People Who Need People

The fabulous thing about working out of your home, as so many professional and quasi-professional speakers do, is that you can go days without seeing other people. And I say fabulous, because, let’s be honest here—people are annoying. They try to sneak nine products through the eight-item-or-less express lane, they dress funny, they tailgate and they talk during movies. All in all, they’re bigstockphoto_Nerd_Laughing_1254560just not very pleasant to be around, so why would we choose to spend our precious waking hours surrounded by other people?

This is what attracts so many speakers and some meeting planners to the industry—the allure of a people-less office. No annoying coworkers trying to vote you off the island. No lineups at the photocopier. And no one named Bob trying to impress you with his epic tales of lawn care maintenance.

Yes sir, that’s why I enjoy flying solo. That’s why I look forward to another day of just me, myself and I.  That’s why I have so much fun at all of my staff meetings. That’s why my staff photos turn out perfect each and every time. That’s why I can’t wait for the next staff awards ceremony, because I always know who the employee of the month is going to be! Yes siree, Mr. Lawn-Care-Bob, at Me, Myself and I Inc., it’s all about me.  Me, me, me, me and me. Any objections? Not from me!

Yes, that’s why . . . I’m slowly going insane and cc’ing myself on e-mails that I have just written to myself. (Sometimes I even use the bcc so I don’t know that I’ve been copied on my own e-mails—how sad is that?) That’s why I lure the courier guy into the house with donuts and fresh coffee. And that’s why I sometimes crash staff meetings at the insurance company down the street.

You see, what I’ve learned over the years is this: people truly are annoying. But the rather awkward problem with my thesis is that I am a people. Ergo, I too am annoying. How annoying? Very annoying. So annoying that I’ll use words like “ergo”. I am so annoying I often get into fights with myself while standing in the coffee line by myself at my kitchen counter. So annoying that sometimes the courier guy doesn’t “have time” for donuts (like his life is sooooooo important, like Mr. Big Shot Parcel Boy has somewhere else he needs to be).

In fact, I am so annoying that I often need to get away from myself. Sure, I’ll go on holidays a few times a year, which offers me a few weeks of respite. And of course, weekends give me a chance to escape the grinding, daily, annoying annoyance of myself.  But if I am going to run a successful business, I can’t afford to get bogged down by petty disagreements and internal politics. That’s where other people come in.

We need to appreciate that no professional speaker is an island; no meeting planner a coral reef; no audio-visual tech an atoll; no audience a glacier. To survive, all of us depend on other people—even if they are annoying—for support, for a sense of community, and, above all else, to buy stuff from us.

This is the true power of people—the purchasing power of people. The power of people to annoy, and yet, please at the same time by pulling out their credit cards.

Without this wonderful human quality—this ability to pay for our speaking services and products—none of us would be able to afford to work out of our homes and we would all be forced to work with Mr. Lawn Care Bob.

Which brings us, naturally, full circle. You see, we need to partner with other people so that we can afford a lifestyle which allows us to stay away from people, just long enough until we actually need them again, all the while maintaining that precarious balance between annoying ourselves, and finding other people to annoy us in order to distract us from our annoying selves.

And now, if you’ll excuse, the courier guy just arrived, and I can’t wait to tell him about what I did to the back lawn last weekend . . .

Michael Kerr is the president of Humor at Work and the author of six books, including the best selling “You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work,”  “Inspiring Workplaces,” and “The Humor Advantage.” For humor at work books, articles and other resources, surf him up at or reach Michael at

Copyright Michael Kerr, 2006


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