Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
November 27, 201310:49 PM

Dear Nilofer Merchant

Dear Nilofer,

I thought about you twice today. Once this morning, when I got your email notification about your latest blog post, Gratitude, and then again when Tom Peters was tweeting about diversity on public boards (a topic that I know is near and dear to your heart). I find it amazing to think that we only met in 2009. It really does feel like we have been friends forever. That being said, I am forever indebted to Tara Hunt for introducing us. I'm not sure if you even know how your name came up, so I think it's time that I told you. I was telling Tara how much I enjoyed attending the TED conference, but how intimidated I was to just walk up and introduce myself to people. Without skipping a beat, Tara said that I HAVE to meet you. She made a quick email intro and - in those few email exchanges - you completely put my mind at ease and promised that you would be my wingman (wingperson... wingbud) at the next TED. Well, you haven't let me down since then. And, it's not just at our annual TED hangouts. I know that you have my back.

Thank you.

What you may not know is how much value I get from the content that you create. Sure, your blog is chock full of management nuggets and insights, but I was a huge fan of your first book, The New How and devoured (multiple times) 11 Rules For Creating Value In The #SocialEra, but that's the stuff that anybody can read. I wanted to share with you another component of our friendship that I cherish so deeply. I had a very fortunate upbringing. Not in terms of money and wealth (we were middle-class at best), but in terms of being exposed to and accepting people of all kinds. This was further deepened when I spent close to a decade writing for the alternative weekly newspaper in my hometown. I have always been surrounded by a veritable potpourri of different people from gender and religion to sexual preference and beyond. People were always people to me. At one point in my career, I did a small stint a public relations firm. During that time, I was attending a local networking event when an individual asked me what it was like to work for a woman. I was speechless. I was not mad or upset, just speechless because I had never even thought of it. It never registered. I didn't have an answer to the question because that thought had never entered my mind. I buried that moment in my life until I met you, hung out with you and realized how many people there are out in the world - smart people - who lack the ability to understand what diversity (of all kinds) brings to an organization.

You keep me thinking.

It's great to get new perspectives on marketing, the media and publishing, but when I'm connected to you (either in your online/public channels or when we get a chance to Skype or hang out in person) I learn more about people and how we can all work together better and strive for more. I don't get that from many others. That is something special.

Thank you.

I'm hopeful that you are celebrating Thanksgiving with your family and those that are close to you. While I may be a couple of hours away (by plane!), I just wanted to write you this note and thank you for bringing so much light and knowledge and friendship to my world. I can't wait for TED in Vancouver!

Big hugs,


P.S. - I could not be more proud of you for winning the Thinkers50 Award. That organization knows thinkers, brains and class :)

I was very moved by the book, Steal Like An Artist, by Austin Kleon. Especially the section titled, Write Fan Letters. The truth is that I used to always write a note to the author of the book that I had just finished. I guess I got too busy (or read to many books or became lazy) to keep at it. In Kleon's book, he recommends writing a public fan letter and ends the section by saying: "The most important thing is that you show your appreciation without expecting anything in return, and that you get new work out of the appreciation." It's a beautiful concept. With your permission, I'll be using this space from time to time to write these kinds of letters. Welcome to Project: Public Fan Letter. Feel free to do a few of them yourself. I wrote a few of them already for people like Seth Godin and Tom Peters.

By Mitch Joel