I don’t care if you’re a CEO or a student

People deserve time and respect, and they’re worth it

When I was nineteen, I met a guy who’d made millions as an entrepreneur. It was purely by chance, in a pub in Surry Hills, and we started drinking together after we bonded over a mix up around my fries and his potato wedges.

Back then, I was just a kid working on a big goal of dominating the music industry with my first company. I didn’t stand a chance, but I hadn’t realized it yet.

We talked for a couple of hours, and he gave me some advice. A few pieces of knowledge that have stuck with me ever since, around how to work for the things that matter, and how to watch your money.

But the best piece of knowledge that I picked up from the guy wasn’t something he told me — it’s what I learned from the way he treated me.

He didn’t care that I was a nobody, that I’d never accomplished anything big, that I wasn’t much more than a drop out with a dream. He treated me with the same respect he would have shown a CEO or an investor. He treated me like I was a real person who mattered, and he gave a shit.

I’m still not a big deal — I’m a guy with a blog and a little digital empire and a lot more dreams, and I’ve picked up a nice list of failures and one or two wins, and I’m not a tech superstar or a goddamn celebrity.

But I like to think I’ve come a long way since then, and I’ve never forgotten the way that guy treated me.

Right now, I’m working my ass off. And I take meetings with millionaires, I take meetings with VCs and podcasters and script writers and entrepreneurs. Those meetings are awesome, and there’s often some incredible opportunities attached.

But I had a 40 minute skype call the other day with an awesome student

Life isn’t something you should play favorites with. You could miss out on some amazing people. I wrote about networking recently, about the assholes who dismiss anyone they don’t think is useful to ’em, and I think that attitude is so sad.

You can’t measure a person’s worth solely by their job title or their LinkedIn profile, or (and this happens to me all the time) whether or not they live in Silicon Valley.

When you keep an open mind about people, and you try and give them some of your time, you could be incredibly surprised by the value they add. Iknow my way of thinking has been altered over and over again by the people I’ve taken a moment to stop and hang out with.

I know it’s not scaleable, and I’m probably ignoring the best productivity advice out there by making myself available to a lot of different people, but it doesn’t take as much effort as you’d think. I do it in the spare 10 minutes I have, while I’m waiting for my eggs and coffee in the morning. I do it on the treadmill when I’m running.

I don’t always give people as much of my time as I’d like — I only have the same 24 hours as everyone else — but I do my best, even if it’s just a few lines in an email. Because people deserve that, and they’re worth it.

I might not be able to measure their worth, or add them to a big fancy spreadsheetcalled “Important People With Important Titles” but that doesn’t make them less interesting.from Brown U who completely took me by surprise.

Largely because she asked a lot of questions that most people don’t. She challenged me to think about the answers I gave, a lot more than most interviewers do. I’ve come up with 4 blog ideas just based on the conversation we had.

I had an email from a guy who’s come out of cancer treatment and is rebuilding his life. It was staggering to think about the obstacles he’s jumped over to still be swinging punches and getting out there, and we’ve talked every day since. He’s inspired me to get back into meditation.

I’m doing my best to make the same amount of time in my calendar for every student, every writer, every dreamer who wants my help and my ear. Because honestly, I don’t care if you’re a CEO, an undergrad or a professional Knitter. If you want to meet me, if you want to talk, I want to make time for you.

A guy in a pub once took a chance and got to know me, and treated me like a winner long before I’d kicked even one goal. It gave me the confidence and hope I needed to work my ass off and try.

I like to think there’s more people like that in the world, and I’m sure there is. Those people are the ones who can make dreams come true, and I’ve got big ideas that I want to throw onto the world’s stage, so I want them to give me the time of day when I need it.

And I can’t hope for that, I’d have no right to even imagine it, if I didn’t do the same thing for the people who want a moment of my time.

My time is precious to me. After all, I could make and lose a million bucks in a year on a roll of the dice, but I can’t ever make back a moment or a single second of my life.

But that’s not the point. The point is, if every second of my time is worth more than gold to me, imagine how much more it’s worth when it’s given away.

I’m going to be honest with you, I can’t always talk with everyone, and some people are going to fall through the cracks. I stay busy, and I stay active, and I don’t have a fool-proof method for managing my emails. But the intention is there, and if I had my way, I’d be able to get to every single person who wants to talk.

I don’t care if you’re a CEO or a student, a VC or an artist, a punk rocker living out of a van or a millionaire, I’m going to treat you the same. That’s the world I want to live in.

 

Written by Jon Westenberg

View profile at Medium.com

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