Human beings are social animals. We weren’t meant to stand alone; we have to rely on one another for learning, success, and growth as individuals and as a species. Think about it: humankind could never have advanced this far if the first cave-dwellers hadn’t shared their tips about how to make a better fire, how to hunt or fish, and which plants and berries were poisonous. Almost every important thing we learn is from someone else. Ergo, socializing is the best way to learn and improve your skills.
A May 2018 article published by South University, entitled “Why Being Social is Good for You,” claimed that “Social interaction is essential to every aspect of our health.” The word “health” usually connotes physical, bodily wellbeing. But what about intellectual health? We are not only physical and emotional beings but also mental beings, so continually learning and developing our skills and talents is an integral part of our very welfare.
Research shows that positive peer support has a strong impact on raising our expectations, increasing our persistence, and promoting learning (adlit.org). Over the years, several studies have shown a relationship between social support and the quality of education, and when I say education, I’m not only talking about formal schooling. Anything we learn in life contributes to our education, whether we learn it in school, at home, at work, or in our respective social niches.
Now, I know we’re all very busy people. While we may understand that socializing is important, with work and family obligations, it can be difficult to fit in. May I suggest, therefore, that you curate your peer groups in a way that will bring you the most satisfaction? In other words, socialize in your own niche to get the most “bang for your buck”, or in this case, the most benefit for your time and emotional investment. Your niche can be people who share your profession or people who share your interests and hobbies … or both! The commonality is that they are the people you share something important to you with.
The following are nine significant ways in which socializing within your niche will supercharge your learning and skills, and thus your success and happiness.
1. It will help you achieve your goals.
Maybe you want to write the next Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Or perhaps you want to run a marathon. You could be looking to write a food blog, learn how to make sushi, start your own business, gain more clients, or lose weight. No matter what your goals are, imagine yourself (physically or virtually) being surrounded by likeminded people who have the same goals.
Your social niche will not only help you stay accountable but also teach you how to achieve your goals. You’re going to learn better ways to train for that marathon or prepare more nutritious, low-calorie meals from people who have “been-there-done-that”. You can pick their brains and use their success as motivation to keep trying, learning, and improving.
That’s the reason groups like Weight Watchers and fitness training teams are so successful — they’ve tuned in to the concept that we all learn the most and perform at our best when we don’t feel like we’re struggling to climb our figurative mountains alone.
2. It will re-energize you.
We’ve all been there. No matter how passionate we are about our careers or hobbies deep down, we get burned out. Burnout is frankly a common occupational hazard when you spend an excessive amount of time and energy thinking about or pursuing something that requires tremendous focus. Sometimes, you need someone to help you rekindle your fire, and feeding off their enthusiasm for the subject can often be enough to do it.
Developing a social network in your personal or professional niche can be a vital source of inspiration when your cohorts bubble over with zeal for something you may have forgotten how to love. They can breathe new life into you and help you rediscover your drive to keep learning, growing, and achieving. We all learn much more, and more effectively, when we are pursuing an end we are passionate about. Your friends can help you keep that passion alive.
3. It will help you hone your skills
According to Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something. By contrast, it only takes about 20 hours of practice to become “pretty good” at it (about 45 minutes of practice per day for a month). The question is: do you want to be an expert in your chosen field, or is “pretty good” good enough? Either way, you’re going to need to practice.
If you join an online or in-person networking or hobby group, you’ll increase your opportunities to practice your craft and therefore hone your skills. For example, as a member of Toastmasters, you’ll multiply your chances to speak in public. Similarly, joining any niche interest, hobby, or business group will open up avenues for you to do more of what you love, and get better at it.
4. It gives you the chance to learn from other experts.
Of course, the best way to get better at something is to learn from experts. You wouldn’t take piano lessons from a novice player, right? So, if you want to learn how to roll sushi, find people who are great at it. Likewise, if you want to get better at bookkeeping, line dancing, or public speaking, surround yourself with masters.
Case in point: Professor Patrick Henry Winston was an American computer scientist and professor at MIT. As director of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, he was a sought-after expert in his field and received many requests to do live television interviews. Professor Winston was, however, terrified of the interview process and appearing on television. He learned to overcome that fear and present himself well with the help of the journalist Dan Rather.
Dan Rather came to MIT to interview Professor Winston, about which the professor was extremely nervous, as usual. However, in Winston’s words, “Rather walked in and sat down next to me … starting a soothing low-volume small-talk conversation unrelated to the subject of the interview. Somehow, the low volume put us in a bubble, and all the other stuff going on faded into the background. Then, his voice volume went up as he asked the first real question. It was seamless. There was no time to get nervous again.”
Professor Winston learned how to conduct himself in interviews from an expert interviewer. He went on to say how that experience served him well for the rest of his career.
5. It gives you the chance to be a mentor
You may already be great at what you do. In that case, I have some advice: one of the most rewarding ways you can utilize your gifts and knowledge is by becoming a mentor. Socializing within your niche gives you the unique opportunity not only to gain wisdom and experience but also to share it with others. The fascinating part of the mentoring process is that imparting your knowledge and understanding actually increases it.
You solidify your own learning by teaching someone else. While you might not necessarily be learning new things, you are tracing out new paths of understanding in your mind as you figure out how to explain what you know and how things work for a beginner. In that way, you gain an even better understanding of the things you already know, which advances your own learning and skills.
6. It helps you avoid common mistakes.
While we’re on the topic of gleaning knowledge from experts, let’s remember that one of the best ways to learn is from one another’s mistakes. Socializing in your niche is not only about sharing success stories, it’s also about figuring out what doesn’t work and benefitting from the wisdom of other people’s experiences, both good and bad.
Especially if you’re at the very beginning of learning a new skill or starting a new venture, it’s imperative to avoid the most common pitfalls and blunders. Of course, you will make mistakes; that’s a necessary part of the learning process. However, you should be able to sidestep most “rookie” errors by listening to people who have more experience than you. The easiest way to hear what they have to say is to seek them out and surround yourself with them, via social and networking groups.
True experts are happy to help you avoid common mistakes. For instance, Robert Malcolm Goldwyn, Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School and Chief of Plastic Surgery at the Beth Israel Hospital from 1972 to 1996, wanted to help plastic surgeons avoid bad outcomes so much that he wrote an entire book about it. The book “The Unfavorable Results in Plastic Surgery – Avoidance and Treatment” is considered ‘epic’ in its field, and was written for the express purpose of allowing surgeons to learn from others’ mistakes. Maybe nobody in your group will write a book about their mistakes, but collectively they probably have enough to write about, and you can certainly learn from them.
7. It offers you useful new contacts and opportunities.
Let’s say you’re a freelance writer who specializes in business articles and web landing pages. You also love gardening. So you join a gardening meetup group and build relationships there. Lo and behold, your friend Kiya from the group wants to start a gardening blog, but while she’s a pro at growing eggplant, she isn’t confident about her writing. That’s where you come in.
Kiya has heard you’re a writer, and she knows and trusts you, so she asks you to collaborate with her. This association has now given you the opportunity to try your hand at something new. You get to learn a new skill that you can add to your portfolio, which in turn will open up more opportunities and help you learn and develop your craft even more. “It’s not what you know it’s whom you know” has more than just a grain of truth.
8. It will help you advance your career.
A sizable part of your career development depends on networking. Let’s face it, the most important thing to do, whether you’re looking for a job, starting a business, or trying to develop your business, is to get your name out there. You need visibility and personal and professional brand recognition. Becoming an active part of your community, in any capacity, is a brilliant way to do that.
It’s a good idea to join professional and social niche groups so that you can connect with as many people from as many walks of life as possible. You’ll find it socially, emotionally, and mentally fulfilling, you’ll benefit from the associations in all the ways previously mentioned, and you will also enjoy the added perk of advancing your career and boosting your personal profile.
You may wonder how to do that, but with just a little research, you can find a way. Several companies have risen to the forefront in providing niche socialization opportunities. One such enterprise is VideoSocialize, a small company that brings people together in Zoom mixer meetings. They just started in July 2020, but they are continuing to expand by providing a positive place for people to meet each other and make new connections.
9. It can help you discover short-cuts and increase efficiencies.
This may come as a shock, but you have more to learn. No matter how much you already know, and no matter how good you are at whatever it is you do, you can always look at or approach your job/hobby/passion in new and possibly improved ways. For instance, I thought I knew how to fold the top of a cereal box, but then I saw a “life hack” on the internet that blew my mind. There’s a better way! Who knew?
Now, I know that’s a silly example, but it serves my point. You might be a firm believer in your methods, but an open mind and a willingness to expand your horizons could take your skills or productivity up a notch. Maybe somebody in your meetup can help you figure out how to cut a few more seconds off your swim lap time. Maybe somebody has a more efficient way of billing clients or organizing files. Ask questions. Find answers. Grow.
As we have clearly established, human beings need each other to learn, grow, and increase their capabilities and skills. Companies like VideoSocialize have seen that need, and they have filled it in a way that is fitting for the small world we now live in—a world linked as never before by ever-advancing technology. They are paving a way to bring likeminded people together in mixer meetings over Zoom. They, and other companies with similar visions, have developed a tool to help you socialize in your niche in a way that is new, but quickly becoming normal.
Articles on the videosocialize.com blog are commissioned by VideoSocialize from talented writers with a variety of backgrounds. All articles copyright VideoSocialize. Would you be interested in sharing your thoughts on this article in a 4 person Zoom discussion which would be uploaded to YouTube? If so, please contact us.
Kathryn is a freelance writer and editor based in Colorado, USA. She has a B.A. in English, an MA in Education, and has been using her creative flair to help people reach their goals and achieve their dreams since 1993. A published author and an avid reader, she loves writing and editing fiction, but as a generalist has significant experience with blogs, web pages, product descriptions, sales copy, and long-form articles on just about any topic. When she’s not working, she loves to run, bike, hike, cook, and sing.