The Fear of Heroes (and Meeting Mine)
So it's a risky thing to meet one of your heroes. In fact, it can been pretty scary.
Lots of weighty expectations hang in the air. What will they be like? Will they live up to your expectations? Or will you walk away disappointed? Will you lose one of your heroes?
So last November I was sitting in the airport in Geneva, Switzerland. I was about to get on a plane and fly home to Colorado. I had just gotten a chance to spend several hours with Paulo Coelho. Now Paulo is another hero of mine, and one day I will write about having dinner with him… but he's not who this post is about.
In any case, meeting Paulo was really cool, and it inspired me. And as I sat there on the runway in Geneva, I thought to myself “OK, that was awesome – now it's time to meet Pressfield”…
You see, Steven Pressfield is another author who has made a big impact on my life. Many entrepreneurs are familiar with his incredible book “The War of Art”… and I love love love that book, but it just barely scratches the surface of his work. His fiction is equally amazing, and a personal favorite of mine is “The Legend of Bagger Vance” (I know it's cliche, but you should skip the movie and read the book).
So after meeting Paulo Coehlo, I decided it was time to figure out some way to have dinner with Steven. I didn't know how it would happen, but I knew there would be a way… I learned long ago that I'm pretty good at “manifesting” things. So I figured I had a good chance of meeting him, but I had no idea it would happen so fast…
You see, just a few weeks later I got a surprise package from my friend Victoria Labalme. In it was a personally signed copy of “The War of Art” and a note to me from Steven Pressfield!
It turns out Victoria had heard me mention “The War of Art” when I was speaking on stage, and she just happened to be a close personal friend of Steven. And to make a long story short, it was only a matter of a few weeks before I was on a plane to Los Angeles to got to dinner with Steven, Victoria, and Victoria's husband.
And there we are – back to me nervously wondering what it would be like to meet one of my heroes… and whether it would live up to my expectations.
Well, I don't know if I just have great taste when it comes to “hero selection”, but I haven't been disappointed yet. It was a wonderful meeting. Steve was gracious, kind, engaged, and funny. In fact, dinner was too short, so we quickly made plans for breakfast… and then breakfast evolved into spending the entire morning together.
The thing that stuck out the most for me was how wonderfully curious Steve was, and what great questions he asked… he kept asking me about me and my life. And his insightful questions kept pushing me to make distinctions I had never thought about before.
I've long felt that asking great questions (and then having the good sense to shut up and really listen to the answers) is one of the most powerful skills that anyone can have… and Steve truly is a master at it. There is incredible knowledge and wisdom that is bottled up in the people surrounding us, and for the most part we walk around oblivious to it. Our lives are hugely enriched when we wake up and tap into that innate wisdom in the people surrounding us. It was inspirational to mentally step outside myself and “watch” Steve ask great question after great question.
Another thing I've noticed about people who lead inspired lives – they're always looking to grow. They're always striving to make their “art” better (no matter if their art is writing, building a business, or making a better cheesecake). And they're always trying to “level up” and play a bigger game.
In other words, as my coach Dan Sullivan says, their future is always bigger than their past. And, of course, Steven Pressfield fit that description perfectly… he really wasn't interested in talking about his past work. He was far more interested in talking about his current and future projects. And truth be told, he was most interested in talking about the people around him.
(Funny story… during our conversation, I mentioned something that one of the principle characters in Steve's amazing “Gates of Fire” did. But I couldn't recall the character's name – even though I've read the book at least two or three times. As I was making my point, I said “sorry, but I can't remember the character's name”… and Steve quickly interrupted me and said with a smile “Either can I”.)
Our time together flew by all too quickly, and soon I had to head out to catch my flight home. But I left inspired. I left happy to have met an inspired, driven, and gentle soul. And best of all, I left with a new friendship.
P.S. I'm on a roll now… anyone want to introduce me to Bruce Springsteen, Keith Richards, or the Dalai Lama? 🙂
P.P.S. Who would you love to have dinner with? And why?