How to meet famous people
August 03rd, 2011 - 21 Comments
Today I have a special treat for you: a guest post by my friend Tynan, who blogs about escaping the 9-5 grind and living an exciting life.
He consistently has excellent posts on hacking different areas of life — whether it’s how he makes a full-time income traveling, the psychology of poker, or how he gets upgraded/comped on areas I’ve never thought about.
He’s so good that he has an open invitation to guest post on my blog, which is restricted to fewer than 5 people.
In this guest post, Tynan shares insider advice on how to meet famous people.
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I’m not very famous.
The vast majority of people have no idea who I am, and the vast majority of those who do know who I am would only recognize me by my nickname in The Game rather than by my face. Still, having a fairly popular blog, having been involved in pickup, and a few other highlights of my life have lifted me from being wholly unknown to being a tiny bit well known.
This puts me in an interesting position: my attention is solicited by more people than I can give it to, yet I’m not quite famous enough that the people whose attention I solicit know who I am.
To simplify the task of writing this post, I’m going to refer to people as ‘famous people’. By that I mean people who are influential or visible enough that they have more requests for their attention than they can reasonably grant.
By this definition, Jay-Z is famous, Ramit is famous, and I’m famous. There are dozens of other definitions of the word ‘famous’, most of which would exclude me, and some of which would exclude Ramit. So I use the word here as a shortcut, not as a definitive title.
With that out of the way: today I’m going to talk about how to most effectively meet famous people. Wanting to meet famous people is sort of like masturbating: almost everyone does it, but no one really likes to talk about it.
We could have a conversation about whether it’s “okay” to try to meet famous people, but since that would be a waste of time, I’m going to skip over it by saying that I’ve had the fortune of making friends with a lot of famous people, it has been worthwhile, and thus there’s some value in helping other people do it.
The goal, by the way, is to actually have some meaningful relationship with the person you want to meet. It’s not to stand next to them long enough to have your picture taken. A benchmark might be whether or not that person has something meaningful to say about you a month after you last saw them. The guy in the picture has been long forgotten by then.
When I first published a version of this post on my blog, I got a few commenters saying that everyone should be treated the same, and that you shouldn’t treat famous people any differently. I disagree. While all people deserve to be treated with respect, different people have different sets of circumstances. Adapting your approach to those circumstances is a reflection of that universal respect.
The logistics for meeting famous people have never been better. It’s easy to find an email address for almost anyone, and anyone who doesn’t have a public email address has a twitter account. All that remains is the method to employ, which I’ll share as a series of rules.
Rule #1: Don’t Ask for Anything
I put this rule first to emphasize how important it is. Understand that the benefit of forming a relationship with a famous person is NOT that they’re going to be your big break, or that they’re going to use their influence to help you.
Hoping for this is both extremely rude and totally ineffective. Think about it: this person barely has time to read your email, and you’re going to use that small sliver of time to try to get something from them?
A better reason to get to know famous people is that they tend to be interesting people. Accomplishment isn’t the only road to fame, but it’s definitely a well traveled one. Your reward for making friends with a famous person isn’t that you get to piggyback off their accomplishment, but rather that you benefit from interactions with the person behind the accomplishment.
The famous people I know are all smart people who I can count on to serve as the other side of a worthwhile conversation. These interactions enrich you and inspire you to accomplish things independently.
In March of 2008, my friend Todd and I found ourselves in Tokyo, Japan. It was the height of Cherry Blossom season, which meant that vacation rentals were excruciatingly hard to come by. We managed to find a place for the first three weeks of our eight week stay, but even as that rental came to a close, we hadn’t found anywhere to go next. At the end of an otherwise normal blog post, I mentioned that we had nowhere to stay. The next day I got this email [edited for relative brevity]:
So my friend linked me to your website. Both he and I were/(still are?) involved in the PUA community for a bit and so I recognized your name straight off.
Anyway we can leave my background and stuff for later.
Suffice to say, I saw that you and Todd are looking for accommodation sometime soonish. And I understand the woes of trying to find a place to stay in this damn city.
I’m sure a lot of PUA dudes around here would love to put you guys up, if only their place was a little bigger. But such is the lifestyle of us Tokyoites.
Let me give a quick introduction – My name is XXXXX and I live in Tokyo.
Specifically, I live in Shibuya, Tokyo.
More specifically, I live in a BIG apartment in Shibuya, Tokyo.
And if you’d like me to get more specific, I live in a BIG apartment with two spare beds in Shibuya, Tokyo.
Which brings me to the offer. Should you two dudes have no better offer than this, I’d be happy to put you both up.
And while I’m not active in the Pick-up community these days, I know an opportunity when I see one. I’m not after a comprehensive course on
Pickup just because you’re staying here. But like I say, I know what you guys do, and it would be interesting to meet such reputed guys in the flesh.
This is essentially the perfect example of not asking for anything. In fact, he specifically points out that he isn’t looking for training, but that we’d be interesting people to meet. We ended up staying at his place for five weeks, became great friends, and traveled together. He’s never asked for much pickup advice, but you can bet that I’d help him in any way I could.
What would have happened if he emailed me with the kind of email I get by the dozen every week, saying “Hey, I’d really like to pick your brain some time?”. If I replied at all, it would have been a polite, “Sorry, I’m too busy”. But because of his tact, we both gained a good friend.
Rule #2: Give Something
In a world where everyone is trying to take from others, the best way to stand out is to be a giver. It shows a sensitivity to the receiver’s situation, and allows them to drop their guard. This dropping of the guard must be recognized and appreciated, though: you can’t just give something and then ask for something in return. That’s scammy. A good rule of thumb is that if you have an idea of what you want from someone in your head when you meet them, you’re doing things wrong. Be looking for things you can do for others.
Nine months ago I got an email from a guy named Carlos Marti. He offered to translate Life Nomadic into Spanish. I read the email with great interest, but didn’t reply immediately. A week later he emailed again saying that he had already translated the first chapter. He also made it clear in his emails that the benefit he was hoping to receive was to use the work to build his reputation as a translator. That was a good way to express that he wasn’t going to turn around after finishing it and say, “Hey, I translated your book for you. Now pay me $5000.”
When I travel and post where I’m going, I get a lot of offers to meet up. Most are easy to decline because the person says nothing about themselves, so I’m basically offered the chance to hang out with a complete stranger. One such offer a couple weeks ago was from Carlos, who would also be in Valencia as we passed through. My friends and I all met up with him, all liked him, and have now invited him join us on our next cruise. Offering to translate my book was a great way to open a dialogue, and now we both have a new friend.
Rule #3: Hold Your Own
I’ve met with a lot of readers through various avenues: talks, introductions, random run-ins, etc. The attitudes which people take could be roughly divided into three categories: seventy percent convey almost no value at all, twenty percent try to act way cooler than they are, and ten percent are respectful yet aware of their own value.
People in the first category act as if being less famous makes them entirely worthless. They tend to say nothing about themselves and ask the same questions everyone else asks. It’s flattering to meet people like this, because anyone who puts their work out publicly is happy to see concrete evidence that it’s appreciated by others, but these people tend to blend together. That’s probably not what they’re ACTUALLY like, it’s just how they present themselves.
The people who act cooler than they are, unfortunately, tend to be from the pickup scene. They brag a lot, mostly talking about their conquests, and never ask any questions. They act as if they’ve never read your work. The dissonance comes from the fact that they’ve just waited twenty minutes after a speech to come talk with you.
The last category are the people who you actually become friends with. They show respect for your work by mentioning specific ways it’s influenced them, but they don’t dwell on it. They offer suggestions. They share their own stories and work that are related to the conversation, whereas people from the first group would avoid it altogether, and the people from the second group steamroll through stories that only serve to glorify them. People from this third group acknowledge the value you have, but also recognize that they have value, too.
When I first moved to San Francisco, I had the good fortune of meeting a lot of people more famous than myself. If I knew of the meeting in advance, I would read the last few articles of their blog. Bloggers often write about what’s on their mind, so it’s a good bet that subjects from recent blog posts will come up in conversation. Reading them allowed me to show that I respected their work. On the other hand, I’d always make sure to convey what I was about. If they were interested in any of the things I’m good at, I wouldn’t shy away from talking about them.
Remember that the goal of meeting someone famous is to have a meaningful relationship of some sort with them. You can only do that if there’s a foundation of mutual respect.
Rule #4: Have Visible Work
The first thing I do when someone emails me is to check for a link to their web page in their email signature. Having a visible body of work is a good way to allow people to find out what you’re about at their own pace. Instead of writing an email with everything I think the recipient might be interested in, he can just click the link in my email, skim for a title of a post that interests him, and read it on his own time. This also makes introductions a lot easier for the introducer: he can just say, “Hey, you should meet this guy, Tynan. Check out his blog.” rather than trying to write a little mini-biography.
Rule #5: Introductions are Gold
There was one blogger I really respected. I sent him a short email telling him what I’m about and asking if he’d be interested in meeting up to chat some time (not the best tactic, really). No reply. Several months later, by chance, a mutual friend introduced us briefly. A couple weeks after the introduction we bumped into each other, had a meal together, and became friends.
When you have a lot of people contacting you, you need to have filters. These filters are never perfect, but they’re necessary, because if you met with everyone who wanted to, you would run out of time. One powerful filter, as internet companies like Facebook have discovered, is our social network. If a friend suggests that you meet someone, you’re much more likely to do it than if you were just contacted out of the blue.
Besides looking for opportunities to receive introductions, you should also try to give them when it’s appropriate. If you know two famous people who don’t know each other, it’s a great idea to introduce them if you think they’ll have common interests. What’s a better way to give something to both of them?
Ramit’s brother, Maneesh, and I had corresponded a few times before I moved to San Francisco. When he heard that I was moving here, he immediately started sending out introduction emails to people he thought I’d like to meet, including Ramit. Is it any coincidence that someone like that was introduced to Tim Feriss last month and is now throwing parties with him in Berlin?
Rule #6: Don’t Let Lack of Introductions Stop You
Don’t be paralyzed if you can’t get an introduction to someone. There’s no harm in sending them an email, because if you don’t get a response and are later able to meet up with them, they probably won’t even remember your email. The key in emailing is to keep it short, make it obvious why this person should respond, and distinguish yourself from every other person who emails. The latter is pretty easy, as most emails are a variation on, “Hi, you have knowledge I want. How about giving it to me?”
Here’s an example of an email I sent to Tim Ferriss:
I really enjoy your Random series with Kevin and one of my hobbies is creating intros for videos. Random hobby, I know.
Anyway, I was going to just make one for you, and I’ve got a couple ideas, but I thought I’d see if you had any ideas.
For some examples of stuff I can do, check out the following:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3harxNKd5og (first 30 seconds, LN intro, Gadling, and Pan Panama)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHCWDne7ffo (first 10 seconds)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcN2vM_BRo0 (first 25 seconds, plus bottom 1/3 for the rest of the video, but you might enjoy the whole video)
I’m not looking for credit or favors in return… just happy to provide some value to a show that I enjoy watching. Let me know what your ideas are, or I can share a couple I have.
Normally I would have a VERY short introductory paragraph about myself in the beginning, but I had emailed Tim in the past. Notice that I kept the email very short, offered value without asking for anything, and made it very easy for him to respond. We didn’t end up becoming friends due to a misunderstanding, but you can see the results of the email here: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2009/10/08/random-episode-6-how-kevin-rose-and-glenn-mcelhose-got-scammed-in-china-ha/.
I’ve also gotten to know a number of people just by offering to help them when they mention on their blogs that they’re interested in something I’m good at. Here’s the email I sent that led to me getting to know Steve Pavlina:
We’ve crossed paths before when you motivated me to become polyphasic and my friends and I sent you a monitor to thank you. We also have a couple friends in common, _________ and _________.
A reader of my site sent me a message saying that you were hoping to meet some PUAs. I was one of the main characters of the NYT bestseller, “The Game”, and have written my own book called “Make Her Chase You”. I have some tentative plans to be in Vegas during the second half of January, so maybe we could meet then.
I’d also be happy to send you a copy of my book if you provide me with a mailing address. I think that my approach and philosophies are fairly unique to the pickup community and are very in line with your values.
Notice in this email that I point out friends we have in common, so that he can ask them about me, and offering a quick bio relevant to his interests. A month later I had a nice chat with him and his then-wife, Erin, at his house in Las Vegas, and have kept in touch with both of them since then.
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Tynan’s advice is remarkable for containing both strategy (“don’t ask for anything”) as well as tactics (like his email scripts). I recommend you check out Tynan.com.
I’ve written about how to use ethical networking (like how someone got $20,000 of my time for free).
If you’re interested in more specific strategies and tactics, I recorded a video with Tim Ferriss on how to meet famous people. You might be surprised by some of advice we shared. You can get the video below.
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