cafe tablesI didn’t know what to expect. The guy was a complete stranger, yet here we were having a delightful and very natural conversation. We talked about our kids, observations about life and social media.

A few days prior to our meeting, I saw a tweet from this guy saying he’d be in the Bay Area and asking if anyone wanted to get together. Twitter, at that time (about two years ago), was a much more intimate place. While I didn’t know him at all, I went to his profile to read a few of his tweets. He seemed like a friendly person who had a passion for using social media to connect with others. I was relatively new to Twitter at the time and decided to take a chance. He and I had never interacted before, but what’s the worst that could happen? I replied to his tweet, half-expecting not to hear back from him. But, I did.

There are moments in each of our lives when the path isn’t clear. We can keep on doing what we’ve been doing and be just fine, or we can take a chance, challenge ourselves and try something new. I wouldn’t realize until later that this was one of those moments for me.

I began my career in the corporate world somewhere around the dawn of time, but had been developing an interest and some level of expertise in social media and reputation management for quite some time. It wasn’t an intentional shift, it naturally evolved over time. A friend, who knew of my growing interest and skills, invited me to speak to a local organization and share some tips. The presentation was well received and the requests for me to speak and coach others began to pour in. I had already been a huge LinkedIn user and advocate for years prior to this and, similarly, was frequently asked to help others learn how to best use the tool.

I have no tech background, unless you count the two weeks I spent in college with keypunch cards. I didn’t get my first email account until I was well into my career. I wouldn’t know code if it ran over me. The first time I posted an event to Eventbrite, it took me an entire day – one from-morning-til-night day. It was new to me; this was all new to me. I pushed myself. I was frustrated. I was having fun. I had forgotten what it was like to have fun.

When I coached others, I often used myself as an example. “If I can learn to do it, so can you. I will be here to help you.” I found that this “take it slow” approach resonated with smart and talented people who happened to be just a little bit behind me in the learning curve. Still, I was doing this as a side project along with my other work. Inside, I wondered where this might take me. Was I too old to have a voice or have something to contribute? Would I make a fool out of myself because of my lack of tech skills? These and other questions had been churning in my mind, yet I had never shared my vision or concerns aloud.

He teased me about my social life. That’s when I knew we had connected. I somehow trusted him and wanted to get his feedback. His expertise far exceeded my own. He’s far younger than I am. I knew he had a completely different point of view, which is exactly what I wanted.

As I talked about the voice and presence I hoped to have, I expected him to laugh at the thought of someone from a pre-interenet generation imagining that they had something of value to share. I had already rationalized in my head that it would be OK if he laughed. I was ready for it, but it never happened. He immediately smiled and told me there was a great need for someone like me. He even offered helpful suggestions for next steps.

Looking back, there is no doubt that this was a moment for me. A guy with no agenda other than to be supportive and kind allowed me to take a leap of faith, saying aloud what had only been inside. After spending the afternoon together at a sidewalk cafe, I left feeling confident and energized. He smiled, he nodded, he bought me juice. And, he didn’t laugh at me.

We seldom know when others are in the midst of such a moment. They may not know it themselves. As they share what is on their minds, I wonder… Am I fully listening? Am I connecting? Am I being supportive?

I will forever be grateful for that wonderful afternoon with the nice guy who felt comfortable enough to tease me and who didn’t laugh. Thank you, Chris Brogan, for treating all moments as if they are important.

Image courtesy of *clairity*

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