Thursday, July 16, 2009

A short ride with a celebrity

I need to say up front that regardless of the entry title, this wasn't a celebrity in the conventional definition. In fact, the man probably isn't a celebrity by any definition. But when I was searching for how to describe the feeling I got, I think a celebrity comes closest. It's not hero worship, it's not idolatry, it's not mentor appreciation: it's just that feeling that bubbles up when somebody you admire is interested in what you have to say. So, sorry if you thought this applied to Sir Anthony Hopkins or Lady Gaga.

It was simply the opportunity to have a nice one-to-one conversation with a man I'm pleased to call my friend. It occurred over the course of a ten minute walk and a ten minute car ride. Who it was isn't as important as the things he said to me.

We talked about the power of providing positive reinforcement, in the moment. It's something I'm trying to do more of, because I feel that (at least among my circle of friends) we don't provide enough praise for the simple actions of other people. We do receive feedback in this day and age, but most of it seems to come when we're failing or struggling. "Come on, you can do it!" sort of things. I'm not implying that those are worthless: it can and should continue! But I think we let many opportunities slip by to "reward" people's regular behaviors.

In some ways, common courtesy has fallen in disrepair. Would you believe it's the simplest form of conversational reward? Saying "thank you" creates a feeling of satisfaction, even if it's so small as to be imperceptible. But the tiny feeling is in proportion to the almost effortless nature of saying the worlds.

The problem in today's society is that we're hard-wired for insincerity. Maybe not to the extent that we internally transform each "thank you" into a snide remark, but at our worst we let it become perfunctory. A set of ritual words that are said, as opposed to connecting with the actual feeling of thanks for being provided a good or service.

All of this is why I need to write him a nice thank-you letter. Because he finally helped me over the last little hump of self-doubt from "failing to achieve" at my latest musical interview. Not that family and friends (and even myself) haven't done a good job of picking me back up. But being told that I did all the right things by someone who does this kind of thing for a living makes me nod my head definitively, closing that case.

It's fun to have a person I admire sit down and be interested in things that are important to me. That lends to the "celebrity" angle, in an "I'm taking Lawrence Fishburn to pick up his dry cleaning" kind of way. It's that feeling that suddenly what I have to say feels very important, because someone else is actually listening closely.

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