When I was 10 years old, and a huge fan of the comic strip Peanuts by Charles Schulz, I wanted nothing more than to be a syndicated cartoonist like he was.
In my wildly optimistic young mind, I thought that if I knew what kind of pen he used to draw Peanuts, I could somehow replicate his success. But how to discover this revelatory information?
In a paperback bio of Charles Schulz my mom had bought me, I learned that the famous cartoonist was an avid hockey fan–and amateur player–and that he owned a hockey arena in Northern California. The named facility was easily looked up by calling 411, and so, one Sunday dinner at my grand-parent’s home, while the adults were having their pre-meal cocktails, I was upstairs in the bedroom on grandma’s pink princess rotary-dial.
I had deduced, quite logically, that Mr. Schulz probably enjoyed his weekends at his favorite past time and it was worth a shot to just call up and ask if he happened to be in the building. Lucky shot!
“Hello, is Mr. Schulz there please?” I was taught polite manners from a very early age.
“Yes, I believe he is around here somewhere,” said the person who answered the phone. “Whom shall I say is calling?”
“I’m Tommy Stevens,” I replied. (Certainly Schulz had close friends out of state who were children!)
A minute or two later, another voice came on the line.
“Hello, this is Charles Schulz.”
Wow. What a score!
“Um, hi Mr. Schulz, this is Tommy Stevens calling from Detroit.”
“Yes, and how may I help you?” Mr. Schulz was very polite, and patient with me.
“Well, I like to draw comic strips just like you, and I was wondering if you could tell me what kind of pen you use to draw Peanuts?”
The long and short of it is that Charles Schulz gave me a brief and good natured lesson on the merits of discovering my own preferences for pens and magic markers. He advised me to find a tool that I was comfortable with and to find my own style.
Although disappointed I did not get the exact information I’d desired, I was elated at having succeeded in getting one of my heroes to talk to me–and long distance at that.
This is a skill that I’ve used throughout my life, particularly in matters of business. And I regret that I don’t use it more often, as it can pay great dividends.
But, like the dog that perpetually chases cars, the question is: What does he do when he catches one?
It depends on whether you’re just “trophy calling” for the sheer joy of scoring a connection with a famous person, firewalls be damned…something authors like Tim Ferriss (The Four Hour Work Week) advises to practice getting out of one’s comfort zone.
If, on the other hand, you have a specific question–such as asking asking success author Tony Robbins if he might share the name of his literary agent–go for it. But you’d better have (or you are best off having) a bonafide use for seeking said info.
It’s popularly called being able “to cash the checks you write with your mouth.” Or at least to have enough confidence in yourself to shoot for the moon.
In my upcoming book, The Method, Everything is Possible* I go into greater detail on how and why you can and should use the telephone (and snail mail too!) to reach out and expand your sphere of influence.
The only questions are, what is it you want to know or learn from the target of your aspirations–and always: What are you selling?
You may well end up with an open door to the new contact you forge with these ambitious, cold call communications…just make sure you’re the dog who actually wants to drive (or at least catch a ride in) the Maserati you choose to chase!