It has been a while since we last did an event together, but I was just thinking of you yesterday and I felt compelled to write you this note. I don’t think I ever told you this, but over a decade ago, I took a job as a Director of Marketing for a mobile content business. I was very excited about this opportunity because it involved working directly for Andy Nulman. At the time, Andy was best known for being the founder of the Just For Laughs comedy festival, but he decided to try out the technology and content world. I was both excited and intimidated by this opportunity because Andy is quite the character (and I mean that in the most loving way possible). I knew it would be hard to impress him, because this was a guy who had seen and done everything to turn Just For Laughs into the world-class brand that it has become. On my first day, I walked into my new office and he handed me a copy of your book, The Project 50. Up until that point, I don’t think I had ever (truly) read a business book. I had given up on book reading after not enjoying my formal education. The book was small and Andy insisted that I read it before working on any projects.
I devoured that book.
Not only did I devour that book, but it sent me on a virtual spiral to read, consume and find anything and everything like it that had ever been written before. In short, your book, your thinking and your writing style was the catalyst (along with some prodding from my good friend, Andy) to learn. Not to read, but to learn. Not to worry about school, but to get a real education. Since then, I have probably read thousands of books (including all of yours) and my life has dramatically changed because of it. I wound up launching the Montreal Business Book Review and an audio podcast entirely dedicated to business and motivational books called, Foreword Thinking. While I have stopped both of those projects, all of that type of content still seeps its way into everything that I do here on this blog and podcast. I can’t even count how many new and interesting authors your work has introduced me to (I still think that Funky Business by Jonas Ridderstrale and Kjell Nordstrom is a gem!).
In 2003, right before you released Re-Imagine! I heard that you would be speaking in Toronto. I got in a car and drove six hours (twelve total!) to see you speak that afternoon. I was so excited, that I actually wound up going to local Toronto bookstore where you were also doing an event in the earlier part of the afternoon to see you twice in a day. What happened at those two events changed my life forever. I had never seen you speak in public before, so watching you walk up and down the aisles (who needs a podium!) and speaking to people in both a whisper and then a scream inspired me to think differently about what a corporate presentation should be. The way you designed your slides and used them only as a catalyst for the words that were coming out of your mouth, taught me that knowing your content is a whole other world away from presenting content from a screen. I was more than inspired… it was a religious experience.
From there, we’ve had the chance to not only share the stage on numerous occasions, but to connect, chat and catch-up. As someone who spent over a decade in the music industry, I would often tell people that if they ever get the chance to meet the rock stars that they admire, to not do it. It winds up always being a letdown, and the image of them in their minds will always be more glamorous and powerful. Well, Tom, you are definitely one of the rock stars in my life, and am I ever happy that I didn’t take my own advice. Meeting you and speaking to you has only reinforced the words that you write and the presentations that you give. You are compassionate, caring, real and a true conversationalist.
I’m not just a massive fan of yours because of the content that you create, but because it’s obvious (from your books, blog posts, tweets and speeches) that business is personal to you. It’s a life lesson that took me a couple of years to reconcile. People would often say to me, "it’s nothing personal… it’s just business." I hated that line. I spent my days (and nights) building my business. It’s my passion and my love and I take it (all) very personally. You helped me realize that it’s ok to take business personally. You have a care not just for business success, but a care for humanity. You preach about equality and doing what is right and – even after all of these years – it’s a breath of fresh air.
I look forward to the next time that we have a moment to catch up. Until then, know that I’m following every post, tweet and word that you put out into our world and I do, sincerely, think that our world is a better place because of you.
Thanks, Tom… I don’t know where I would be without you (and I owe Andy the old hat-tip for the intro to your beautiful mind).
I was very moved by the book, Steal Like An Artist, by Austin Kleon. Especially the section titled, Write Fan Letters. The truth is that I used to always write a note to the author of the book that I had just finished. I guess I got too busy (or read to many books or became lazy) to keep at it. In Kleon’s book, he recommends writing a public fan letter and ends the section by saying: "The most important thing is that you show your appreciation without expecting anything in return, and that you get new work out of the appreciation." It’s a beautiful concept. With your permission, I’ll be using this space from time to time to write these kinds of letters. Welcome to Project: Public Fan Letter. Feel free to do a few of them yourself. I wrote my first Public Fan Letter to Seth Godin (you can read it here: Dear Seth Godin).