Honestly, I'm not exactly sure if you can call it a secret, but it's certainly something very few people talk about. Or maybe it's just something very few people like to admit, to others and to themselves.
I get a fair amount of questions from students or young designers trying to break into the design community. There seems to be this goal to seek for approval of the design community. To be part of it, to make more design friends and feel like a valued part of the community. Now generally, there is nothing wrong with it. Because feeling part of a community can be empowering and important in itself. It's a fundamental part of being a human.
But when it comes to the design community, there are two important things I believe are often misunderstood or not known widely enough:
Nr.1: First of all, there is no such thing as "the design community" anymore. There may have used to be "a" design community, and it used to be very small because not as many practiced design as we know it today. Also, most designers weren't as connected pre-Internet, specifically internationally. Today, the design community is still fairly small in comparison, but much more scattered than a couple years ago.
The design community, probably similar to many other larger communities now consists of little pockets of smaller design communities that are held together either by the specific craft they practice or the values or views they agreed on. Design has become more political than ever, which automatically leads to divides. But this is nothing new and we see it in every community that has grown beyond it's initial size. My point here is simply that: There is no such thing as "the one design community" anymore. Striving or trying hard to be part of it might be misguided or wasted energy entirely.
Nr.2: Trying hard to be recognized or accepted by a community (such as the design community) might also be something that isn't as important as we think. I remember when I started out as a designer, it was almost impossible for me to get into the design community, even though (or even because) it was so small at the time. I clearly remember that I wasn't so much focusing on my work, but more so on the approval of the design community. I just wanted to be part of it, for egotistical reasons but also because I'm a human being, we are community people and always looking for our place in the world.
But for some reason I had the wrong concept in my mind. I thought that if I get accepted into the holy world of the designers, that I will not only become a better designer but also will become a more successful one. I thought it will lead me to more projects and better job opportunities. But I quickly learned that this wasn't entirely true.
I'm sure things are a bit different nowadays. But my point is, if you're an upcoming designer, or upcoming in any field, I wouldn't focus so much on becoming part of a specific community. Most communities are guarded by gatekeepers trying to keep out anything that could potentially become a threat to their established bullshit kingdom.
I personally believe that if you, as a designer (can apply to other industries as well), you have the power to simply focus on those who need you, your craft and your wisdom. In a designers case, those people are real clients and companies who need design services.
To design for a client, and do good work for a client, there is NO need for the design community at large. Think about this for a moment: You can become the most successful (whatever that means to do) designer in the world without the design community ever hearing your name only once. Well, eventually they will hear about you, but not because you tried to establish yourself in the community first, but because you established yourself outside, through your work.
I believe that being part of a community in that regard is overrated. But I also agree, it feels nice sometimes. It's nice to have to get kudos from fellow designers. But overall, those designers are rarely the ones who give you new work or pay for your bills.
In the end, it's just you and your work that counts, nothing else.