When is Enough Enough?
The table Jimmy Buffett was sitting at was off to the side of the dining room but not really private. After all, most of the diners at Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant are there to see and be seen. Tables are placed to accommodate their wishes.
Because Buffett’s position was so visible, diner after diner made a beeline for the star. They asked for signatures or a word or two with their idol. And Buffett was as accommodating as could be. At least until one guy overstayed his welcome and did everything but pull up a chair and snatch some French fries off Buffett’s plate. At this point Buffett apologized graciously, told the man that he had been enjoying a quiet meal with his family, and asked the guy to kindly leave them in peace.
The imposing boor was insulted. He told Buffett he’d bought his albums, attended his concerts, and was offended Buffett didn’t have time for his biggest fan. He stormed off.
A week or two later we ran a promotion for Miami tourism on South Beach. Part of the promo included appearances by two stars – Cameron Diaz and Jeff Goldblum. Diaz sat behind velvet ropes throughout the whole event, protected by an imposing bodyguard and an even more intimidating scowl. But Goldblum greeted everyone at the party like an old friend. Better yet, he found a way compliment every single person he spoke with. When the event was over, Diaz rushed directly to the security of her limousine. Goldblum sat on the porch of his hotel and chatted happily with each passerby that approached.
Some years ago, I lectured to a class of Ford engineers at MIT. Since that time, the professor who was teaching the class has published two or three best-sellers, gave a record-breaking TED talk, and has become a real business thought leader. Over the years, we’ve stayed in touch and I even asked him for a testimonial of my latest book, All About Them.
Last week I was reading the Wall Street Journal and saw a column by my now-famous friend. Excited by his success, I hopped on my email and sent him this note:
I just read your column in the WSJ.
Don’t know why I haven’t noticed it before but congratulations. Another great accomplishment for you. I’m glad and proud to say I know you.
Here’s what I got by return email (edited for brevity):
Thank you for writing me.
Due to work overload, my interest in too many things, my inability to take into account the opportunity costs of my time, and my general inability to say no — combined with my particular physical limitations — I am just unable to manage.
With this in mind, and for my health and sanity, I need to focus on the projects that I have already committed to and cut down on the time I spend responding to emails to about an hour a day.
If you have a question that you think other people might have asked before, or if you have a question that you think others might be interested in, please go to my section in Quora, read the existing questions and if your question is missing add it.
If you are interested in an interview, please write to my assistant.
For anything else, I will try to answer emails as they come but please know that if you don’t receive a response from me, it’s just a matter of too many emails and too little time.
Thanks for understanding.
My questions are simple:
I look forward to your thoughtful responses.