These people I met, they are everything you think they are. They're polite and funny and entertaining and great listeners. They think big thoughts and do even bigger actions. They're inspiring and admirable and fun to be around. But can I wear fake mustaches with them and go dancing in the rain with them and speak in languages only us know? No. Like, what I mean is, they are awesome people but I want to be around normal people who make me feel good about myself (and vice versa).

My boyfriend summed it up really well. "They are your business friends. They go in your business bucket. And your real friends? They go in a separate bucket." So I suggest that if you go down this route, have some separation of your 'friend buckets' in mind.

And at the very least, if you succeed, it may give you a lot more appreciation for the life you had before. I know for me it did.

I hope you found this guide helpful! If you want more, I post all of my best content on twitter.


THANK YOUs

Christian: for encouraging me to write, and for helping me edit this post and for designing the main photo. ❤️

Will: for the super honest and helpful feedback! Will founded Chisos, a cowboy boot company, and if you're looking for boots why not buy from someone who is genuine, kind and loves Texas?

Nick: for sending me high-def photos to use in this post! I'm SO excited for your book, Nick!

Scott: for giving great feedback! Scott is new to Austin so if you're a local, hit him up for tacos!

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