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First Class Growth
This episode is going to be fun. This is about flying first class in airplanes and the impact it has had on me years ago, but this is important that I covered this. My first five to seven years in business, I would say that I had a low self-image. I had a terribly low self-image in junior high. I was a chubby little kid. I never dated a girl. I never had a beer in high school. I was into sports and very shy. I love doodling in my notebooks. I was a nerd in a tech way. I was a loner. I was the designated driver in high school at parties. I was just the athlete who sat in the corner and watches the world go by, knowing in my head that if I focus on my body, if I focus on athletics, I could do things. I enjoyed that.
I never really found an identity. Certainly going into college, I didn’t break out of my shell. I drink very little. I wasn’t that social. Then I get out of college and I go into business. I had to knock on doors to drum up business and I hated it. I have panic attacks talking to people. I broke out in a sweat once when I did a presentation in front of two people. I couldn’t speak. My suit was soaked. I got in the car. I went back and said, “I am not doing this. I’m going to try to find a job drawing or something,” but I stuck with it. Slowly over time I started reading books and talking to other people and mentoring with other people, I built my self-image up but it took so long.
Everybody walking planet earth has a touch of a self-image problem. Click To Tweet
Here’s what I remember. I remember years and years ago, our business is starting to take off. We were in our twenties. Our gross revenues were in the millions. We’re definitely not profiting in the millions, but there was enough money to once in a while get a first-class airfare ticket. I didn’t do it all the time but I did it enough where I started noticing things. I started taking note of who was sitting in first class and who wasn’t. How people in first class were acting and quite frankly, how they weren’t acting. I’m a journaler so I would make a note to myself. The first couple of times I would be nervous to talk to people. I want to cover in this podcast my experience with flying first class. Now, we carry on average 1.7 million points on our American Express cards. At any moment we’ll have over a million points. Last year I took my in-laws, my father, my uncle and Kerri, we flew first class to Bordeaux, France and spent the week there at the Bordeaux Fest, all of it on American Express points. We didn’t pay for it. I think we paid for a couple of meals. Now, I fly first class all the time and it’s all done on points.
Back in the day, I was like a nervous little kid where I had to go ask a girl on a date to walk into and sit in first class. I think back now and it was crazy how I thought people would react to my wife and me as young people sitting in first class. On my first trip, one person was a bit rude. On my second trip, I noticed there was more than one person that was not so hygienic, meaning they stunk. On my third trip, I realized I sat next to a couple of people that were a little bit slow upstairs. They definitely owned a business, no question. They were definitely successful. I’m not saying I’m hyper-intelligent. Let’s say that they weren’t a box of rocks, but I was wondering the whole time and I should have had the guts to flat out ask the guy, “How in the world are they still in business? How did they make it?” He started the company. I remember this guy to this day.
By the sixth or seventh trip flying in first class, I realized that these people definitely run large divisions, large companies. They have a lot of responsibility but by no means are they smarter than Kerri or myself. They certainly weren’t smarter even than our staff, our management, no way. By no means did they outwork me either. I heard some of their schedules. I started talking to these people. I started building my confidence up. It was clear they were not the most strategic thinking people. They apparently belonged in first class, but I’m not going to say that their mannerisms, their vocabulary, their mental intellect were what I perceived I was going to bump into sitting in first class. First of all, it was clear that I belonged there. Sitting next to them, I could tell by the third, fourth, fifth trip that not only could I hold a conversation, but most folks I found were leaning into me a little bit. They wanted to know, and I was only in my twenties, early 30s, about my consulting business, how did I grow the business?
I couldn’t believe these people were asking my opinion. This is first class. I’m thinking these are the elite of people. These are the elite of business owners. These are the sports athletes. I don’t know what I was thinking but after worrying my first three, four trips in first class if I should even open my mouth and talk to these people, I finally realized that not only do I belong in first class, everybody reading this episode belongs in first class. First class is a figment of our imagination. It’s not real. It’s a separation in an airplane. It’s a branding. It’s just the name first class. It was in my headspace. It was a blockage that I created based on the image and the marketing, which is great, of the word first class. Think of the name first class.
What’s the point of this? There are two of them. First, know that half the people in first class are absolutely no different than you and I. Every person sitting in first class, 100% of them burp and fart. 100% of them, if they have children, they cry for their kids and with their kids when their kids have a victory whether they get hurt, they laugh. They’re just people. They’re regular everyday people. They work hard like you and I. They earn a living like you and I. They did something a little bit different or longer or maybe they pressed a little harder, but they are by no means smarter, more intellectual and savvier. They’re not a better dresser. Some of the people in first class, they’re disgusting.
I fly first class all the time and I don’t ever fly without talking to somebody next to me a little bit to get who they are. What do they think about life? I don’t bore them for the whole flight, but I want to get five minutes. 100% of the people I have spoken with felt exactly the way you and I felt or feel before your very first first-class flight. Before they ever flew for the first time in first class, they were intimidated. It was daunting. They have the same questions I asked, “Should I talk to the guy next to me? Should I ask the stewardess for a champagne?” They were totally intimidated.
The second point of this is from this point forward, when you go to an event and you see a VIP green room backstage or a club section at a ballgame or any type of situation with a VIP type status or a roped off area, I want you to know that a large percentage of people that are in that section at that moment are still intimidated and hoping somebody will walk up to them and start talking. I’m saying this exactly the right way. The people in first class are still intimidated by the first class. The people in the VIP roped off club area of a ballgame are still intimidated by being in there. They are still small children nervous in an adult body.
Every successful person you see walking down the streets of Manhattan is still a small child inside an adult body. They can’t believe they made it. They don’t know how they made it. They can’t believe people are moved by their success. Everybody walking on planet Earth has a touch of a self-image problem. Everyone looks at themselves in the mirror and make sure their blouse is buttoned or their fly is not open. Everybody is self-conscious. Nobody has the perfect self-image. Next time you see a VIP section or you’re walking through first class, I want you to test this. If you’re walking through first class to go to the back of the plane, I want you to look somebody in first class in the eye and say, “How’s your day so far? How’s life treating you?”
I want you to be so amazed when they brighten up. They open their eyes and they volley right back with you in a cheerful voice and say, “I’m great. Thanks for asking. How about you?” They want to stop you right there and have a conversation with you. They’re not going to bat their eye and say, “Who are you talking to me? I’m in first class.” No, that’s not how it is. They’re still surprised they’re even there. You are going to be so amazed when they volley right back to you. Here’s my point. Everybody reading this belongs in first class. There’s no such thing as first class. The whole airplane is first class. You belong in the VIP section at that next event. We all do because we’re all little kids inside adult bodies thinking and feeling the same thoughts and desires. We want to belong. We want to communicate. We want to connect.
We’re all little kids inside adult bodies, thinking and feeling the same thoughts and desires. Click To Tweet
Here’s the thing, you belong and I want you to prove it to yourself. The next time you’re on the other side of the VIP velvet rope, I want you to talk to people inside the velvet rope from outside and watch how quickly they’re thankful you’re reaching out to them and how quickly they share that yes indeed they are nervous. There is no such thing as making it into the VIP setting. Understand this, there is always a club above the club. The people in the VIP section, once they get used to it, then they’re in the next pursuit of what’s next.
I talked to a lot of people flying first class. They’re not first-class thinking people, but what’s cool is they’re like, “I was so intimidated before I flew first class. Now what I’m thinking about is doing that NetJet and renting a private plane just because why not? If I could fly first class, why can’t I rent a NetJet?” The point is there’s something valuable about taking the leap and getting behind the velvet rope. It proves to you, you do belong there. You can hold your own. You can hold a conversation, you can get things done. You can connect with people that are supposedly farther in life than you because there’s the key, everybody you look at is a child in an adult body. I hope this helps. Take care.