You can learn something from everybody you meet

Wes and I once had a meeting with a guy who we thought might make a good referral partner for Schedulefly. This was before we decided to never do any partnerships – in fact this meeting helped us come to that decision.

Anyway, the meeting took about three hours, and during that three hours I probably said 50 words. Wes probably said 25. (Ever heard that the smartest guy in the room does the least talking? It’s true. Wes is at least twice as smart as I am.) But that leaves a big gap to fill if the meeting was three hours, right? It sure does. And the guy we met with filled every bit of it.

That’s right, over the course of three hours we listened to him talk almost the entire time. In over 15 years of professional business experience, I’ve never born witness to somebody talking that much. It was, to put it nicely, exhausting. And it goes without saying that the partnership didn’t work out.

While most people would have ended the meeting early, Wes and I politely endured it. Maybe it’s because of that idea of being polite that we have drilled into us growing up in the South? Or maybe we are just suckers? Ha! Probably the latter, but I’m glad we sat through it all because I actually got a valuable piece of advice from that guy. Amidst the twists and turns and rapid subject changes and starts and stops and preaching and pressuring, he mentioned that he and his wife had only one rule for their children: “Do your best.”

For a guy who made what should have been a simple partnership meeting into a complex, meandering journey that I’m confident will go down as the most one-sided, frustrating business meetings I’ll ever have, I have to give him credit that his household rule was quite elegant. Do your best. That’s it. Nothing more.

At the time I had kids too young for rules (other than rapid fire, off the cuff stuff like “don’t hit the dog please”), so I stored it away as an idea to consider when my kids had grown a bit. And this week my wife and I decided to make it the single rule in our house. After all, once your kids are old enough to know that grabbing a toy out of somebody’s hand is clearly not an example of doing their best, this rule can essentially replace any other rule(s). I can look at my daughter when she is talking back to me and simply as, “Are you doing your best right now?” She’ll sigh because she knows she isn’t.

Anyway, my point is that not only is “Do your best” a great rule not for any of us to abide by at home, work, or in any aspect of our lives, but that you can learn something from anybody you meet. No matter how much you might disagree with somebody or how wrong you believe somebody might be, everybody has something to say that’s meaningful. Something that makes you say, “Hmmm. Now that’s interesting. Hadn’t thought of that. That’s a good idea.”

Sometimes it might be like finding a needle in a haystack, as it was when we met with that guy. But it’s always in there somewhere. You just have to listen. And be a sucker to stick around long enough to hear it 🙂


If you liked this post, you might also like Star Wars and why we don’t partner with anybody… and The Simpsons and why we don’t partner with anybody (part II).