On Eating Alone

Ever eat lunch alone?

I know, it sounds contrary to the entire concept of networking and approachability. Especially if you’ve read Keith Ferrazzi’s best selling book, Never Eat Alone. But hear me out on this one. Because eating alone (every once in a while) gives you an opportunity to do something you often forget to do while dining out with a client or coworker: observe.

Now, don’t think of it as eavesdropping, snooping or spying. It’s research. And it’s amazing what you can learn about approachability if you just immerse yourself in it, watch, and then listen.

So, I tried it yesterday. I ate at my favorite lunch spot, all by my lonesome. Just me, some gumbo and a book by John Maxwell. The smell of seafood filled the air, dozens of businesspeople talked about their plans for the week and servers frantically hustled around the floor to deliver their guests’ meals.

And here’s what I observed…

  • Two businesspeople seated to my left fumbled through folders and papers. The man in the red tie did most of the talking while the woman across the booth hung on his every word. He asked engaging questions. She gave creative answers. At one point, I sensed confusion in the women’s voice, but then felt reassurance in the man’s voice as he leaned closer and softened his tone. I also heard him say “Heather” three times. Nice. Then I heard laughter. Very nice. And of course, I saw smiles on both sides of the booth. Awesome!
  • At another table I saw two guys carefully examine a spreadsheet. They deeply immersed themselves in the numbers while completely ignoring the poor waitress who worked her butt off trying to deliver their dishes on time. And they barely acknowledged her existence, much less offered a simple “thank you” for their multiple ice-tea refills.
  • I also noticed five women seated around a booth laughing hysterically with their server. One of them wiped away tears of hilarity with her bev-nap, while two others high-fived each other at a joke I sort of wished I heard.
  • And on the way out the door I heard someone’s cell phone go off. Oh no! I thought. Sure enough, I watched a woman gave her client the “Just A Minute While I Talk To Someone More Important That You Index Finger,” while she took the call. Ten seconds later she returned to the conversation and said, “Sorry, what were you saying?”

    I paid my check, took my mint and thanked my server for doing a great job. When I got back to the office I hopped online to see if I could dig up some statistics on lunch meetings. Interestingly enough, I came across a great survey about lunch meeting etiquette developed by The Creative Group. It was conducted by an independent research firm and includes 250 responses from advertising executives and marketing executives among the nation’s 1,000 largest companies.

    Respondents were asked, “Which one of the following actions do you think would most hurt a professional’s chances of impressing a current or potential client during a lunch meeting?”

    “Displaying poor manners when interacting with the wait staff — or anyone — during a business meeting will prompt prospective clients and business partners to question whether they and their staff members will be treated the same,” said Tracey Turner, executive director of The Creative Group. “Showing up late is a similar sign of disrespect.”

    Added Turner, “The key to a successful lunch meeting is making people feel comfortable. Behaving graciously throughout the meal will go a long way toward forming a positive working relationship.”

    That was the word I was looking for: comfort. After all, comfort is the axis upon which approachability rotates. Comfort is the reason strangers become friends, friends become prospects, prospects become clients, and clients become fans. And fans are the people who “love your stuff,” tell their friends about you and maintain confidence in your ability to give them unique value.

    Still, it kind of made me wonder: “What table did I sit at during my last lunch meeting?”

    Was I the engaging businessperson at an enjoyable, yet productive lunch? Did I sit across a table from an inconsiderate cell phone junkie? Was I the workaholic who shunned the outside world at the expense of my server’s frustration? Or was I the group of friends who saw lunch as a much needed vacation from the stresses of a typical workday?

    Either way, Yogi Berra was right. “You can observe a lot by just watching.” So this week, I challenge you to go out to lunch at the most crowded, popular, loud, and packed-to-the-walls-with-businesspeople restaurant in your area.

    And I want you to go all by yourself.

    Now, I know that might sound a bit awkward to you. But trust me, it’s great field research. So just give it a shot! You’ll learn a lot about approachability. And if you want, you can even bring along a good book to read during your lunch. If so, I highly recommend Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone.


    What did you learn last time you ate alone?

    * * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag

  • If everyone did exactly what you said, what would the world look like?

    OK. I’ll give props to MySpace: it’s great for giving people a voice, connecting new and old friends, even helping upcoming bands/comedians/artists promote their work. On the other hand, most people who use it will admit: “Yeah, but it DOES get really addicting.”

    Wouldn’t know. I don’t have a MySpace page. Although I have considered getting one. But for now I think I’ll just stick with good ol’ Blogger…AND my new favorite, Squidoo. It’s Seth’s new project, launched about a month ago. To me, it’s like MySpace, but for experts. The motto is, “Everyone’s an expert at something. Spread your ideas, make yourself known, and earn a royalty. What’s your topic?”

    I set up my own lens, which took about 3 hours. It was a piece of cake. And when it was done, I thought to myself, “Man…every author, speaker, expert, blogger, entrepreneur and businessperson would be crazy NOT to do this!”

    Now, unless this is your first time at HELLO, my name is Blog (if so, Welcome!) then I’m sure you’ve figured out that I’m big on creating one’s own philosophy, school of thought, point of view, etc. Which is why I think Squidoo is so cool. It gives ordinary businesspeople like you and me a chance to share our philosophies.

    Of course, not everyone has a philosophy. At least, they don’t think they do. But my best friend, mentor and former 10th grade English teacher, William Jenkins, once asked me an extremely powerful question:

    “Scott, if everybody did exactly what you said,
    what would the world look like?”

    If you can find the answer to that question, you’ve got your philosophy. And if you’ve got your philosophy, you’ve got your uniqueness. Then all you have to do is make sure each of your actions provides your customers with the tools they need to build that world.


    If everybody did exactly what you said, what would the world look like?

    * * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag

    How to turn hate mail into great mail

    John Moore of Brand Autopsy posted a great article by Rick Nobles called Congratulations – Someone Hates Your Brand!

    A few excerpts:

    “Having someone hate you lets you know you’re doing a good job of branding.”

    “When you put a stake in the ground and say ‘this is who I am,’ you are also saying ‘this is who I’m not.’ Identity is all about creating parameters, drawing lines among the wealth of possible attributes out there, shaping what your brand values and what it doesn’t. So when you get a hostile member of society that takes time out of his busy day to let you know about it, be glad—you’re conveying a definite sense of brand self.”

    “Here’s the deal: If your brand is clearly defined enough to have the power to attract enemies, it also has the power to attract raving fans. And the raving fans of your brand are the ones who return again and again. They’re the ones who will tell their friends about you. They’re the ones who will wear your logo. They’re the ones that almost enjoy the annoyance of your brand-haters and will keep coming back for more.”

    * * * *

    The reason this article caught my attention is because I’ve received a lot of hate mail in the past six years. For those of you who remember the old days of The Guestbook, you’ve probably shared a good laugh with me while reading some of those letters.

    But I guess I never understood why someone would send hate mail to a guy wearing a nametag to make the world friendlier. Doesn’t seem logical. But then again, to some people, wearing a nametag 24-7 doesn’t seem logical either! Interestingly enough, the word hate mail IS in the dictionary. It means “correspondence that expresses the sender’s animosity, disapproval, or prejudice, often in offensive language.” Here’s some of my favorite hate mail letters from over the years:

    “I don’t get it. So you wear a nametag for attention? You must be an only child. Props for making money off something so dumb.”

    “Pathetic. That is the only word I can think of to describe you and your idea.”

    “You are nuttier than a bag of trail mix!”

    Oh well. Guess you can’t make everybody happy. Still, I think Peter Montoya said it best in The Brand Called You: “If everybody likes your brand, you’re doing something wrong.”

    Which reminds me, I’ve always wanted to write an article called “How to Turn Hate Mail into Great Mail.” I’d love to hear your stories, ideas and lessons learned to be used in an upcoming column.


    How do you turn hate mail into great mail?

    * * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag

    Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself

    “Don’t tell ’em what you did, tell ’em what you learned.”

    Ok then. Here’s what I learned in 2005:

    * * * *

    BE the change you want to see in the world. Be brilliant at the basics. Be the first one. Be the only one. Be unforgettable. Be interesting. Be a sleeper. Be that guy. Be the world’s experton yourself. Be better than yesterday, but not as good as tomorrow. Be confident enough to be humble. But be somebody who reminds everybody of nobody else in the world.

    AND DON’T wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don’t sell, enable people to buy. Don’t let the bastards get you down. Don’t be weary in well doing, for in due season you will reap a great harvest if you faint not. And don’t wait for the mainstream to validate your voice. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings. Don’t be selfish with your knowledge. Don’t complain if you haven’t earned the right. And don’t be different, be unique.

    BECAUSE YOU are what you charge. You are what you believe. You are the books you’ve read and the people you’ve met. And you are an empty sheet of paper in the minds of every person you encounter.

    AFTER ALL, the world cannot resist a man on a mission. The best swimmers are always in the pool. The sculpture is inside the stone. And the two greatest days in your life are the day you’re born, and the day you realize why you were born.

    AND if you are successful you will always have too much to do and too little time. If you aren’t being criticized, you aren’t doing much. And if everyone says you’re out of your mind, you just might be onto something.

    EVEN THOUGH, IT’S not easy being yourself. Then again, it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you. And it’s not the years, it’s the mileage.

    SO, WORK hard, work long and work smart. Work like you don’t need the money. And work from technique, because you never know how you will feel.

    AND DON’T FORGET THAT success leaves clues. That confidence is king. That credibility comes from specificity. That listening is not waiting to talk. And that a nice person who is mean to a waiter is not a nice person.

    ALSO, TO tell the truth, to tell it all and to tell it now. To give value first. To paint yourself into a good corner. To allow customers to participate in your brand. To do the work once and benefit many times. To give yourself away. To respect people’s no’s. To take massive action. And to act as if you already were the person you’re trying to become.

    THEREFORE, ALWAYS stand up, stand out or be counted out. Discover your Personal Differential Advantage. Own a word. Learn to love your zone of discomfort. Greet each day with love in your heart. Show, don’t tell. Make daily appointments with yourself. Never apologize for your art. Remember your Victory Dance. Work harder on yourself than your job. Find your one big idea. And always validate your existence, be yourself and do something cool – every single day.

    BECAUSE life isn’t about finding yourself; it’s about creating yourself.


    What did you learn in 2005?

    * * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag

    The Cleveland Marriott gets my vote for best employee nametags ever

    I stayed at the Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center last weekend for a wedding. As soon as I checked in, I noticed the employee nametags had something noticeably different on them: another name. (Sorry the pic is tough to see…not an easy shot)

    “Why does your nametag say ‘The Boss’ on it?” I asked Jonathan.

    “Oh, Bruce is my favorite! See, we all have a different musician underneath our name – you know, to promote the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame.”

    “Ahhh…nice. Great idea. So, what’s your favorite Springsteen song?”

    “I’d say ‘Born to Run,'” Jonathan said.

    “Good call! ‘Glory Days’ is my jam,” I said.

    “Yeah, that’s a great one too…well, here’s your room key, Mr. Ginsberg. And let me know if I can do anything else for you. Enjoy your stay!”

    * * * *

    I stay in hotels a fair amount. But rarely do I tell everyone I know about a conversation I had at the check-in counter.

    And why?

    Because they usually suck. Or don’t exist. Or begin with “Name?”

    But in about 30 seconds, this frontline employee made an UNFORGETTABLE first impression. And a big part of that was discovering the CPI, or Common Point of Interest via his employee nametag.

    Upon checking out, I wrote Jonathan a glowing comment card. That’s the first time I’ve ever done that in my life. After I handed it to him he said, “Mr. Ginsberg, I noticed you wore a nametag all weekend – even on your tux! You must really like nametags, huh?”

    “You have no idea.”


    When was the last time a frontline employee stepped onto your front porch?

    * * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag

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