The First Meeting Shapes All the Others

Four years after restarting the Four Minute Books newsletter from scratch, it reached the epic milestone of 100,000 subscribers. In the email I sent out thanking everyone for being a reader, I reminisced about the nebulosity of that number:

When I started writing, I learned early on how important it is to have a list of direct contacts of the people you hope to serve, but back then, the number 100,000 felt inconceivably far away. I remember struggling to get to my first 1,000 subscribers, let alone my first 10,000. By the time I started this particular newsletter as its own effort, I had more experience, but I still never really thought about that number. Only once it came close did it slowly start sinking in.

I received a lot of kind responses to that email. One that stood out came from a fellow business owner I had recently become friendly with. It was only one sentence: “Dude, with the value you share, you will end up with millions.” What struck me was the nonchalance with which he seemed to make that comment. To him, it was obvious. Meanwhile, to me, the number 1,000,000 feels just as foggy and far away right now as the number 100,000 felt in 2019.

The episode made me realize: The specific point in time when we meet someone will shape our perception of them forever.

To some of my earliest readers, the 100,000-subscriber milestone might seem either like an outlandish claim or a well-deserved achievement after years of working towards it, depending on whether they believed I could reach it back when I had less than 1,000 subscribers. Someone who only recently became familiar with my work, meanwhile, might look at my past list of successes and conclude, “Oh yeah, that dude is going places. He’ll be way bigger soon, no doubt about it.” Fascinating, isn’t it?

Of course, both are looking at the same person, and only that person — me, in this case — will ever have the full picture of their own story and history — but that doesn’t make either of them wrong. In fact, I’m free to choose who I want to believe, and so I may as well choose the story that makes me work for and have faith in a better future. Why trust the disillusioned fan who thinks I have peaked over the excited follower who believes I have a ways to go? Other people’s opinions of you are just snapshots, and you decide which pics to upload to your story. You might as well pick the ones telling the tale you’d like to tell.

It’s true that how you see yourself will determine how the world sees you, but you can also let how others see you inform how you see yourself. Use other points of view as fuel rather than obstructions, and remember that the first meeting will shape all the others.