When I was growing up, my parents moved our family 5 times. Then I went off to college (+1 move). Then I moved to be near my now wife. Then I moved to the west coast for my startup. And Rebecca and I eventually plan to move back east.
In my relatively short lifespan, I've moved 11 times in 5 cities in 4 states across more than 4,000 miles. Every time I move, I'm back to square one with regard to in-person friendships, and it gets harder to make friends the older you get. You get busy, you have a family, you have kids, a house, 2 cars, inlaws, a garden, and a slew of other responsibilities which make it difficult to find the time for other new friendships.
What's worse, as a guy it's taboo to want to make more guy friends. American men aren't supposed to talk about their feelings, much less ask for relationship advice about how to befriend other guys. We are supposed to be silent islands of emotionless self-sufficiency like Stallone in Rocky, only less talkative.
But let's get real: most humans need friends, and men are humans. There's a massive amount of research that suggests that happy, lucky, content people tend to have larger social networks and deeper friendships. Even if you don't believe that, think of it more pragmatically: if you want to find co-founders for a company, get promoted, or even get job offers, you need to make friends with people and it's a lot more socially acceptable to do so among your own gender.
1) Find groups of men close to your age, intelligence, education, and socioeconomic background.
If this sounds harsh, get over it. You want to meet people who are similar enough to you that you feel comfortable forming long term friendships with them. If you are a middle aged guy of above average intelligence with three children and a wife, you probably won't feel comfortable throwing back cans of PBR in a parking lot with a bunch of unemployed 22-year-olds. And that's good. Even if you seek out men who are similar to you, you will still find an enormous amount of variety in the people you meet, so you don't need to feel like an elitist bastard for seeking folks like yourself. It's natural to do so, and it's the basis of long lasting, trustful friendships.
2) Participate in groups that are creating something or working towards a common goal.
My wife used to participate in the #1 nationally-ranked small women's barbershop chorus. They met weekly to do something they love (sing) and polished an arrangement of songs for competition. This aspect of creating and working towards a common goal is even more important for men. Guys bond by doing things together: building a fort in the woods when you're 10, fixing your car for prom when you're 17, helping a friend move when you're 20, and planning backpacking trips when you're 25. Let me say it again: guys connect with one another by working together. The opposite of man-bonding is sitting around and talking. You want to find a group of dudes like you that are doing something you can join in.
3) Find groups of guys comprised of members that are more successful than you.
Don't misread this one: I don't mean "hang out with guys who make a lot money." I'm talking about personal success, which is something you have to define for yourself. For me, someone who barely scrapes by on the earnings from the company he started is a big success. So is one of my Dad's friends who has built up a support network for homeless people in Southeastern Ohio. Being friends with my startup co-founders has proven how valuable it is to surround yourself with successful friends who challenge and force you to grow. It's difficult to find people like that, but don't give up searching. Being around a peer group that is motivated and successful is critically important to achieving your own goals.
I don't assign equal weight to these criteria and you shouldn't either. I generally assume that finding men like me (#1) is about 50% of the search problem, find a group that is creating stuff is 30% of the challenge, and the rest is finding successful peers. I weight my search to stay sane because if you try to meet all three criteria without compromising you'll be sad and lonely.
- After moving somewhere new, find a job working with smart people you enjoy, even if it's not 100% ideal.
- Start attending meetups that vaguely match your interests. You probably won't end up going to them for very long, so it's not important that they match your schedule or hobbies perfectly.
- Talk to both coworkers and folks at meetups about the groups you really want to join. Maybe you joined an outdoors meetup but what you really want to do is train to climb a local 5,000 ft peak. Chances are if you start asking, you'll discover other people who want to do similar things. Surprisingly, even in our hyper-connected internet world, I've found the coolest groups of people are NOT organized around meetup groups.
- Commit and contribute. The easiest way to show you're interested in what other guys are doing is to offer to help them or their organization. Agree to host the group, organize travel logistics, manage the gear inventories, research trail conditions, or any other number of tasks that active groups need to make them successful.
- Wash, rinse, repeat, and be patient. My experience has been that it takes me a long time to start making friends in a new city, normally about a year. By years 2-3 I typically have ONE or TWO guy friends I might be comfortable hanging with on a Saturday afternoon, and most of my best friends only became a large part of my social life after more than 3-4 years. The point here is that building genuine, healthy friendships takes time, don't expect otherwise.
So, whether you are reading this because you want to make more friends to hang out with, you want to find a cofounder for your startup, or you want to build your professional network, I've found the above steps to be effective and rewarding. If you follow the guidelines earnestly, you'll end up with life-enriching friendships with other guys that make you into a better man.