Maybe people really are generous with their wisdom

I racked my brains trying to figure out how to ask one of our clients to lunch. We were in the middle of a project and there wasn’t much time to spare, but I was impressed by the way he’d improved the presentation draft. I wanted to ask him so many questions: How did he get interested in marketing? How did he get started? What were his favorite resources? What were some tips he could share? What was his story? There was so much I wanted to learn from him… but how to get started? We were scheduled for a working lunch today, but maybe after we passed a major milestone, I’d be able to treat him to lunch and pick his brain.

I tried out different opening lines in my head as I unwrapped my sandwich slowly. If only scripts had been included in the new-employee orientation kit! I was so preoccupied, I nearly missed his conversation opener.

Without any preamble or obvious shift to a non-work topic, he just started talking to me about writing, journalism, and storytelling. I’d been reading about journalism just the night before, thanks to “How to Write Fast (While Writing Well)” by David Fryxell (good book, would recommend it), and it was fascinating to hear other examples of what I’d just read. And he saved me the trouble of trying to figure out how to ask him about that, too. Wow!

I felt even more inspired when he told me, “You have a good writing style. It’s personal and personable.” Whenever I hear this from people–particularly people who know a thing or two about writing–part of me squeals with glee and does a little dance. (Thanks to the patient mentorship of people like Stephen Perelgut, I can usually do this without actually squeeing in public.) There’s something here that I want to keep honing, there’s something I want to get better and better at, and little hints from people like him tell me I might be on the right path.

How did he have such a good handle on my personal interests, and how did he know to offer that kind of encouragement? Thanks to blogs, he could read the stories I wouldn’t have thought of e-mailing him. I knew he’d passed by my personal blog before. He’d mentioned it during one of the meetings. He must have dropped by again–wow! And he had taken the time to share some of his thoughts and encourage me to keep exploring writing and storytelling… Wow.

I don’t know why people don’t mind giving me so many tips and helping me learn so many things. Maybe most people really are just that way, and all it takes is one wide-eyed person with curiosity and and the itch to share whatever she’s learning with other people down the road. Maybe people enjoy sharing what they’ve learned with other people. Maybe people enjoy helping others along the way. Maybe people enjoy using more than just the 20% of their talents that are used in their job description. Maybe they enjoy sharing their years of experience instead of just what their current company asks for.

All I know is that I want to help the people in his company discover and develop those kinds of connections. I want to help as many people in as many companies as I can. That’s why I joined IBM to do enterprise social media consulting: because I’m learning so much from so many wonderful, unexpected connections, and I want to help companies help their employees to do even better. =)