When You’re Stuck, Go Out And Talk To People

Yay! It's a nameless hotel ballroom! But the people who fill it are what matter...

I had one of those kind of days yesterday that reaffirm my belief in our industry, in its people, and in the work I do.

It’s not easy to sit here and write, much less write a book, and I’ll admit lately my faith (and my productivity) has flagged – there’s so much work left to do, so little time in which to do it, and so many other things – Federated Media, conferences, board positions, family, new business ideas – competing for my attention.

Fortunately I had reserved yesterday for a Valley reporting day. I managed to drag myself out of my recently-unproductive writer’s lair and into the bright sunlight of Sand Hill Road, Sunnyvale, and Palo Alto. I was fortunate to meet with some of the smartest folks in the business, and as I did, I relaized how easy it is to shake yourself out of a funk: Just get the hell out of your routine, pick up the phone, make a few appointments, and go talk to some interesting folks.

I’ll give you another example. Last week I went to Chicago for a joint board meeting between the IAB (where I am a board member), the Association of National Advertisers, and the 4As (that stands for the American Association of Advertising Agencies). I’ll admit I really didn’t want to go. I have come to hate business travel because it interrupts the flow of creation – I find it nearly impossible to write anything if I have to take the majority of the week to drive to the airport, get frisked, eat crap food on an airplane, then spend a couple of days in an airless, soul-sucking ballroom that practically drips with the steamed ghosts of ten thousand badly cooked chickens. Lather, rinse and repeat for the trip back. Ugh.

Only…once I settled into the meeting, I learned more in two days than I ever could from two weeks sitting in front of this screen. I got far smarter on the issues of marketing measurement, self regulation, and Do Not Track. I serendipitously managed to do some due diligence on a business I’ve been looking into. I gathered some critical intel on another deal I’ve been working, met a handful of senior people in the marketing industry I’ve been meaning to get to know, had lunch with an old colleague with whom I’d have otherwise never connected, and even managed to take a long run in the woods of Northbrook, Illinois, during which I happened upon a family of raccoons happily climbing a tree.

I left both excursions feeling like I had far more to say than when I began. And that’s my point. When you’re stuck, get out and talk to people. It always works for me.

14 thoughts on “When You’re Stuck, Go Out And Talk To People”

  1. I have to agree with this completely- love the ghosts of chickens part too!
    Have you tried just committing to writing a section at a time or to a time-block? I’m sure you have, but that is my plan for keeping my next book more on track, less redundant and crisp with more snap!

  2. Absolutely. A 10 mins coffee meeting with a VC(who gave a ‘pass’ to my startup twice before) changed my fortune. Had i not met him the third time casually at 5pm on friday i would have missed the opportunity of my life.

  3. Liking this as affirmation ..

    I think this is a great argument for distributed startups.  To get together we need to “do” something somewhere. So we do and serendipity kicks in every time – Why ?because enthusiasm never grows stale.
    Just got our first major traction by refusing to meet two clients at their office instead at a trade fair.  Result, we are seen in conversation with the market. Introductions abound – everyone at trade fairs would rather grab a coffee or beer somewhere  Suddenly we enjoy access to both and have been pushed up to C level.

    If there is a market for your wares – go meet it. 

    Even on a climbing wall – yes recently!

    1. Cool!


      John Battelle
      Author, What We Hath Wrought (working title, forthcoming 2013)
      Chair, founder, Federated Media Publishing
      Searchblog – Twitter

  4. Look at it like this, one person can compile a mountain of data, a vantage point unrealized- for new and compelling information about life, tech, social, etc.. , all you have to do is be a good listener, contributor and engage “Get out and talk to people.” This also works well for bosses in regards to their staff! *biztag

  5. I had noticed that getting out gave me new ideas and new posts, thought it was just me. Thanks for (again) showing the bigger picture!

  6. I’M agree with this view 。However, at the moment, but my experience is to fail! Why is that? Because of differences in values, resulting in top-level decision-making different. I think this is sad. Perhaps my English is not very good, So hoped the understanding !

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