How Documenting Your Interactions With Others Can Make You More Successful
As an entrepreneur, I’ve met many people over the years, from investors to journalists, from customers to suppliers and from engineers to janitors. I always prided myself on calling them by their first name and tried my best to show them how important they are. Like William James, the father of American psychology, said: “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”
However, I was facing a big problem: Over the years, my memory began to fade. When meeting with somebody I had only met a few months prior, I found it challenging to remember details about them. Therefore, my rapport with them was not as warm as I wished, and I felt like I didn’t get the full potential of the discussion.
I remember precisely when I decided to take action against my faulty memory. It was in 2016 during a meet-and-greet in San Francisco. I was chatting with John for an hour when he suddenly whispered into my ear, “No offense taken, but my name is Paul.” I was ashamed of myself, and I’m almost certain this mistake cost me a big business opportunity, as John — sorry, Paul — was the perfect prospect for my business.
I read that, over the course of his life, David Rockefeller (former Chase CEO) wrote about 200,000 notecards to document his interactions with world leaders. So, I decided to buy a Moleskine notebook dedicated to taking notes on people. I started to populate the pages with everything that came to my mind. One page per person. I would write contact details, names of their loved ones, jobs, hobbies, food preferences and even bullet points on what we discussed when we last met.
However, I was quickly confronted with the limitations of a paper notebook. The notes started to pile up, and I was running out of space on each page. For instance, the person I documented on the first page of the Moleskine was full, so I had to start another page near the end. I needed to write “see additional notes at the end of the notebook” — not ideal. The second problem was that I was not always carrying my “people’s notebook,” so I wasn’t always able to review my notes prior to meeting someone, especially when the encounter was random.