Everybody Is Your Peer (or How To Connect With People)

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There are times in life when you may want to connect with somebody more “famous” than you. I mean famous relatively speaking. It could be a blogger, business person, government official, or even maybe just the hot girl/guy you see regularly at your local coffee shop.

The first thing you have to remember when you want to connect with anybody you admire is that we’re all human. You, me, and that person you want to connect with. Huge revelation, huh? ;) Lesson #1: treat people like people, not like gods.

Whether you believe it or not, everybody is your peer. Don’t act like a fanboy. Praise is OK, but don’t fawn/obsess. It’s weird, it’s creepy, and it won’t get you anywhere. (Except the brush off.)

I can’t think of a single instance in my life where I’ve connected with someone by supplicating. Again, praise is OK, but don’t go over the top. Treat people like friends. What would you say to a friend who wrote a great book or song or something of that sort?

“OMG! You are so awesome! You’re the best! I love that book. What’s your favorite color? Do you like cookies?! Want to hang out? Huh? Huh? Huh?”

Probably not. :)

If it was a friend you’d treat them normally. (I’m not saying you shouldn’t tell your friends when they do something you think is awesome. I’m saying you’re not going to go over the top and make them feel weird because you see them as peers.)

If you’re trying to connect with somebody who is a “superstar” in your field don’t take up too much of their time. Better to end the conversation first than to make them antsy wanting to leave. Make the first contact briefly, and follow up again later (via e-mail/phone or maybe later in person). If they ask you to sit down and chat or ask you to lunch that’s another story. Obviously in that situation you can take up more of their time. :)

A small example: I think Leo Babauta is amazing and I’m a huge fan of his work. But I don’t treat him like he’s anything other than another guy. It makes it weird for people when you treat them differently.

Just be cool and you’ll connect with the people you’re supposed to connect with. You might not connect with everybody, but at least you won’t creep everybody out either. :)

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{ 32 comments }

Scott McIntyre

Hi Karol,

The best and longest-lasting connections come from a starting point of shared respect for the other person. Being ‘starstruck’ is respect gone wild, and shifts the balance of equality in the relationship. Not that I’d know, but coming face-to-face with an adoring fan must be a little freaky!

Making valuable connections is all about being mutually supportive of each other, rather than hero-worshipping.

Karol

Thanks Scott. “shifts the balance of equality in the relationship” <– very important point. Once that balance is shifted it's very difficult to bring it to a point of equilibrium.

Kenny Eller

I’ve always thought the toughest part of the situation is that the “fan” has done some or all of these: read articles, posts, books, seen the person on TV, bought all of their albums, or their clothes, and followed them on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc.

AND…the “fan” has sometimes done all of that for YEARS!!!

It makes it a very “REMEMBER WHEN” situation and very one sided.

I remember being six inches from Scottie Pippen in the locker room after a game, mic in hand, asking him a question that he actually beings to answer. The same Scottie Pippen I have watched for years!!!! In that moment, as he looked at me and began to speak, I remember thinking, I want to tell this guy how much I love his game. How much he inspires me. How big of a fan I am. I couldn’t do that as a “wanna be” journalist though and it’s probably for the best. Scottie, even though I felt like I knew him, didn’t know me.

My Mom used to always say I’d love to have so and so over for dinner. I would always ask why? Don’t get me wrong, a dinner, lunch, breakfast, or coffee with MJ would help my cause for sure, but I guess I always think about what would the other person be feeling. I mean anyone can really only listen to so many “I remember when you did this…” stories…hahah.

I think the exposure to my then “idols” at a young age showed me that the are just people. They ARE just men, who are excellent at what they do and take home a larger paycheck…but men nonetheless.

It’s a fine line for sure.

GpG! (Short for Great post Gajda!) :-D

Casey Friday

I couldn’t agree more, Kenny. I’m close friends with a guy who makes really big bucks, and he’s a really cool guy, but he’s just that – a human guy. Fame and money often cloud our perception of people, but people are still people.

Your Scottie Pippen story is a little sad, but inspiring at the same time. Thanks for sharing!

Karol

Great story! :) Thanks Kenny! When you get your lunch/dinner with MJ he’ll appreciate you treating him like a human instead of the superstar that he is. :)

Casey Friday

I live in San Antonio, and I once went to lunch at the same restaurant as Tim Duncan. People were swooning over him and making tons of useless comments. I felt bad for the guy – to think that he can’t even go out in public without being accosted. I like the idea of treating superstars like equals. I know, without a doubt, that they would appreciate it.

This post reminds me of when emailed you a question about traveling with a guitar. When you responded instantly, I was like WTF? Karol Gajda sent me an email! Hahaha.

Roy Naim

I am with you on Karol. He does respond and is very helpful.

Same as Seth Godin. And many others.

So Karol…want to hang out? LOL.

Karol

haha, thanks Casey!

Chase Night

Just found your blog through Everett Bogue’s. Very helpful article. Because you’re here in my city right now, I was about to invite you over for Thanksgiving dinner in which I would give thanks and supplication to you for four hours for being so awesome and inspiring, but now I know better. So… ‘sup, dude? Hope you like the ATX while you’re here.

Karol

:) Thanks Chase! You rock. And I do like ATX. Get in touch if you’d like to get together anytime.

Chase Night

That would be awesome. I’ll leave the when up to you since you’re the ridiculously awesome magnifi… um, since you’re probably busier. I’m still in the land of the 8 to 5, but free most evenings and weekends. Would love to meet someone whose eyes aren’t glazed over, lol.

Karol

I’m not picking on you, but even “since you’re probably busier” is supplicating. I’m just a dude. :)

Considering doing a meetup somewhere like Casa de Luz in a few weeks. We’ll see if there’s enough people/interest to make it happen.

Chase Night

Haha, touche. But that’s how I treat all dudes. Blame it on my mother telling me never to invite myself anywhere. I now assume everyone in the world is always doing something more important than I am. Should probably work on this. Thanks for the unwitting therapy. ;)

Kacper

Hah, I think we are placed in this position pretty often throughout our lives. I mean, every day even. ‘Come on, this is that guy from the TV’ etc.
I remember when I had this pretty nice talk with one of my favourite sci-fi authors and you know, he opened his mouth and started talking and I’ve noticed that he (amazingly!) used the same language that I use(d)! He even made the same mistakes etc. ‘Come on’, I thought then, ‘If he’s managed to be such a big deal then I can do it too. So either this big shot isn’t such a big shot or being a big deal isn’t such a big deal to achieve.’

As you said, we’re all human.
That’s awesome.

Cheers! :)

PS. BTW, if you meant this remake of The Crow (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1340094/) then maybe you shouldn’t be so scared. It’s written by Nick Cave, in the end.
And he *is* awesome. Remarkable. Outstanding. Etc.

Karol

Thanks for your story Kacper. I’ve had similar things happen to me, hence my thoughts on this topic. :)

As for The Crow: it doesn’t matter to me who’s writing it. Brandon Lee (star of The Crow) literally gave his life for the first one, and it was an almost perfect film. It shouldn’t be fucked with by Marky Mark or Nick Cave or anybody.

Casey Friday

Damn, I’m gonna have to watch The Crow now! Never seen it.

Roy Naim

This is a BIG topic.

On one hand, these “stars” hang out with other “stars” and purposely (I think) separates themselves from the crowd. As if they don’t want to hang out with you.

On the other hand, like you said, they are human and the only reason they don’t hang out with you (not you Karol but you as in you..you get it 8) because you make them into big shots and they don’t always want that.

When I was dorming a few years ago, I was known to be very close with all the mentors of the school. I used to hang out at their homes, chill with their family and really became one of them. Often people asked me then, how did I get so close to them? (Because these mentors are very respected in the Jewish’s world and are extremely busy). I told them that end of the day, they are human. Sure, they demand respect (not literally), and one should show them the respect, at the same time, they like to joke like we do, eat food like we do, and work on themselves like we do. That is how I got close to them.

I often find myself trying to “hit up” the “stars” of business or whatever. Sometimes I just don’t know how to go about it because they seem as if they don’t care for you and don’t want you to approach, but often they are very kind and willing to help out.

Thinking back, there’s many times in my life that I approached someone who has an “elevated status” without knowing they do, and you know what, they often like it that way. Just to be treated as human beings.

Karol

Thanks for sharing Roy. “Thinking back, there’s many times in my life that I approached someone who has an “elevated status” without knowing they do, and you know what, they often like it that way. Just to be treated as human beings.” That has happened to me as well.

Laurie

Right on the money, Karol. This post and the comments so far have given me a nice, clear picture of how things stand…the people I admire are human beings like me who happen to be extraordinary at something I really like. And every one of us is capable of doing something extraordinary. If you let it, this can level the playing field and help you gain balance and perspective when it comes to being a fan of anything. Thanks! :)
Laurie in Michigan

Karol

Rock on, thank you Laurie! :)

Greg

Karol, This post reminded me of an experience from university. I had a question for a “top five in the world” class professor. I was intimidated by that professor’s reputation; so, I asked my advisor for an introduction. He told me to do my due diligence: read what that professor had written to make sure he hadn’t already answered my question. When I told my advisor that my question was still open, he said to send an e-mail and ask my question precisely AND to cut out any fan-boy fawning. Just ask the question; don’t waste anyone’s time. (It reminded me of your five-sentence e-mail post.) A few days later I got a response as well as some references to works and people. He was extremely busy, but he took time to help a student.

Karol

Fantastic story! Thank you for sharing Greg. :)

Jenny

Two weeks ago I got to know several well-known and talented skateboarders when they came to town for a world cup contest… these guys are legends and extremely popular. I skated with them for 4 days and treated them like they were any other skater at the skate park. I built relationships with them (not because of who they were, but because we genuinely connected) and had some rad skate sessions.

What did that get me? Invited to lunch, invited to stay at their houses when I travel to their hometowns, invited to skate their backyard pools!!! Would any of this of happened if I had treated them like they were god, probably not.

Karol

That is a fantastic story Jenny. And the broken nose photos are an extra special little memory, huh? :)

Jason

Karol,

I just came across your site and I’m so glad I did. Great resources, Thanks!

In relation to your story, I’ve been involved in the MMA scene for a number of years and last year I got a chance to spend some time training at some world class camps in Rio de Janiero and Las Vegas. In an environment like this one where it is easy to place people on pedestals or be intimidated, it was amazing to see how many world champions and other “super men” are really just regular guys with arms and legs like you and me.

Thanks for the post,
Jason

Karol

That’s awesome Jason! Thanks for finding my site and thanks for treating your MMA idols like humans. :)

Mike Donghia

Man, this article should be distributed to everyone who ever opens up a Wordpress account.

I never really though of it that way – but you’re right karol, nobody wants to be friends with someone who practically worships them at their feet. It might be a nice gesture, but you want to be friends with someone who is your equal.

Maybe the best way to break the ice with a famous blogger is to insult them: “Karol, You’re blog sucks, I don’t know why I waste my time. Ahh, whatever, good to meet you anyway.” That way, you let them know who’s boss ;)

Rock on!

Karol

Thanks Mike! An insult is definitely *not* how to break the ice. I know you were joking, but just making sure others don’t actually use that. ;)

Maria

Karol,

I’ve never understood why people go nuts, and act so stupid around someone they think is a “superstar”.

Here is my take on it. You know that superstar you so idolize? Guess what? He puts on his pants the same way you do….one leg at a time!

Karol

So true, thanks Maria. :)

Bill

All good points. We should all remember this post when we are rich and famous and the fanboys are fawning over us – We have to remember to be nice, they just haven’t read your blog yet and don’t know any better.

I don’t know any celebs, but I have had a chance to meet and talk to many successful business people. My experience is that if you treat them with respect you will find they are just as interested in meeting and talking to other interesting people as you are. So the key is to BE INTERESTING. Have something to say, bring something to the conversation.

Karol

Thanks Bill. “Have something to say.” Great point. :)

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