A friend is thinking about going into business. After some effort, she made contact with a person who knew a person who might be able to help her get a foot in a door. The person promised to hook her up, but then a couple weeks had gone by.
"I don't want to bug her," my relative said.
You. Don't. Want. To bug her?
At that very moment I realized with the sadness and then the steeliness that comes at looking at the plain truth for once, the following: Much of business is bugging people. And bugging people. And bugging people. Bugging potential customers, potential clients, potential partners, potential publishers, potential performers. Bugging potential itself!
It's bugging people deftly and doggedly, convincingly and continuously, amusingly and imaginatively, rhythmically and rhetorically—for as long as it fucking takes.
It's thanking in advance and looking forward to hearing back.
It's following up to see if you can answer any questions.
It's checking to see if you got the email.
It's touching base before the holiday.
It's circling back after the holiday.
It's a little nudge.
It's a quick reminder.
It's a gentle reminder.
It's a friendly reminder.
It's being sorry to bug you but.
It's not meaning to bug you but.
It's I know you're busy but.
It's I'm concerned that I haven't heard back; is everything all right?
It's inventing deadlines to force action. (And then trying for a different tone when the invented deadline has passed and the real one looms.)
It's saying that if you don't hear back today you'll call tomorrow.
It's actually calling tomorrow, and leaving a voice mail in which you express what you later report to your colleagues was "a friendly, funny and firm message with just a hint of controlled fury."
It's leaving another voice mail in which you purposely let show through your fear that the deal won't get done.
It's having an item on your to-do list for next Thursday that says, "Acme sad call." (Because Acme owes you something and you're going to act sad about it on the call.)
It's saying you're actually going to be passing through the Obscure Town Where Their Headquarters Is Located, and when is a good time to stop in and say hello?
It's actually scheduling a trip to the OTWTH, and saying you'll be in the lobby at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, July 15 and you'll look forward to catching up and ironing everything out.
And it's expressing your genuine gladness to finally hear back—and not even a hint of resentment at the intervening months—because by this point you no longer care whether the answer "yes" or whether the answer is "no."
Because it's not about yes or no anymore on any single request. It's about getting any answer at all, so you may either move ahead or move on. On at least 100 different requests from at least 100 different people all around the globe. If you're working hard, it's far too many people, far too many requests to take any one of them any more personally than a shift in the wind.
And all the while, being bugged by others.
Bugging, and being bugged: Everybody's job has a hard part, and bugging people is better than digging a ditch or getting hit by a pitch.