I recently had the pleasure of meeting Melissa Lombard at Gary Hoover's open house for the iSchool (U.T. Austin's Information School, a top-ranked program for it's kind in the nation). Gary is one of my favorite people in Austin, and he is generously serving as Entrepreneur-in-Residence for the iSchool after doing so a few years ago for McCombs (U.T. Austin's Business School). He invited "friends of Gary" to attend and Melissa was there with her husband. Melissa told me about her 5-year project to have coffee with 260 strangers and live this mantra:
This 1.5-minute long interview with Steve Jobs from 1994 has been floating around the Web recently and I love it. It is a philosophy that a good friend, Auren Hoffman (a serial entrepreneur himself), taught me when I was 26 and he was 24. I was lucky to have Auren as a neighbor when he was the founder and CEO of BridgePath and his office was right next door to mine at Coremetrics when Debra and I lived in San Francisco (Auren still lives there and has greatly prospered). Auren had a very popular lunch club for the Silicon Valley elite. There was always a compelling speaker, like the CEO of Exodus back when Exodus was a big deal. He invited me to attend with him, and I think the two of us were the most junior entrepreneurs there. So after attending several of these and being amazed at the networking opportunities each time, I asked Auren over lunch one day, "how the heck do you do it?". He told me about how he was fearless to reach out to anyone - but he did it in a particular way. Instead of approach them with the typical, "I'm a young guy and would like to learn from you", he would approach them with a very informed perspective and opinion about their business, something they said, an organization they are involved with, etc. This required more research, but it was very effective. It worked because of Auren's passion and genuine desire to connect and not waste the other person's time. So it wasn't just a little bit of research - it was an authentic interest in what he had learned about that person and their business. In other words, it wasn't a "cursory" or "shallow" amount of research. And it is the same reason why Bill Hewlett took the time to spend with Steve Jobs when he was only 12, as he talks about in this interview. How many other 12-year olds do this? Very, very, very few.