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The Day I Blanked David Fincher
I was staying in a posh hotel on the West Coast with Nicolas Myers, one of the founding directors of my then start-up, START! games. Nicolas had a background in movies, so he was well connected. It was the summer of 2002 and I thought I was shit-hot. I was not. I wasn't shit either, but that's by-the-by. I didn’t understand why Nicolas wanted us to spend more of the company’s money by staying in an extravagant hotel, but now I do, and I’m grateful to him for having learned the lesson, sadly, much too late to thank him in person.
When we met in the lobby of our luxurious hotel and Nicolas struck up a conversation with a man about his age, I did my usual introvert thing of not paying any attention. I didn't recognise the guy and it was none of my business. Nicolas eventually said "Shahid, this is David." I shook hands, I was wearing shades indoors like an idiot, and I mumbled a hello and then Nicolas and I left.
As we walked about a hundred yards out of earshot, Nicolas spoke. "Shahid, you do know that was David Fincher, right?"
I froze. Fincher was already one of my favourite film-makers. Fight Club still ranks as one of my five favourite movies of all time. And I had effectively blanked him. I begged Nicolas to go back so that I could be more enthusiastic — Nicolas just laughed. After all, you only get one chance to make a first impression, unless that is, you were so irredeemably forgettable the first time around. Perhaps I had been.
I look back and wonder why I behaved that way. Can I excuse my shoddy behaviour by pinning the blame on my introversion? Was I in fact so full of self-importance, thinking I was a big-shot in the industry in my expensive suits and flashy Managing Director of a startup located on the Thames role, and my big salary, that I was above introductions to people I didn't know? Or was it just that I thought this was another game prospect Nicolas wanted me to talk to, when he hadn’t yet discerned who the good game makers were from the chancers?
I don't think I was that much of a prick actually, but I suspect there was an element of that arrogance involved as well as the introversion. Not a lot, but it was there, and now that I'm about to turn 55, I am repulsed by it, but happy that I'm not like that anymore. It took a lot of knocks, a lot of pain, and a lot of work on myself to grow out of being an arrogant, entitled prick, and it was worth it.
I had offered the hello of an introvert meeting someone new. That's what I like to tell myself. I've since learned that everybody is interesting and worthy of attention. If you treat people as if they're interesting and worthy of attention, then chances are that they will be interesting and will have been worth your attention. If you offer this courtesy authentically and sincerely, you will end up leaving a trail of good impressions. This is how reputations are created. Every interaction counts.
This updated approach served me extremely well at PlayStation from around 2011 to the time I left, which was five years ago this month. There were times when this introvert had to be charming in West Coast hotels from 7am to 11pm, and it was exhausting. Was it worth it? Absolutely. And I got PlayStation to pay for an expensive hotel and it was worth it for all concerned. Unsurprisingly, my superiors at PlayStation understood the value of paying extra for a good hotel better than I did, and no explanation was necessary.
Nowadays I am roundly ignored by a lot of people, some who know me, most who don't, and it doesn't bother me at all. That was me once, and we are all on our own journeys, Sadly, Nicolas Myers passed away recently. When I remember him, I'm reminded of the time I blanked David Fincher.