I am very proud of Mitch Joel.
A friend, a colleague, a former employee and currently, a key partner at Just For Laughs via his TwistImage agency. (By the way, that's NOT him above.) He has grown into one of the world's key speakers, thinkers, authors and authorities on the digital landscape.
And this week, I was amazed to learn that I had a part in it all. With all modesty, this is from a recent blog post, an open letter he wrote to the legendary Tom Peters:
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.
It wasn't a big deal. It was a random, off-the-cuff gesture. The books were cute, easy-to-read and incredibly relevant. I gave Tom Peters books to six people that day; most probably never opened their copy. But it changed Mitch's life...and by extension, mine.
Another story--at Just For Laughs, I have a somewhat crude way to measure the value of any project, namely:
Get Paid or Get Laid
To explain, I explain that there are only two reasons to take on any project--either there's a substantial financial payoff, or it feels good (i.e. builds relations, builds brand, helps out a charitable cause). If any project cannot meet one of these two simple criteria, it's not worth doing.
I've told this to various staff members in about three or four meetings over the past two years. No great agenda; it just happened to fit the conversation at the time. Basic reaction--perfunctory nods of yes followed by checking of Blackberrys or iPhones.
So imagine my surprise when I was called into the office of one of my younger employees to read something on her computer and saw, printed out and stuck to the bottom of her screen, the words "Get Paid or Get Laid." (Please don't tell her parents!)
Some things you do, no matter how minute and trite they seem at the time, may be monumental in future scope. It's as if you are planting seeds that explode into Sequoia trees.
Thing is though, you never know while you're doing it. Even if you are foolish enough to say to yourself at the time "This is going to be so far-reaching and momentous!" chances are that it'll be inconsequential.
On the surface, this week's lesson is that you never really know of the many things you do or say which one will eventually have a life-changing impact on someone else.
But some--dare I say "many"--will.
So what I REALLY learned this week is to keep doing lots of little things; blindly, without really knowing what you are doing. Give away books. Spout strange platitudes. Give advice. Treat someone to lunch. Give a bigger tip than expected. Cheer someone else's team. Whatever...
You may never know the end result. But chances are, you'll be changing someone, something, perhaps even the world, for the better.
(P.S. Mitch's next book comes out in Spring, 2013. Wonder who I'll be giving copies away to?)