If you want to make an impressive first impression with someone, show them how smart, brilliant, and accomplished you are. Share with them your resume, income, and job title.

If you want to make a lasting impression, treat them with kindness.

I have met hundreds of very accomplished, wicked smart, and talented people over the years.

I was impressed with them… for about five minutes. Then, I forgot about them, because someone else came along that was also very impressive.

However, the people that make a lasting impression are the ones that have shown me kindness (or cruelty) when there was no self-serving reason to do so.

THOSE people I remember.

I remember the classmate who bullied me in 1987. I remember exactly where I was, what he did, and how I felt about it.

I remember a different one in 1995. Same thing.

Nope, I will never forget either one of them.

One recently tried to friend me on Facebook. No, thank you.

(I can forgive, but I do not forget. First time is on them, second time is on me for letting it happen again.)

There’s a flip side.

I remember one athlete at Stanford, who later turned pro, that hung out with all the Olympic medal winners and went to parties with Tiger Woods (before anybody knew who he was).

We ran in totally different crowds.

Nobody in that crowd would ever make eye contact with me or acknowledge my existence… except this one person.

She was kind to me and everybody else too. No reason. Nothing to gain. Just a genuinely kind person being herself day-to-day.

Twenty years after the fact, with no contact during that entire time, I tracked her down and sent her a note just to say thank you. “You were kind to me 20 years ago. I always remembered. I never said, ‘thank you.’ So, I am saying it now.”

She later told me that she was amazed by my note about something that happened half a lifetime ago.

I have a shortlist of people who’ve shown me great kindness over my lifetime. I have an on-going project to track them down to say, “thank you.” Some people are harder to find than others.

I’ve made a conscious choice in my life to put more time, energy and focus towards the people in my life who are kind, supportive, and respectful of me and my choices in life.

At the same time, I’ve consciously reduced my time and energy paying attention to those who are cruel, undermining, or disrespectful of me.

For much of my life, I gave too much of my emotional attention to the critics, hecklers, and haters; at the expense of the fans, supporters, and friends.

I’ve decided to reverse that allocation of my attention span.

The lesson is this:

Pay attention to who and what you want more of in your life, not who and what you do not.

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