I met Alan Webber last week and liked him immediately. We were attending a small conference at Cal., and worked together on a brainstorming exercise to explore how to make a city more like a platform. It was a great conversation. We hopped the same bart train home and had an equally interesting conversation about economic development. He was clearly someone with lots of experience and wisdom and great ideas – but beyond that, he was friendly, open, playful and fun.
Someone at the conference asked me “Is that Alan Webber?” “I don’t know” I replied, not knowing who Alan Webber was. When I got home, I went to find out a little bit more about my new conference buddy. I’m glad I did this after I met him, or I would have been completely intimidated and probably acted like a total dork blocking what I hope is a connection that can grow, since we share many interests and are bound to run into one another again.
Turns out he was a key contributor to the city government that revitalized of the city of Portland, Oregon, a longtime editor at HBR and co-founder of Fast Company magazine amongst other equally impressive accomplishments. After learning all this I still felt like a dork for not knowing who he was, since I was an avid reader of Fast Company back when it launched.
So there are two points. The first is, Allan Webber wrote a damn good book called Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths about wining in business without losing your self. I bought it immediately and read it in two sittings. It was pragmatic, optimistic, useful and completely down to earth. If, like me, you didn’t read it when it was no doubt, on the best seller list, read it now. I guarantee you will find pearls of wisdom you can apply to whatever you’re doing. And the second is: if you are, like me, a self-effacing introvert who gets intimidated by other people because of their exterior personas, break that habit. People are just people. Find out who they are and see if you like them no matter what their accomplishments. I’m learning this lesson again and again.