We're All Human

Written on July 28, 2013

I often have the tendency to put people that I admire and follow online or in life to the status of celebrity and it causes me to miss out on having meaningful relationships with them.

This is because they have created an awesome app or business and have huge success, large followings online or influence. Which makes me look at myself and question, am I of any significance to them? Will they even care what I have to say? Am I cool enough to roll with them? Or even – and I’m ashamed to say this but I’m guilty of it – I’m just as good as them but why are they seeing more success than I am? – jealousy.

But the quicker I realize that all these fears and thoughts are internal and I just need to get over it and just see them as a human being, the easier it gets for me to engage with them and share moments of life with them. I mean after all, when you remove the glitz and glamour, each one of us at our core have things in common. The need to feel like we belong, the need to love and be loved, hunger, purpose in our lives, a sense of achievement. The essence of being human.

I had the privilege once to take a course in college with Marshall Brain – another person who I had to realize is just another human, he created howstuffworks.com. We had a guest speaker, Bill Morgenstern – who was the CEO of Rentway, the company that would allow you to rent everything from furniture to computers – to come to our class and share about his journey as an entrepreneur. Towards the end of the course Bill said that he enjoys openly sharing his experiences and opened up the floor for questions.

I believe only one question was asked. The next class, Marshall expressed how great of an opportunity we had missed. Here was a guy who has seen much success and was so willing to openly share his lessons and we all sat there quiet, staring at him. Perhaps it was the fact that we were a classroom full of computer science majors and are introverts – which was my problem – or we genuinely had no questions. But Marshall challenged each one of us to ask questions when we have guest speakers because more likely than not, the speaker will answer them and you’ll be able to walk away with some nugget of knowledge.

I wonder how many missed opportunities that I’ve had because I created so much internal fear to simply approach a person and ask a question or have a conversation – I’d say too many times. I’m just so lucky I had the courage to approach my wife so many years ago.

Tonight I finally emailed a person who I’ve had in celebrity status for a while now. His name is John Saddington. He’s been known as Human3rror, tentblogger and now he’s just John, entrepreneur. He’s a guy who has been online for a long time and has created many online businesses and projects. There has been many times in the past where I’ve wanted to reach out to him and interact with him but I let my fears take over me.

But tonight, I suppressed my fears and I reached out to him. I emailed him to thank him for the many years he’s been openly sharing his life online and how one of his recent interviews had moved me to action by partnering up with my friends, Christopher and James.

I didn’t really know if I’ll ever get a response – he says on his contact page he reads all his email but doesn’t always respond – but sent it anyways. Within half an hour after I sent it I got a response! He even said he read some of my blog posts – I didn’t even include my website in my email, which means he cyberstalked me…geeking out.

He shared this quote – I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. – and a few thoughts and questions on Print Squares.

I shot back a long response email – sorry John if you’re reading this I think you posted once about your dislike for long emails – and left with a nugget of knowledge that will help me in the future.

I hope to form a relationship with John and continue to reach out to a list of many other people that I need to take out of celebrity status and see them as a human being so I can learn and do life with.

Have you ever had this occur to you? Is there a person you admire but have put them to a level of celebrity status that they seem unapproachable? Are you like me and wondered at what sort of stories you’ve missed out on simply because you were afraid to ask? Are you an extrovert stuck in the body of an introvert?

Scared? Try this.

Here’s a couple of exercises to help overcome these fears and simply see people these people as humans and engage with them in a meaningful way.

There once was a guy who traded a red paper clip and through a series of trades eventually ended up with a house. Try that for yourself. Start with a paper clip or even something that you have no use for around you at this very moment and approach someone and ask, would you have something to trade with me for this X? You’ll be surprised how willing people are to play along.

The goal is for every trade to trade up in value from the item that you are currently in possession of. A tip to making the trade easier is to see if people have things that they are willing to part with or have been meaning to part with but haven’t had a chance.

Marshall had challenged our whole class to do this once over a period of a month and when we presented our last traded items with our class I was surprised! I ended up for my final trade an old laptop with a Samsonite bag and an old tube TV with a Sega Genesis system. Not bad for starting off with a paperclip. I believe others had things like a calculator, an outdoor pool, a leather jacket!

If that seems like too much effort then try making a list of all those people whom you follow or would like to talk to. Then one by one simply shoot them an email and say thank you for a recent article, tweet or lesson you’ve learned from them. At the end of the email, genuinely ask them if there’s anything you can help them with. If they email you back then shoot them another email! Or take them out to coffee.

And if that’s too much effort or scary, hit me up and we can practice until you feel comfortable enough to do one of the things above. You can find me on twitter @michaelsoolee or michaelsoolee [at] gmail [dot] com. I’m far from celebrity status but I want to help you get to a place where you can engage with people and have meaningful relationships.

I mean after all we’re all human aren’t we?

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