How NOT To Be An A**hole
A thoughtful, gentle "no" is better than being an a**hole.
I’m not proud of this story.
However, I share it so we might all be more careful about how we turn people down or away instead of turning them off completely.
Growing up, my best friend was John.
John and I played AAU basketball together since we were maybe 10 years old up until we were 15. We hung out at each other’s houses almost every weekend, playing Guitar Hero or Halo, biking around town, or shooting pool before his brother cooked up cheeseburgers for dinner, or my mom called us inside to eat if we were at my house.
John and his family are diehard Pittsburgh sports fans, and for my 16th birthday they brought me to Pennsylvania for a weekend consisting of Friday night Penguins hockey and Sunday tailgating to watch the Steelers amid a sea of yellow Terrible Towels.
John was a year older than me, so when he got his license, he picked me up every day after high school during my freshman year (when I couldn’t yet drive) so we could train together at an out-of-the-way gym where some of the top UFC fighters at the time also trained. We stuck to weights, and I tried to keep up with John who took lifting as serious as a heart attack after being the scrawny kid all his life.
One day, we got into a fight over something stupid (and honestly, I don’t even remember what all the fuss was about).
We didn’t speak for weeks.
And when we finally reconnected, I (being an immature, over-worked 16 year old at the time with a brand new Mazda 3 and internships, albeit unpaid, with two VC-backed startups in Silicon Valley…how fancy) all but wrote John off because he planned to stay in our home town after high school and work for his family’s local roofing business.
My ambitions were too big for our friendship apparently.
Looking back, I was a total jackass, and I’m grateful that John has allowed me back into his life in recent years.
Funny enough, that little family roofing business has grown considerably over the last 5-10 years. Now, they have clients all over the country, and John is managing dozens of people while preparing to take over the company from his dad when he retires.
John has learned the ins-and-outs of this business over 10 years and is still humble enough to wake up at 2 or 3am some days, climb on roofs in blistering Florida heat, and work without fanfare on social media or any complaints whatsoever. He goes home, works some more, sleeps a few hours, and does it all again.
Thankfully, I’m more mature now.
I think about how I handled my friendship with John as a teenager and how I’ve since learned to more tactfully interact with people in my network.
In these past 12 months alone, I started a new business and couldn’t have possibly guessed that I’d end up working with my current co-founders when I first met them.
I’ve known some of our investors for weeks, and some for almost a decade, and am pleasantly surprised by who is interested in supporting our venture.
Random connections have turned into clients, sometimes after months of follow-up, and other times after a friend introduced me to another friend, who introduced me to another friend.
Years ago, I even met TWO 1-on-1 consulting clients in small town coffee shops after kindly asking one woman if I could use the outlet behind her chair, and then not only working with her, but being referred to her business-owning friend as well!
Next time someone emails you out of the blue, musters up the courage to talk to you at a networking event (when we can go to those again!!!), or reaches out for a small favor, handle that relationship with care even if they aren’t your “Ideal Client” and especially if you’re “too busy” to help.
It’s OK to say no to someone.
But do it in a way that’s empathetic and thoughtful, so that one day…
…if and when you need their support, they are excited to hear from you instead of vengeful because of that one time when you weren’t at your best self.
You never know who will introduce you to that perfect client, offer the resources you need for projects you haven’t even considered yet, or come to your rescue if there’s ever a major issue.
Anyways, I hope this was interesting and helpful!
P.S. - speaking of meeting cool new people, I’m hosting a workshop on May 15 teaching networking and relationship-building skills. It will be interactive, so you can learn from me AND meet lots of other readers, former clients, etc. Care to join us?
Jared Kleinert is the founder of Meeting of the Minds (motm.co), as well as a TED speaker, 2x award-winning author, and USA Today's "Most Connected Millennial".
Meeting of the Minds curates "super-connectors" and subject matter experts as invite-only attendees to 3 day summits in places like Napa Valley, Bermuda, and elsewhere, as well as “deep dives” such as this Marketing and Biz Dev strategy & implementation workshop. Members of the MOTM network include CEOs of 7, 8, and 9-figure businesses, creators of globally-recognized brands and social movements, New York Times bestselling authors, founders of pre-IPO tech unicorns, c-suite execs from Fortune 500 companies, and others.
Jared's career began at 15 years old when he started his first company, and took off at 16 while working as the first intern, and then one of the first 10 employees, for an enterprise SaaS company called 15Five, which today has raised over $40M and has almost 2000 forward-thinking companies as monthly recurring clients.
Later, Jared would become a delegate to President Obama's 2013 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Malaysia, write multiple books including the "#1 Entrepreneurship Book of 2015", and speak at TED@IBM the day before he turned 20.
As a highly-sought after keynote speaker and consultant, Jared’s clients range from organizations like Facebook, Samsung, Bacardi, Estee Lauder, IBM, Cornell, Berkeley, AdAge, and the National Speakers Association. His insights on entrepreneurship, networking, marketing, and business development have been featured in Forbes, TIME, Harvard Business Review, Fortune, NPR, Entrepreneur, Mashable, Fox Business and more.
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