So yeah, sure, I try to make myself easily accessible.
I say everywhere, "drop me a line, reach out, etc."
Couple people have remarked lately that that's generous or cool of me. Well, thanks, but it's not a big sacrifice at all.
I get a kick out of meeting and connecting with people. Generally, anyone who drops me a line is either (1) doing interesting things and we swap interesting stories, (2) looking for my thoughts on something, in which case I wind up having to refine my thinking and learn even if I do most of the talking/writing, or (3) both.
So, it's usually a good time. Sometimes I get a lot of email at once, and it's kind of a drag, but then I remind myself - "Well, I don't have to" - and it's better. Sometimes it takes me a while to reply, but my reply rate is around 99% (sorry if you get hit by the spam filter or it looks like a form letter).
But as far as I can tell, this is extremely rare and uncommon, which is why I wanted to write this post.
Why do I do it?
-As mentioned above, either we'll talk on interesting things, or I'll get interesting questions... either way is good.
-I try to replace my entertainment time with helping/connecting with people time. It's plenty entertaining and enjoyable.
-Good for the world.
-Generally feels good to do.
My rough estimate of what happens when you do something nice for someone. 90% of the time nothing comes of it - you had a nice interaction for a little bit, and that's it, you move on with your lives.
This, in and of itself, is totally okay. I find most of the time you look to lend someone a hand or do something, nothing really happens afterwards and that's the end of it. While that might look like bad odds, it's not such a big deal - just expect it, and that's cool. Hey, you did a nice thing or reached out to someone and nothing happened. Totally a good thing. The world's a little better off, and you just created some goodwill in the world. Nice.
9% of the time, the person is grateful about it and follows up with a thanks, or what's going on with them a bit later. This is really cool! :) I always love hearing about how someone is doing, or when someone says thanks. I think everyone likes this.
That last 1% of the time... well, that's where the real magic happens. 1% of the time, you really connect and hit it off and become good friends or colleagues or do business together. Like, 1% of the people you meet and do right by are going to change your life in some way.
The frequency that happens is really only 1%, but it's amazing when it happens.
And it's very hard for me to predict who it's going to be, it could be someone just starting out without anything happening in their lives right now. Y'know, people never forget that, I've got silly amounts of loyalty to the people who treated me well when I was just getting started. Likewise, I've connected with people a little before they got started or when they were in a transition period, and then later on they go on to become crazily successful and we become colleagues or do some projects together. And you just never know who it's going to be.
I don't know, even without that last 1% it still would probably be worth doing as sort of a charity or philanthropy type thing - you better the world, you get some good feelings out of it, you learn from it. But the 1% chance you hit it off and become really important to each other's lives? Well, hell yeah, how can I do some nice things for another 100 people ASAP? If someone's a decent person and I can do right by them, I want to do right by them.
Most of the time that's the end of it, but on rare occasions it changes your life.
I totally understand you on that one.
I'm also used to helping people a lot (about computers and programming in general). Usually they ask: why are you helping me?
And my response is : I'm not. I'm helping ME.
Either they bring a very easy task and it's done within seconds, either they bring something challenging, and then, well, let the challenge begin!
Solving people's problems is a great opportunity to get some experience in your field. It's common that one usually learns from their mistakes. That's true, but if you can learn from other people's mistakes as well, you'll learn even quicker.
Also, when I repair someone's computer, I usually try to connect with them. Most of the time they will leave my place without even saying goodbye, but sometimes we end up chatting for long periods of time. I made good friends that way.
Wow. I was actually thinking about this exact thing about a month ago!
I'm glad that someone wrote about this because it makes total sense.
I remember when I met a couple of people that hit that 1% a few months ago and it was life changing.
And that 1% is worth all the risk-taking needed to find people like that.
great story, and it totally makes sense. Lots of value to be taken out of it. the same is true for writing, creating stuff, etc. you can write 99 mediocre posts and then one which is very successful. Same with startups. And that doesn't mean that ou have to go through 99 failures first, you just don't know when you're going to hit it.
This might be one of your most inspiring posts yet. I also write pretty consistently on my blog (with the exception of last week) and I too get a lot of email. Most of my email is from people asking for advice with iOS ideas. I'm awful at correspondence, but not because I don't really care, I just think to myself that I'll make it a priority later. I've found that that's really really tough. Next time, I'll remember this insightful post.
Question from a reader -
Hi Sebastian, a question. I'd like to know how you came to be so... gracious. I've noticed that not only do you preach for others to spread gratitude, but you really do go over-the-top with it. It's a bit unbelieveable at times. But I have a good friend who is always very glad to see me (and everyone else). We aren't close anymore, but I always feel we are. I get the feeling you're similarly genuine. How did that come to be? Have you always been that way? I've been trying to be more thankful, but I don't want it to come off as meaningless as a forced plastic smile.
Well, first, that email totally made my day. Thank you.
Before I answer, I've got to pose a hypothetical question to you. Trust me, it's relevant:
Do you think it's more virtuous to do $5,000 worth of good for someone and get $0 in return, or to do $10,000 worth of good for someone and get $2,000 in return?
The concept of Value vs. Price is one that I am inexplicably fascinated by. Maybe it's the fact that most people ignore it entirely, or maybe it's because following its principles virtually guarantees success in any area.
Most people do not understand the difference between value and price or, at the very least, greatly underestimate it.
So, what is the difference between value and price? Value is the benefit derived from an action, and price is the benefit lost by performing an action. What makes this such a profound concept is that every action has a value and a cost associated with it, and it is usually fairly easy to measure. Our unconscious minds are constantly evaluating the price and value of every possible choice, which ends up governing many of our actions.