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You’ve read their books. You’ve commented on their blog, and you follow their Twitter feed. They are the funny ones, the New York Times Best Sellers, and people who are living the life you one day hope to live.
If you ever have the opportunity to meet this person you admire, it can be an awesome and meaningful moment. You finally have a few seconds to thank someone for genuinely changing your life and helping you achieve your dreams.
This is how I felt several times in 2014 as I shook hands with guys I looked up to for years. I wasn’t awestruck, I just felt grateful for having a chance to thank them for the work they’ve contributed to myself and others.
Although I’ve always had wholesome intentions when meeting people I look up to, there’s been moments where I’ve dropped the ball on my commons sense and said something pretty dumb. I felt it was my duty to share this blog with you on what you shouldn’t say to people you admire when meeting them for the first time, after all it would be great to have an on going relationship with this person as a mentor or friend.
Here is how you shouldn’t act when meeting someone you admire.
- Don’t feel the need to talk their ear off about what you’re doing with your life. They most likely hear 25 life stories a day. Tell them how you’ve implemented their advice and how it’s worked for you. This is really the most meaningful compliment you can give someone you admire and respect. But be respectful of their time.
- If Jon Acuff tells you he wants to take a picture in front of your RV, don’t immediately tell him that would be great because you’re about to launch a Kickstarter and it could help generate publicity. (Rookie mistake. I felt like a cheese ball, sorry Jon.)
- Don’t make any request of them (unless it’s for a selfie, that’s permissable). You wouldn’t meet someone on the street and start asking them to do stuff for you, right? Just because you’re a fan doesn’t mean they have to go out of their way to help you. They already did that through their writing or podcast.
- Don’t criticize their work. One evening I sat and listened to a Q&A with Donald Miller at a small church in Austin, only to hear people challenge his life’s work with the sole purpose of making themselves feel smarter then the expoert. Why would you even come to an event to do something like that? I would call that person a real life internet troll. They jumped straight out of the Reddit forums and into this church to pester Donald Miller. Jerk.
- Don’t interrupt them, just listen. Last year I met Jeff Goins at World Domination Summit in Portland, OR and he sat around and talked to Alyssa and I for quite some time in regards to what he knew about writing and building an audience, of which he knows A LOT. I was extremely grateful for his generosity of time and willingness to share his thoughts on writing with us, seeing as this is normally something he’s paid to do. Even if he said something I already knew, I didn’t interrupt him and tell him, “I already knew that,” because that seems disrespectful and portrays somebody with an unwillingness to learn. I just listened.
- Don’t ask if you can interview them on your blog or podcast. Again, it’s not the smartest idea to make requests of someone who you just met. Plus, they didn’t attain success by giving away all of their time. Asking them for a large chunk of time before you’ve actually earned it, is not a good way to begin the relationship. If you want to connect with them further, ask what is the best way to get ahold of them. They might reply Twitter or give you their email, but it’s nice to just ask.
- Don’t be a fan boy (or girl). Compose yourself before approaching this person you admire and remind yourself they are just a normal person. By doing this, you lower the risk of sounding like a total weirdo by enthusiastically telling them how often you read there blog and watch their Instagram feed. These kinds of fans are best left at Justin Bieber concerts.
- Don’t try to impress them by showing off how smart you are. I’ve never met a braggart who I immediately fell in love with. On the contrary, I feel a sense of connection and respect with people who have a genuine desire to hear what I have to say. If you’re waiting to respond while I’m talking to you, it shows me you’re not listening. People want to be heard, all people. But in this moment where you’re talking to someone you admire (even though you want to talk so badly), just hear what they have to say because they’ve earned that platform.
The only reason I can write this blog is because I’ve made plenty of these mistakes in the past. I’ve felt dumb in those moments, but it’s helped inspire me to become more respectful when meeting people I look up to and admire, because those are relationships with people I’d like to keep for years.
And yes, Jon Acuff did say he wanted to Instagram my RV and I foolishly told him we were about to launch a Kickstarter and that he could help us generate some hype. Looking back it was really ignorant because it might have came off as using him and insensitive, hind sight is 20/20. None of which I had any desire to do, since I have nothing but the utmost respect for him and his work.
I don’t feel I can write this blog without stressing why it’s important to have relationships with people you respect and admire.
Most people think the most important element of having friends with large followings is so they can share your blog or link back to you, but that would be wrong for a few reasons.
Having an influencer share or tweet out your post might generate a spike in traffic, but doesn’t do much long term unless you’ve already built up a strong platform or message on your own.
So if an influential person sharing your work or linking to you isn’t the most important element of the relationship, what is?
- Having them as a mentor or someone who can help encourage you when you’re in a rough spot, is invaluable. They have been there and know how hard this life can be, a word of encouragement in that moment is more valuable than writing a viral blog because it could mean the difference between quitting and achieving your dream.
- Having a relationship with someone who is “at the next stage in life” can help us realize how possible our dreams are. Over the past few months I have been working with a mentor of mine, Jia Jiang, on the release of his upcoming book Rejection Proof. Jia is a paid speaker with a book deal and is essentially at the stage of life I would like to be at next. I’ve been working with him over the past several months and I realize he has just as many doubts, insecurities, and bad ideas as I do (respectfully). Granted, he’s put in a lot of hard work to get to where he is today, but it helps to know he puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like I do.
- We’ve all heard the saying “We are the average of the five people we hang out with the most,” this is so true and extends past the five people you hang out with most. By having a great circle of friends, as well as a great circle of outer friends and mentors it helps to keep you encouraged and accountable. A general rule of thumb it’s a good idea to have friends that are smarter than you.
Above all else, if you frame yourself to be respectful and kind to the people you look up to, it will go a very long way. Relationships are more important than “asks” or “requests,” and guidance from someone you trust will go a very long way.
After spending 2014 on the road, Alyssa and I felt a huge lack of community. We had been surrounded by so much love in Austin and being away from our support system was tough.
Fortunately, we found a community through World Domination Summit and begin to connect with people all over the country who were living a similar kind of life to ours. We felt our community being strengthened by people who shared a mutual love for writing, entrepreneurship, and living an unconventional life. These people are the reason we continue to stay encouraged in our creative endeavors, and it all started with a simple hello.
So don’t screw it up by saying something dumb!