Last week I flew 1,624 Miles and paid $1,706.70 to have breakfast with Mike Kim and Brian Dixon. The breakfast included a small band of remarkable companions. Why would I do such a thing? Sometimes we have the opportunity to make wise investments in other people.
Often these investments are inconvenient. But this particular kind of investment can often bring the biggest payoff. And not in the most obvious ways. I’ll explain the non-obvious benefits in a moment, but first, a quick story…
An Inconvenient Trip
Back in 2012 I received a phone call from one of my dearest friends, Stu McLaren. He called to invite me to a Mastermind Meeting in Manhattan, at the headquarters of Inc. Magazine. The Mastermind was a gathering of some of the top entrepreneurs who own membership sites. These are websites that charge a subscription fee. Each person attending shared their best ideas and practices about running a membership business. I wrote about the experience and the all-star lineup in this post.
But even though this was a cool invitation, I was reluctant to say yes. The first reason for my reluctance was unknown to Stu, or anyone else, at the time. Only months before, I was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s Disease. My confidence was (pardon the pun) shaky. Plus, the invitation came at the last minute. The flight to New York, the hotel, and all the other expenses of the trip were not in the budget.
I was honored that Stu invited me. And this was more than “just a Mastermind”. This event was raising money for World Teacher Aid, the charity Stu and his wife Amy run. But the invitation was all kinds of inconvenient. That’s why I knew I had to accept. Opportunity is usually wrapped in the cloak of inconvenience. That’s why so many fail to recognize it.
And I’m so glad I went, despite the inconvenience. I helped support Stu and Amy and their charity. I brought value to the other members of the group. I also made incredible connections and walked away with a ton of ideas and inspiration. It was at that event I met Michael Hyatt for the first time, and we became fast friends.
An Inconvenient Trip, the Sequel
Fast forward about 4 years, and something familiar happened.
During a recent meeting of the Regency Mastermind, Mike Kim told us about his upcoming trip. He was planning to attend Dan Miller’s Coaching With Excellence event in Franklin TN. Because he was going to be in Franklin anyway, Mike wanted to make the most of the trip. He and Brian decided to put together a meeting of the top marketing minds in the Nashville area. (You may not know this, but the Nashville area has the unofficial headquarters of the blogosphere.)
Mike planned to hold a “Boardroom Dinner” with these folks. The “Boardroom Dinner” is a concept I learned from my friend Brian Kurtz. I have been doing these dinners with my Regency group during our quarterly get-togethers.
Now Mike is a smart guy, and realized that he was dealing with people in their own hometown. It might be difficult to pull them away from their families and friends in the evening. So he and Brian decided to host a breakfast instead, and they dubbed it the Epic Breakfast Club. (The only thing missing was Ally Sheedy.)
In Each Joke There Is a Kernel of Truth
“Maybe I should fly out there for breakfast and support you,” I said to Mike.
We both laughed. We both agreed that would be awesome.
And we both knew I was joking. I had a myriad of other obligations that prevented me from attending.
But something about the thought wouldn’t leave me alone. I learned long ago that inside every joke is a kernel of truth.
It nagged at the back of my mind for a couple of weeks. Mike and Brian didn’t need my support, but they surely would appreciate it. And I admit it, the idea of a dramatic “Thousand Dollar Breakfast” story seemed like it would be fun to tell. At the least, it would yield a blog post (which you are reading right now.)
Trouble was, I already had a trip planned for that week (which by this time in the story was less than one week away.) Yet the more I thought about it, the heavier the idea weighed on me.
Ray, you need to change your plans even if it is inconvenient, I thought. Perhaps especially because it is inconvenient. Remember Manhattan.
I don’t know why, but often I don't hear God telling me something important. Usually because I'm busy explaining to Him why it’s a bad idea.
But that’s okay, because when He wants me to hear something I'm trying to ignore, He just turns up the volume.
For instance, my friend Cliff Ravenscraft told me he was attending Coaching With Excellence.
Did I realize I was getting another “nudge” from the Head Office? Nope. I just thought, “What an odd coincidence.”
This should have been a clue in itself because I don’t believe in coincidence.
So the volume got cranked up another notch.
I got an email from Michael Hyatt, saying “Are you coming to Nashville next week? If so, I’d love to get together with you if you have the time.”
I eventually can, and often do, finally recognize when God is trying to tell me something.
I needed to be in Nashville.
This was another incidence where I would need to wipe my calendar, and make another inconvenient trip. I would be there to support Mike Kim and Brian Dixon, and in the bargain I would get to see a lot of friends. I did both.
The 3 Positive Payoffs Of Inconvenient Investments in Others
Remember, my first motivation was to show up for Mike and Brian. I think God used all the other benefits just to break me out of inertia and get me moving in the right direction. I think we all should make these wise, but inconvenient, investments in other people. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do, of course. And also because of at least 3 positive payoffs.
- The inconvenience multiplies the return. It’s a truth we all recognize. The more we pay for something – in time, effort, inconvenience, and money – the more we value it. This is not just a psychological trick we play on ourselves, either. Because we value our investment more, we tend to look for ways to maximize the return we receive. On this trip, that included meeting up with Aaron Walker, John Meese, Jevonnah Ellison, Jeff Brown, Jeff Sanders, David Molnar, Grant Baldwin, Kelly Garrett Hancock, Kary Oberbrunner, Andy Traub, Ken Davis, Jessica Turner, David Hooper and Jody Maberry. It meant an unexpected invitation to speak at Dan Miller’s Coaching With Excellence event. It meant an opportunity to put advance copies of my new book, How to Write Copy That Sells, into the hands of 75 people.
- There is power in proximity. Today we have communications technology that was the stuff of science fiction only a few decades ago. Because of this, sometimes we forget the value in physical presence. It doesn’t matter how good your webcam is. It doesn't matter how fast your internet. No remote communications app has the same impact as your physical presence. Nothing will ever replace the connection power of a handshake or a hug – and you can’t get those online. Your ability to influence, and to be influenced, increases with your physical presence.
- We value those who value us. Once upon a time, I was debating whether to attend a wedding. I wasn’t in the wedding. I wasn’t family. They wouldn’t even notice I was there. My wife, Lynn, piped in with her usual casual wisdom: “They may not remember who was there, but they will certainly remember who was not.” I went to the wedding. The principal at work here is: we value those who value us. Sometimes the most powerful way to prove you value them is the act of showing up.
At this point you may be wondering: did I go to Nashville to support Mike and Brian? Or did I go because I saw an opportunity for myself? The easy answer would be, “both.” But that’s not entirely true. I went so that I could support my two friends. To show up for them. The opportunities – the payoffs – only began to appear after I made that decision. Heed this well: if you do these things only because of the opportunities, people will sniff you out. They will know your “good deeds” are mercenary manipulations. That has no lasting value and actually hurts you in the long run.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect positive payoffs. It does mean that you should check your motives, and at least be clear who you are investing in first – you, or them? The fact that in one sense the answer is “both” doesn’t change the truth that the order makes a difference. If you want to discover your true motivation, ask yourself this question. “Would I make this inconvenient investment in the other person, even if I knew there was no direct payoff in it for me?”
In the case of my Tennessee trip last week, answer was “yes, I would.” And yes, flying 1,624 miles and paying $1,706.70 just to be at the breakfast did end up paying off for me in a big way. But probably not the way you think. After I got home, I received this message from Mike Kim:
Thanks again for EVERYTHING last week. I will never forget your kindness, support, and geneosity.
That “payoff” was worth the whole trip. And no, it's not practical for me to do this for everyone, or even often. As Andy Stanley says, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone”
One last thing.
I didn’t actually pay for breakfast: Mike and Brian did.
What has your experience been with making inconvenient investments in other people?