Whatever your current project is, you oughtn’t try to go it alone.

Working alone can lead to stagnancy, burn-out and soul-damaging procrastination.

Working with others leads to better ideas, swifter execution and greater resources.

Five Ways To Help You Find Your People

Here are five suggestions of places you might look to build your support system:

1) Create A Group Within A Group

Think of groups/communities to which you already belong and see if you can’t find some like-minded folks to team up with there.

  • Your alumni association
  • Your religious/spiritual group
  • Your book group
  • Your softball team (or perhaps the folks in the bleachers?)
  • Your gym/dance studio/tennis club
  • Your family
  • The dog park
  • Your professional associations, unions, etc.
  • Your recreational group: your choir, orchestra or garden club

Creating a sub-group from an existing group is a great strategy because you already know each other at least a little bit, and you know you have some shared interests.

So at the next meeting, just make a little announcement or pass around a flyer that says, “I’m creating a group that will meet once a week at our local coffee shop to support each other in executing our individual creative projects through brainstorming, cheerleading and sharing of resources.  Interested?  Call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX.”

2) Find a Virtual Group

The Internet is a fabulous place to interact with people from all over the world.  Use normal precautions, of course, and while you might want to be discreet with your personal information, feel free to be lavish in your support and praise of others.

  • Find or create a Facebook Group (super-easy to do).
  • Join the conversation on some Blogs you admire.
  • Check out Etsy.com (website for selling homemade art and crafts) not only for their great merchandise, but to find like-minded artists with whom to correspond.
  • Create a NING.com group – that’s like creating your own private Facebook, sort of.
  • Check out Seth Godin’s “Triibes” group at http://www.squidoo.com/tribesbook and if you’re interested, contact me and I’ll “invite” you to join his online community.
  • Go to BlogHer.com, iVillage.com, Digg.com or delicious.com and find the blogs, websites and online communities that already exist and are just waiting for you to join in the fun!
3) Go Where They Are

Stake out the physical location where potential allies might hang out and start some friendly conversations with both the staff and the customers.  Make sure you follow your instincts – don’t start talking to someone you don’t feel comfortable with.

  • Bead shop
  • Art supply store
  • Specialty bookstore (travel, mystery, cooking, etc)
  • Street fairs and farmer’s markets
  • Craft fairs
  • Theatre companies
  • Libraries and community centers
  • College campus events
  • Take a class!

This has the added advantage of getting you out of the house.

4) Small But Mighty Masterminds

For several years now I have been part of a three-person mastermind group.  We meet on the phone once a week for 90 minutes.  Each person gets half an hour to talk, ask questions, brainstorm, whine and cry…whatever.  We help each other devise strategies, proofread marketing materials, create websites, discuss pricing, solve problems, commiserate and cheerlead.

I guarantee that this weekly meeting has contributed more to my growth and success as an artist and an entrepreneur than any other single element in my life.  Having smart, trusted advisers who are always on my side is better than gold.  They challenge me, hold me accountable and celebrate with me.

Here are some guidelines we’ve used in creating our group:

  • Commitment to the group is critical – we almost never miss a call.
  • Honor time allotments – you can say or do whatever you want with your half-hour, but you only get a half-hour.
  • The relationships are more important than the work – whatever happens, our first and primary commitment is to each other and to our friendship.
  • Confidentiality is key – no gossiping allowed.
  • Celebrate wins – each week we find a way to praise each person for her growth, her success, her honesty…we are all about positive reinforcement.
  • Encourage and keep track of accountability goals.  “Do you want to make a commitment around XYZ?” “Yes. By our next call I will have XYZ done or at least investigated other solutions.” And then the next week we ask about XYZ.

There are lots of books and websites dedicated to forming mastermind groups – check them out, experiment until you find the PERFECT people to partner with and watch your life improve!

5) Just One Friend

Even having one friend to talk things over with can get you started and pointed in the right direction.

But be discriminating.

Make sure your friend is:

  • smarter than you are (at least in some ways)
  • optimistic
  • energetic
  • willing
  • supportive
  • safe (will not gossip, deliberately hurt your feelings or tease you)

Good luck!

And tell me: What ways have you found to build community?