It’s amazing how many people pass through our lives in a lifetime. To quote a saying from the Grapes of Wrath, “some of the things folks do is nice, and some ain’t nice, but that’s as far as any man got a right to say.” But I do want to say a little more because every now and then these people can make a real difference. I found one of those people that made a difference in my professional life, and I was able to close a simple loop. I was able to do this by simply saying, “thank you.”
To tell this story, we need to travel back to 1994. There we find a wide-eyed Rob Jolles, fresh from the corporate womb called Xerox. Who leaves a safe and stable career, with a corporate giant like Xerox, to create his or her own business in a scary and unpredictable business world? Uh, me.
The game plan was simple: Create a professional speaking business specializing in sales and persuasion. All I needed to do was finish my sales book, grab my book deal, and begin my exciting new career. With a successful book on conducting seminars already out and doing well with John Wiley & Sons, I was sure that getting another book deal would be easy. The world would be my oyster.
Turns out my existing publisher didn’t want a sales book at the time, and neither did any other major publisher in the country. That wasn’t going to deter me, however, so my reach extended to midlevel publishers, small publishers, and just about anyone who hung a shingle out with the word “publisher” on it. A month turned into six months, and six months turned into a year. A year turned into 18 months, and then it happened. I met an editor named Janet Coleman.
I accepted Janet’s invitation to meet in New York, and there, after 18 months of countless callous, rude, insensitive, and occasionally cruel rejections, I met someone who believed in what I wrote. I’m not embarrassed to say that it was an emotional moment when I walked out of Simon & Schuster with a book deal in my hand, and it was easily one of the biggest moments of my professional career. The book did very well, and it became the backbone of a business now approaching its 18th year. Everyone was happy. Isn’t that a wonderful story?
But what became of Janet Coleman? Unfortunately, six months before the book even came out, she quietly left her job as editor and moved on. I was immediately moved to a new editor, and continued my book journey never hearing from Janet again. I thought about her from time to time, but that was about it. Another book followed that one, and then another, and my memory of Janet faded away… almost.
At different times, I would think back on that one defining moment in my career, and every time I did, I would think about Janet Coleman. How could she just not be there? I honestly don’t think I would have made it through my second year in business without her belief in my message, and me and I was never even able to say “thank-you” to her.
So, about a year and a half ago, I buckled down and worked harder to try and find her. I used every social media method I could find, but Janet Coleman is not exactly a unique name. Still, I sent out message after message to every single one of them, and then, having felt like I had exhausted my search, I received a reply this week with a few simple words that included, “that’s me.”
I’m sure that you are also aware of certain people who made a difference in your life. You may have been able to thank some of them, but what about the others? Often, these people have no idea the difference they have made in your life. I can say one thing with complete confidence: If they did know the difference they made in your life, it would mean the world to them. Don’t you think they deserve the pleasure of knowing that they made a difference in your life?
I hope that I’ve inspired you to stop thinking about it, and launch a search of your own. Find one of those people who made a difference in your life, and tell them how meaningful they were in your life. Close the loop. As for Janet Coleman, I was finally able to say thank you. I was able to thank her for believing in me. I told her that she had made a difference in my life. Oh, and Janet did say something else when she received my email and finally understood the impact she had on my career and life. She said, “Nothing could please me more.”