Several years ago I met Greg Schwartz at my very first Computers in Libraries conference, and I’ve had the pleasure of renewing that acquaintance at various conferences and online venues since then. (If any of you ever get the chance, I highly recommend being acquainted with him.) Back when I first met him I marveled over how many people he knew. I quickly found that if I hung out with him, I’d meet half the people at whatever conference we were attending and have a blast doing it. This was true even though I’m normally pretty bad at meeting new people and am usually uncomfortable doing so.
Last year I got to hang out with him more than once, and I started to notice a pattern: he’d enter a space, scan for people he didn’t know, and go strike up easy conversation with them. Incredible. This is precisely the opposite way I normally enter a room. But he never seemed to come out of these encounters the worse for wear, so clearly it wasn’t as dangerous as it looked… so I decided to try it at my next social function. I entered the room, told myself to be Greg, and introduced myself to someone I’d never met.
Lo and behold, the trick works. It’s pretty tiring, but I haven’t died from the experience yet, and in fact I’ve met quite a few people. Not everyone was destined to become my nearest and dearest friend, but the encounters have all gone relatively well. Now, every time I have to go into a situation where there will be lots of people (particularly people I don’t know) I take a minute before entering the room to channel my inner Greg.
Little by little over the years I’ve met many people I admire and like, and I’ve tried to take their best qualities into myself. I channel a couple of my co-workers when I need to be thoughtful about instruction or negotiate politically charged situations. I channel Steve when I try to move beyond thinking “that might be a good/funny/important thing to do/say” to actually doing or saying it. I channel my dad when I need to deal with difficult people. And the list goes on and on and on. I rarely live up to my models’ examples, but I usually do a whole lot better than I would have otherwise.
On my best days, I’m a patchwork quilt of all the best parts of all the people I’ve gotten to know over the years. And that includes many, many of you. Thank you.