How I Gained Something From Nothing
“You know, it’d be a pretty cool idea to write to Simon Sinek.”
I had just finished reading his book, “Start With Why” and was feeling very inspired by his philosophy and outlook on life. I’d watched his TED Talk as well, and understood that he was not only a sophisticated writer, but also an excellent speaker who understood his audience deeply. Their emotions, wants, needs — he’s able to carefully craft his words to inspire those who needed to hear a different message surrounding how we see work.
As I thought about how cool it would be to reach out to him, another voice in my head said: “Why not just do it?”
It was the wisdom of other successful individuals, ranging from business empire moguls to social impact change-makers. Everyone who’s anyone today knows this bit of advice: that to get what you want, you can’t wait to find out if you can, but you need to just go after it.
“But I’m not them”, I replied to my own thoughts. I was so convinced of my normalness, that I was stopping myself from even trying. It was out of character for me to do something as outlandish as hope that I could get a response from one of the most well-known public speakers in the world. I couldn’t even get my college professor to reply to my emails, how could I ever get Simon Sinek to pay attention to me?
I don’t know what made me do it. Maybe it was some weird switch in my brain, maybe it was the residue inspiration I was still feeling from finishing Mr. Sinek’s book. Maybe it was the fact that I realized I seriously had nothing to lose from trying. Doesn’t matter — I decided that I was going to write to Simon Sinek.
Please Read My Carefully Crafted, Artisanal Mail
I knew that Mr. Sinek was a very busy man. He’s also a popular public figure, with many fans around the world. If my message was going to catch his attention, it had to stand out. It had to be artisanal.
This observation quickly crossed emailing off the list. He wouldn’t open an email from a random stranger, but maybe he would open a carefully crafted, beautiful piece of handwritten mail? I looked up his office on Google, and found a New York address linked to it. I had a location!
The next step was the difficult part. How do I write a letter that Mr. Sinek could respond to? It had to be interesting, honest, and tasteful. I wanted it to inspire him as he’s inspired me, to express gratitude for the ideas he’s putting out into the world and the message he’s trying to spread. But as I began drafting my letter on my laptop, I was beginning to get writer’s block. Oh no. What do I say? How do I say it? My sentences became long and wordy, my point skewed, and the feeling unclear. I wrote, deleted, wrote, deleted. I don’t know how to write a letter that would get the attention of Mr. Sinek.
Thankfully I caught myself starting to stop myself, so I closed my laptop and instead took out a piece of paper. Just write one letter, and whatever comes to mind. No second or third draft, no long edits and no repeated revisions. In five minutes I wrote my message, and then transferred it to a nice piece of letter paper. Folded, and put it in an envelope.
But like any effective writer, I knew that I was still missing something: the Call to Action. I wanted to give him a way to respond to my message, in case he enjoyed my letter. Instead of giving him my email or cell number, of which would be a very easy yet boring way to reply to someone, I instead put in a blank postcard.
On the postcard, I wrote in my address and put a stamp on in the corner so it was already ready to send. On the postcard I stuck on a Post-it,
“Dear Mr. Sinek, I can not get my book autographed from you, but it would mean the world to me if you could sign this blank postcard so I can paste it into my book.”
Streamlining the work as much as I possibly could, I hoped that he might take the step to respond to me.
The next morning, I went to the post office and put my letter in the postbox.
4 Months Later
I looked up online how long it takes for mail to send. 1–2 weeks. So if I sent it two weeks ago, maybe it just arrived. And if he were to respond, let’s say it’s within a week of arriving or so, just so there’s some margin of error. And so if I were to get a response, it would be about 5 weeks. Let’s say 6 weeks.
I decided that I would hold hope for 6 weeks, for Mr. Sinek to respond.
The following days were filled with anticipation. Did he respond? Is it here? Maybe not yet, be a bit more patient.
But the weeks would go by where I would return to an empty mailbox.
By 2 months, I was losing hope.
By 3 months, I gave up looking for his letter.
By 4 months, I’d forgotten about the letter.
But it was around that 16th week after I sent my letter that I got a weird package in the mail. On the package was a piece of paper cut in half and taped to the front. It was my handwriting. It was my letter, with my address taped on.
I opened the package, and found that Mr. Sinek had sent me a signed copy of “Start With Why” and a signed copy of his other book, “Together is Better: A Little Book of Inspiration”. Also included was a letter set and a signed card.
I realized that the whole time I thought my letter didn’t go through, it was actually Mr. Sinek taking the time to send a whole package over. That’s why it took 4 months.
The Infinite Returns You Get From Just Doing
I suddenly saw the writer’s block I was experiencing earlier as a blessing in disguise. It made my letter very short, only covering the very surface of what I originally wanted to say, but maybe that’s precisely why he took the time to read it. The blank postcard idea, which seemed like an outlandish or ineffective way to get a response, made me realize that it was so much better than putting down an email.
The gift I received from Mr. Sinek was an act of his kindness and thoughtfulness. I didn’t really work for it or deserve the gesture, but I realized that just by acting on my impulse I was able to receive something incredibly personal and valuable from someone who inspires me.
A repeated mantra I’ve heard from many successful people before, for the first time I really got to experience the power of just doing. For many people this might seem like a small or lucky win, but I’m still pretty glad that I acted. Because everyone has the thought,
“You know, it’d be a pretty cool idea to ____________.”
But it really is the steps after that make the difference.
If this article was any use to you, please leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! I love hearing from individuals, learning from them, and the personal stories people have to share. I reply to every single email I get, and want nothing more than to support those who are looking for a bit of guidance and ways to help themselves.