Last night, I had the fortunate opportunity to have dinner with a New York Times best-selling author. This author also attended the same high school that I attended thirty years before I was there. We had a somewhat similar background and upbringing, at least in the context of mindset and environment, so it was really neat to just talk about different areas and different things we were both familiar with.
I am not a person who gets excited about meeting famous people or celebrities. What does famous really mean. People that are famous are no different from any of us. We are all the same. However, my excitement when meeting with someone like this comes from the hope that I will have an opportunity to ask them questions and learn something from them. I am not concerned with just being with them and hanging out, it is more of what can I learn from them in the time I get to spend with them.
This particular individual ranked very high as a person I would like to meet, they are a two-time New York Times best-selling author, they coach some of the highest executives in the biggest companies on this planet, and they are very smart. These are all attributes of a person that I want to learn something from.
Unfortunately, with my questions planned out in specific detail on how I was going to ask them, I never got the chance to ask any of them. Instead I learned something of more value. Sure, I could have asked him a lot of great questions very specific about business and I would have learned a lot, but I learned a lot more by just watching and listening to this person.
Here are a few of these things:
Be yourself: As a best-selling author and a person who is called on by the most successful executives in the biggest companies in the world, he was just a normal guy. They are who they are. They don’t pretend to be something they are not. I am sure this authenticity is what has made them so valuable in their line of work to all of these successful executives.
Learn about others by listening and involving everyone: Instead of waiting for us to ask questions and create a conversation. This person asked each one of us to tell him and the rest of the people in our party, our story. He didn’t ask us anything about what we do and why we do it. He wanted to know where we were from and what got us to where we are today. He listened intently to our stories and asked questions along the way as we told our story.
Have fun: Don’t take life too seriously. Sure, life is serious at times and we know when it is time to get to work and make things happen. However, you must have fun while you are doing it. We talked business and life lessons during dinner, but we also had a lot of fun doing it. Cracking jokes and not taking anything too serious.
Make life an experience: Instead of just reading the menu and ordering, he suggested that we just all share different items. To take it a step further he asked the Chef to just make up whatever they wanted. “Bring us four courses and we will just share”, he told the Chef. This made dinner a great experience between the conversations we had about life and the food that we shared.
Show appreciation in a unique and exciting way: Did I get a signed copy of one of his books? Absolutely I did. Our host showed appreciation to each one of us with a nice note and an autographed copy of his book, but he also showed appreciation to the waiter, chef, and everyone else we ran across.
His form of appreciation was clapping. Yep, clapping to show appreciation. Sure thank you was in the conversation as well to show appreciation. As he clapped for each person that waited on us, I said to myself, what better way to show appreciation than to actually clap out loud for an individual. You are letting everyone else in the area know that you appreciated that person.
Four hours later, I didn’t get to ask hard questions to learn all I could about their business and how they did what they did. I am sure they would have answered my questions, or maybe they are just bored with that kind of chatter, I don’t know. However, by observing and listening, I learned a lot of things that most likely led to their success that I can use as well.
Be sure to listen and observe others, this is how you learn, whether it is a best-selling author or just someone you run across.
To your success and your future.