Pedestals prevent friendships

by Derek Sivers
CD Baby Founder, author, musician, producer, entrepreneur, TED speaker.

I was a struggling musician, with big ambitions, but not much success, when I went to a music industry conference in Las Vegas to promote my music.I was nervously doing everything I could to make connections with the executives at all the big music companies. I would attend every panel of experts, taking notes on everyone’s name, and going up to the stage afterwards to introduce myself and get their contact info. I had these people up on a pedestal. I was terrified of them. The stakes were high. These were the people who could make my career. It was mentally and emotionally exhausting.

So during lunch I went out to the pool, and stuck my feet in the water, just to silently retreat. Some dude sat next to me, and did the same. He said, “I see you’ve noticed the bikini girls, too.” I had. So we sat there, feet in the pool, talking about those girls in bikinis over there, how weird Las Vegas is, how a friend of his was up all night gambling, and other random chit-chat. He was a really cool dude — the rare kind I just click with right away. I assumed he must be a fellow musician.But when he got up to leave, he said, “Really great talking with you. Let’s keep in touch,” and handed me his business card. Holy shit! He was the vice president of one of the biggest record labels!I learned a huge lesson that day.If I would have known who he was, in advance, I never would have had a real conversation with him. I would have been awkward, self-conscious, and trying to promote myself. But because I didn’t know, I could connect on a personal level, and be a real friend.

I used to think that having connections in the music industry meant that you’d have business meetings, just talking about your mutual business interests. But again and again I’ve realized that we make real connections by talking about anything else, and just clicking as friends. And people send business to people they like.

So beware of putting people on a pedestal. It can prevent a real friendship.

Postscript to this story: We kept in touch, and he ended up sending me some of my most successful CD Baby clients. Now, 20 years later, I just emailed him to tell him I’m writing this story.

Other works by Derek Sivers at TribeLA Magazine.

Derek loves any thoughts or feedback.  Please use the “leave a reply” comment box at the end of each article, so he can have feedback organized per-article. But if you’d rather reply by email, that’s fine too.  Email Derek at:

Here are links to the other six chapters:

  1. Get personal
  2. Use the internet, not just companies
  3. What it means to be resourceful
  4. Why you need a database
  5. Move to the big city
  6. Shed your money taboos

Derek Sivers is a programmer, writer, and avid student of life. He reads a ton of really good books, makes useful things, and shares what he learns.

Here’s more about Derek in 10 seconds:

I’ve been a musician, producer, circus performer, entrepreneur, TED speaker, and book publisher. I started CDBaby and HostBaby, until I felt done, then gave them away. My audio/book about it compresses everything I learned into a one hour read. Now I’m a writer, programmer, student, and I guess interviewee. I’m fascinated with the usable psychology of self-improvement, business, philosophy, and culture. I love finding a different point of view. A total introvert (INTJ), I thrive in solitude. I am a Minimalist and I prefer giving to getting. California native. I now live in New Zealand and Singapore. I am deeply happy and anti-drama.

ASK DEREK: CDBaby founder Derek Sivers reviews & summarizes the best career books for musicians, authors, and artists

Parenting : Who is it really for? by Derek Sivers

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