What happens when you only listen to half the story

This morning, I cued up a Mixergy interview with Noah Fleming for listening during my kettle bell workout.

Noah’s story is interesting — and the interview covered some inspiring anecdotes from his journey as a marketing consultant, and now author.

For example, Noah told the story of when he hosted a free breakfast for a group of high profile CEO’s at the Four Seasons in Toronto. He booked the venue, paid for the catering, sent out invitations to a large group of CEO’s, and hoped some of them would show up.

That sounded crazy to me. How can he expect a bunch of busy CEO’s that don’t know him to show up to a breakfast just like that? It’s not like the free breakfast alone was going to entice them.

Apparently, Noah felt the same way. He described how all his self-doubt and anxiety surfaced as he stood in the hallway of the Four Seasons at 6:40am wondering if anyone would show up by 7:00am.

In the end, he had a full house. The breakfast was a huge success and it generated tons of business.

But it’s stories like these that people misunderstand.

It’s tempting to conclude that the breakfast was a big win because Noah had the guts to get out there in front of some big CEO’s and make a good pitch.

He took an idea that would’ve been too daunting for most people and executed flawlessly. Feel good story of the year.

But if you listen to the rest of the story, you’ll see that what Noah did was far more nuanced than that.

  • He had been building his email list for years. Every week, he was putting out high value content that people were starting to notice.
  • One of the CEO’s who attended the breakfast was on his email list. And his invitation included a testimonial from that CEO, who was a recognized name among his peers.
  • He already had a full roster of clients that gave him the experience to speak to his topic with credibility and authority.
  • He was in the process of writing a book on customer loyalty, and he shared some of the highlights from the book with that group of CEO’s.
  • He was coached and trained by Alan Weiss, one of the world’s most famous and prolific business consultants.

In other words, he didn’t build his business by making high stakes pitches to CEO’s. He put in years of hard work leading up to that moment.

The problem is, if you take that story in isolation… it sounds like Noah was an overnight success. It sounds like that breakfast was how he really ‘made it’.

I’ll admit, I was tempted to call up for the Four Seasons to schedule a breakfast of my own. I was already writing the copy for the invitations in my head.

Then I heard the rest of the story.

This post is my submission for day 3 of #YourTurnChallenge, a 7-day blogging challenge orchestrated by Winnie Kao, Special Projects Lead for Seth Godin.