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I Worried I Was A Burden. Jimmy Fallon Taught Me To Think Differently.

Don't worry about asking too much. Worry about delivering the right value.

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Do you ever worry that you’re asking too much of other people?

I do all the time.

But recently, Jimmy Fallon helped me think differently. He showed me that, sometimes, the thing I think is a burden is actually an asset.

That’s a liberating mindshift. I want to tell you the story, in the hopes that it’ll help you think differently too.

Ninety-something minutes with Jimmy

I Worried I Was A Burden. Jimmy Fallon Taught Me To Think Differently.

I recently interviewed Jimmy for a cover profile in Entrepreneur. We met in his corner office at 30 Rockefeller Center, and Jimmy was just as nice and thoughtful as you’d expect. We had a great, insightful conversation about how he found his “why” (which you can read all about here).

We were slated to talk for an hour. He gave me closer to 90 minutes. But then he had to go — his assistant had popped in three times, hoping to wrap things up so he could look at that day’s Tonight Show monologue. But as I was about to leave, Jimmy shook my hand and said that if I had any follow-up questions, I shouldn't hesitant to reach out.

I said thanks. But in truth, I had no intention of following up. Jimmy had already given me more time than promised — and the way I see it, whenever I profile celebrities or other extremely busy people, my job is to produce something great within whatever limitations I’d already agreed to. I appreciate when people are mindful of my time, and I want to be mindful in return.

But as I started to write the story, I realized that I’d missed something important in the interview. I really did need to ask him a few follow-up questions. So I broke my rule: I asked Jimmy’s publicist for more time.

Jimmy was super busy, so it took about a week to get him on the phone.

“I really appreciate you squeezing this in,” I said to Jimmy when we reconnected.

“No one ever takes me up on it!” Jimmy replied. “So I was like, yeah! He’s thorough, he’s smart. Let’s do it — I can’t wait.”

“It’s so funny,” I replied, “because I think, oh, following up is a burden.”

“Never,” Jimmy said.

Let’s recap. Jimmy has been interviewed many times. And in those many times, he made the same offer that he made me — to be available for follow-up questions. Nobody else took him up on it. But I did. And to Jimmy, that wasn’t a burden at all. It was a sign of my thoroughness.

And he appreciates thoroughness.

When time is well spent

This reminds me of something I learned early in my career, when I was a young reporter at a small newspaper. I would interview mayors and police chiefs and hospital CEOs, and they’d talk about things I just didn’t understand. I knew nothing about city administration, for example, or how a hospital functioned. But I’d be afraid to ask basic questions that would reveal my ignorance. I thought that, if I asked, these people would trust me less.

A more senior reporter told me that’s wrong. People are happy to explain things, he said. They want me to get the information right — and correctness matters a lot more to them than having to spend an extra minute talking.

Here’s the lesson I take from all this: When you’re working hard to do a good job, people see your effort — and just like you, they want the job to be good. Your success is their success.

Thoroughness and thoughtfulness are not burdens. They are the things we should promise — and even when it makes us uncomfortable, we must be committed to delivering them.


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Cover credit: Brian Bowen Smith / NBC