“I Wish I Could Help, But I don’t Want To.” *
I co-host a podcast called “Getting Unstuck – Educators Leading Change.” Have for almost three years now. As of today, there are well over 50 high-quality podcasts just focused on K-12 teaching, learning, and leading. It’s a crowded space; we’re all vying for the same ears. So getting guests who have something important to add to the discussion around schooling and education is critical. Otherwise, you could be talking into an empty mic.
When we started three years ago, I never considered trying to schedule “high-profile” guests. A “high-profile” guest has achieved a respectable level of public acceptance in their circle, and depending on the guest, that circle can be very large. “Why would they come on our show?” I mused, channeling my deepest inner critic. “We’re new, largely unknown, and have a small audience.”
But over time I wondered, what’s the worst that can happen? They’ll either say, “Yes, I’d be delighted!” or “No, but thanks for thinking of me.”
As a result, we have scheduled some guests that made me, well, giddy with anticipation. Maybe I had fallen in love with their best-selling book, or their widely watched TEDx Talk, or the fact that they started a new type of transformational school. I had to pinch myself when they said “Yes, of course.” Wha? You’re coming on our show???
And we’ve also had our share of high-profiled guests who responded with a polite rejection. “Sorry, I just can’t right now.” And I get that. We have nowhere near the audience of podcasters such as Tim Ferriss, Brene Brown, or Oprah Winfrey.
But, it turned out, “Yes!” or “No…” weren’t the only two possible responses. A third – and much more powerful response – lurked in the shadows.
And boy, does my inner critic love giving me the snarky “Told ya….”
One of the oft mentioned ills of the social media age we find ourselves in is “ghosting” — the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication. “Ghosting” assumes a relationship exists. But how do you define an overture to start a relationship – however informal and brief – that is simply ignored?
It shouldn’t matter, I tell myself. Come on, people are busy, and they probably get hundreds, maybe thousands of requests for their time. Give it a rest.
But it does matter. We’re a society that’s increasingly at odds with itself, so why do we pass up opportunities to be just a little bit kind to one another? Hey, all of these “cricketeers” have publicists, I silently rail. I mean, honestly, how long would it take to type: “Thank you for your wonderful, heartfelt, and genuine invitation, Jeff. Your show sounds amazing, and I’m sure you’re an excellent interviewer, but unfortunately….”?
Even in rejection, I would have been acknowledged to exist.
Having just watched the Eagle’s Reunion concert from Melbourne, AU (filmed in 2005), I have all their songs rolling around in my head, and as I angrily typed that last bit, the lyrics to “Just Too Busy Being Fabulous” come pouring out:
And you were just too busy being fabulous
Too busy to think about us
I don’t know what you were dreaming of
Somehow you forgot about love
And you were just too busy being fabulous, uh-huh
OK, Mr/Mrs/Ms Fabulous, that’s the last time I read one of your books, or watch another of your TEDx Talks!
And then it dawned on me. I have behaved in much the same way.
As part of the ever-growing coaching and podcast communities of which I’m a member, I routinely receive email or LinkedIn overtures from service providers to help me grow my coaching business to six, nay, seven figures(!) and to increase my podcast audience X fold(!). Until recently, I would simply have hit “Delete.”
OK, ok, it’s not exactly the same thing. I don’t crop-dust invitations to just anyone associated with education. When I approach a high-profile potential guest, it’s because of something specific they wrote, said or created about education that’s impactful – and not merely because they have “author,” “speaker,” or “educator” in their LinkedIn headline.
But’s it’s kind of the same thing in how I tended to respond in the past.
So, I’ve started to write a short note in response — at least to some of them. If I get their pitch 20 seconds after accepting their invitation to connect, I still hit “Delete.” But if they mention that they listened to a specific podcast episode, or read through the client recommendations on my LinkedIn site, ok, I’ll read their pitch. That’s always a learning experience. But up to this point, I still respond with “Thanks for your inquiry, (name). Your service sounds interesting, but I’m in pretty good shape with __________ right now.”
Is that disingenuous? Or is it just being kind? After all, (name) exists, and he or she is just trying to make a living.
And who wants to give someone a “Heartache Tonight”?
*Phoebe from “Friends,” Season 1, Episode 1