I put a fair amount of effort into landing opportunities to talk to incredibly successful people. Partly that's because I write about those conversations on Inc. (And in my new book, The Motivation Myth, that comes out in January.)
But sharing those interviews with readers is just a cool by-product. What I like most is what I get out of it. I always learn something. I always find a tip, a strategy, or a perspective I can use.
And I always walk away inspired by their level of achievement and, more importantly, because their success is always the result of hard work, focus, persistence, and consistently doing the simple things well, time after time after time.
Success itself is inspiring, but realizing that if you're willing to work extremely hard you can achieve cool things too... that's incredibly inspiring.
Along the way I've talked with Venus Williams about being an "and." Richard Branson about how looking for the best in everything can actually bring you success. Roger Penske about the power of focusing on details. Kirk Hammett about how an introvert can feel comfortable performing in front of tens of thousands of people. Jimmie Johnson about networking. James Purefoy about, well, lots of stuff (unfortunately we didn't get to why we should be best friends), Tamara Taylor about developing confidence....
The list goes on. I've landed interviews with people I never imagined possible.
But there is one I haven't managed to pull off: Dave Grohl.
If you aren't aware (and if you're not, shame on you) Dave is the founder of Foo Fighters. He was the drummer for Nirvana. He's toured with other bands, done studio sessions with other bands... he's the musician's musician. And he's somehow managed to carve out a career as a documentary filmmaker, including Sound City and the Emmy-winning HBO series Sonic Highways. (Both are great.)
He's done what we all hope to do: Turn a passion into not just a living but a fulfilling life. But there's more. He knows how to lead. He knows how to follow. He knows how to take an idea and turn it into a successful artistic and commercial reality. He's an incredible live performer, yet also down to earth.
In short, he seems like a fascinating guy.
That's not to say I haven't gotten at least kinda close. I came within one degree of Kevin Bacon separation when I talked with Dan Catullo, the creator of Landmarks Live, who filmed the Foo Fighters performance at the Acropolis.
And I've corresponded with his publicist. The answer to my initial query was, "Dave's not doing any talking at the moment but let's keep in touch once he's out of the studio and ready to get back in front of a different kind of mic."
That sounded hopeful. Rarely does a veiled "no" include the words "keep in touch."
So I tried again a few months later. This time the answer was, "Not right now, sorry Jeff."
I replied, "I'm a big boy (or at least relatively old). Should I stop asking? Don't want to bug you unnecessarily."
Not receiving a reply was, in fact, the answer.
But if you think I'm complaining, I'm not. The fact I haven't landed an interview with Dave is no one's fault but mine -- just like the fact that, if you haven't managed to connect with someone you really want to connect with, it's your fault.
I really want to interview Dave... but why does he want to speak with me? Most of his interviews appear in music and entertainment magazines like Rolling Stone. Makes sense; that's where the audience hangs out. Even though many musicians, athletes, and actors have agreed to my interviews at last in part because they like gaining exposure to a different audience than they typically do, doing so may not be a priority for Dave's people.
That's cool. They get to make that decision, not me. If I really want to talk to Dave, maybe what I need to do is write for a media outlet that focuses on music. Or a media outlet that focuses on film. It's up to me to provide a platform that is appealing to Dave.
I also haven't gotten the timing right. If someday Dave launches an apparel line or, more likely, a startup that manufactures musical instruments or gear, that might be my in. (That's why Kirk Hammett said yes. Would he have agreed to an interview with me about Metallica? No way. But about the guitar pedal company he founded? Absolutely.)
And I clearly haven't made the interview seem interesting to to Dave's people, or to Dave. This was part of my original pitch:
"I'd love to talk to Dave about success, happiness, fulfillment... stuff that is definitely in his wheelhouse. Conventional wisdom, at least among young or aspiring entrepreneurs, is that there is some magic bullet or some way to hack your way to success, and all you have to do is find it... and I know Dave feels the way to be successful is to work hard and kick ass and be so good no one can ignore you. He's succeeded in a variety of pursuits -- music, documentaries, directing, producing, etc -- and I think it would be a great conversation."
Maybe Dave feels like he's talked about that stuff before. Maybe to him it doesn't sound like a "great conversation." Or maybe, since he's already been interviewed a zillion times over the years, if he has to do interviews he only wants to talk about music.
Whatever the reason, it's not his fault his reps, and he, have turned me down.
That's the thing about interviews... and about networking. You may desperately want to connect with the top people in your industry, but the right to connect is not based on want or need. You must earn the right to connect. People will connect with you when they benefit, not you.
Just like Dave will agree to an interview when he benefits, not me.
It's my job to figure that out. Not his. And when I do, we'll both benefit.
Which is exactly how it should be.