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Monday, 16 June 2008

Tread Softly, Heroes: On Meeting Seth Godin

By Linda Davis of Grammology

Lindadavisbadge She was my first professor on the first day of college. My memory of meeting this hero is nearly 30 years old. And it is painful even now. It surely happened only yesterday. A girl extending her hand after class. Some nervous blabbering about being a fan. The professor’s obvious impatience and annoyed dismissal. Her curt response and swift redirection of attention saying “next” as if to strangers holding plastic numbers in line at the deli counter.

I was there today when my son, Miles, met one of his heroes, Seth Godin. Some parents have college-aged boys who are inspired in life by a sports star, a rock star, a famous actor, a big corporate executive. To my boy, it’s Seth Godin.

I have always felt especially grateful to this man; even a kinship. It’s as if Seth Godin singlehandedly ignited in my boy that which we parents can only hope for - the discovery of his life’s passion.

For years now, Miles has been bringing me Seth’s books about Purple Cows and Meatball Sundaes AND telling me that I have to rethink everything I know about marketing because Seth Godin says so.

So today, Miles and I traveled to a business seminar to see this hometown hero. Miles arrived early to get good seats. It was his first business seminar since launching his own company one month ago with five fellow students.

He came with the business cards he and the guys hand trimmed. He wore the dress shirt he got for Christmas. He ran over and over in his mind what he might say to Seth Godin were he to meet him, not able to settle on anything - the paralysis that awe sometimes inspires.

He nodded knowingly throughout the entire speech; he has memorized all of Seth Godin's words. He even fought his fear and asked a question during the question-and-answer session. Then, nervously, Miles followed him to the book signing table, just to get to shake his hand.

As I followed Miles, camera in hand, I felt so proud. And panicked. As Miles tapped his shoulder, I saw Seth Godin’s face, hurried, distracted. And this line from a W.B.Yeats poem kept rolling through my mind - the last line: “Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” A mother’s silent plea.

I watched Miles shake his hand. I saw that look on Miles’ face, a look I know so well: sheer terror masked with hopeful bravado. I heard myself babbling about Miles being a college student and the Godin books. I vaguely heard Miles telling him about the recent launch of his company and how Seth Godin had inspired much of his Wiki, all the while that line kept going through my head, “Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

I saw Seth Godin smile. I heard him say, “yes” you can take a photo. I saw him look Miles in the eye and give him advice. Wise advice. Just for Miles. From Seth Godin.

Maybe a lucky few of us have a chance in our lifetime to be a hero to a young person. Maybe they will tap us on the shoulder when it is least convenient, when we are busy, tired and running to our next appointment.

Today I am grateful to Seth Godin. For taking pause. For treading softly.

For these are my boy’s dreams.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: A satisfying number of new stories has been arriving at The Elder Storytelling Place this past week and I thank you all. Not that we can't always use more. That's a hint...]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Hello Dorothy,

Seth Godin obviously listened carefully when someone gave him this advice many years ago.

"It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice."

Too bad your college professor didn't get the same advice.You might have a completely different memory of her now.

I enjoyed your story and good luck to Miles.......

It meant a great deal to me to read this, Ronni. And even more to meet your son.

He's a rock star.

And what a mom he has.

Linda, Oh, can you tell a good story. I was holding onto my pants as Miles neared the book signing desk. I follow Seth Godin's blog with delight and intense interest. That made it all the more important that he not fail. And he didn't. Not only that, he left a comment on this post,... at which point I burst out in tears. Our children don't need idols, they need everyday heroes like you and Mr. Godin.

The comparison between your 'idol' and Seth Godin is the difference between a self centered person and a big person who not only listened, but cared. Kudos to you and to Mr. Godin for making a difference in a young man's life and dreams.

So heartwarming to hear of a celebrity who is a nice guy who takes the time to make others feel special and encouraged. I read Mr. Godin's blog and will appreciate him even more. And you have good reason to be a proud mother.

Thank you "dear" writer for a sweet memory of your son's dreams realized through a mother's eye. It was a delight and most real for us to hear your words, personal thoughts and feelings shared.

This touched me deeply! Thank you!!

What a sweet story!

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