Idol-worship: How to meet your inspiration without looking like an ass
I met my friend for pizza and wine the other night. She had just returned from a team development program and was glowing. She gave me her right hand even though ours is more of the hug-it-out type of friendship. "THIS," she said, "is the one that shook Brené Brown's hand! You can touch it if you want."
We all have those people.
You know- the ones whose websites we stalk. Whose TED talks we watch obsessively. Whose bios on wiki we cruise on the regular.
Perhaps your girlcrush (or bromance?) is on someone in your field whom you admire. Perhaps he/she is someone who is a veritable household name.
Whether or not the object of your admiration appears in the pages of US Weekly, it can still be both exciting and uncomfortable to meet them in person.
Why, just in the span of three weeks I've had the following encounters:
1. Crossing my street (unshowered and wearing yoga pants, gah!) one morning I passed and chatted with Garance Doré. One of the best multi-talented fashion bloggers out there. I said nothing coherent. Sad face.
2. At the Smile (on the same day!?) I met both Blythe Danner and another of my fave bloggers, Leandra of Manrepeller.com. Now, Blythe and I had a perfectly lovely chat and then Leandra and I spoke briefly. She liked my eyes. Still, not much value added there.
3. On Monday night, I spoke with Deepak Chopra. But was too chicken to give him my card and say, "Hey, let's have tea one day."
Clearly, I'm being given opportunity after opportunity to chit chat with peeps whose work I thoroughly enjoy and yet...I managed to be just another in a line of weirdos.*
That is, until something hit me. Whether your "idols"** are tech geeks, Seth Godin-types, steel magnates or actual rockstars, methinks we can all learn how to...be better people.
Yes. You see it is that simple.
Humanity is the watchword, but de-sensitization does help.
Let me explain.
I have spent a lot of time around CEOs. Some of them are very wealthy. Some of them are very powerful. But because I spend a lot of time around them, the random VC dude or CEO of a Fortune 500 doesn't intimidate me. I ask them about their kids, their golf games, their trips.
Two things happen: we are humanized (They suck at golf! They have ungrateful kids! I'm the same age as their daughter!), and I am de-sensitized because I am around their ilk on a regular basis.
With my CEOs, I get to stand in my power and relate to them as an equal. When, however, I suddenly (and sporadically) encounter someone like a fashion blogger or mindfulness guru, I have ceded my power and come from a place of hierarchy.***
This turns into less of a conversation between two people and into more of a fan/celeb exchange.
"I'm such a fan of your work." (That's all about me, though. Note the I statement.)
"I think you're amazing." (Assuming that my opinion counts. I again.)
How would you respond to those gushing statements? After a gracious thank you, there's really no where else to go. Whether you are a mid-level manager, startup entrepreneur, star on the verge of your break or high ranking official you, too, have an idol. And I'm telling you here and now that you and your idol are equals.
He or she may be farther along in a career or more visible, but my guess is that you are an expert at something he/she is not. Ditch the inferiority complex, connect on a human level, and ask a question.
Hi. My name is Lauren. (Offer your hand.) I really loved "insert piece of work here." So, what is inspiring you lately?
It's really simple, being human.****
*Weirdo might be an exaggeration.
**I don't particularly like that word because it implies a level of worship that just isn't healthy. I make sure to remove every single Kate Moss image from my apartment before people come over. You should too.
***Where I fall lower on the scale than they do.
**** I cannot guarantee I'd follow my own advice if I were suddenly thrust in front of Ryan Gosling.
P.S. Approximately five hours after I wrote this, I also was in the presence of Naomi Campbell. She looked amazing.