I admit it. I am a stalker. Yes — I will attend an event with the sole purpose of meeting someone special.
In my professional role, that means attending what I call “rubber chicken” dinners in order to spend quality time with clients or meet new ones.
This dinner was different. I decided to go for the sole purpose of meeting a hero of mine. He was going to be there.
It was the William J. Donovan Award Dinner hosted by the OSS Society in October 2018. I was there and an opportunity was knocking.
A famous Admiral attended the dinner
Admiral William McRaven is one of my heroes. He is a highly decorated Navy Officer with a storied career.
Admiral McRaven was a Navy Seal and held an array of high ranking positions in the Special Operations community.
He is most famous for organizing and overseeing the execution of Operation Neptune Spear the special ops raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden.
Simply put — he is one of the best American patriots you will ever find. I was super excited about being in the same room as him.
Why I wrote this billboard
I can be somewhat shy in certain social situations. I enjoy meeting people but tend to be more introverted than extroverted in large groups.
It is part of my personality. I know how to make small talk. I am just not good at meeting a lot of new people in one setting.
It is rare that I “work a room”. I can do it, but it is exhausting for me.
I wrote this billboard as a reminder that I need to take a risk and introduce myself to my heroes when I get the chance like this dinner.
After all, it is not often that I wear a tuxedo.
He was alone and talking to himself
During a break in the evening, I exited the ballroom. I saw Admiral McRaven out in the foyer.
He was alone. I noticed he was talking to himself, a few pieces of paper laying on the table in front of him.
I guessed that Admiral McRaven was practicing his remarks since he was the special guest speaker for the evening.
Normal activity for any speaker to perform before taking the stage.
I walked over and stuck out my hand.
I introduced myself to my hero
“Good evening Admiral McRaven. My name is Doug Keating. I want to introduce myself, shake your hand, and thank you for your service to the country. It is not every day that I meet one of my heroes. I am really glad that I have the opportunity to do so tonight. You are an American patriot.”
You may be in charge, but it’s never about you and you can’t forget that.
Admiral William McRaven
He was kind enough to talk to me
Admiral McRaven shook my hand. He noticed my US Army Ranger tab. It is the one military decoration I will wear on my tuxedo to any formal military event.
He thanked me for my service and asked me about my military career.
Wow — Admiral McRaven took a few minutes out of his busy day to simply talk with me. What a wonderful thing to do.
It was a gift that I will never forget.
I let my hero know that he inspired me on a daily basis
Admiral McRaven did not have much time to talk. I ended the conversation by letting him know that his commencement speech at the University of Texas was inspirational.
I told him that I make my bed first thing every morning because of that speech.
“You are right — it is the best way to start the day. Thanks and I look forward to your remarks”.
That was it. No long conversation. No picture with him.
Just a normal conversation between two veterans.
One just happened to be a retired four-star Admiral and US military hero.
The rest of the night was anti-climatic
Admiral McRaven’s speech was excellent. The punch bowl ceremony was fun. The award portion of the evening was nice.
They honored Gina Haspel, the first female director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). She gave some remarks, and then the evening was over.
I was tired and returned to my hotel room. When thinking about that evening, the high point was definitely meeting Admiral McRaven.
He was both nice and normal.
You may have only one chance to meet a hero
I am really glad that I was able to meet my hero that evening. After all, when is the next time I am going to see Admiral McRaven…probably never.
I would have kicked myself if I missed the opportunity to meet and talk with him. I seriously doubt he will ever remember our conversation.
It is one I will not forget. Just like the one I had with a sports star that I met.
How I incorporated this billboard into my life
No — I am not stalking my heroes these days. They are all safe.
Instead, I am doing a better job of being more outgoing at social events.
It is easy for me to be a wallflower and not meet anyone new. That would be a shame, especially if one of my heroes is there.
Nowadays I do my best to meet a few new people at all social events I attend.
Yes — I go out of my way to say hello to any hero that is there. I would hate to miss that opportunity.
What about you?
Are you meeting new people?
Do you introduce yourself to others, especially people that you want to meet, like your heroes? If so — great.
If not — go ahead. Stick out your hand and say hello to a hero. You will learn that most of them are normal people just like you and me.
Your heroes are normal people. Talk to them when you have a chance.
I write a blog for my sons called Doug Keating Letter to Sons. I am sharing content from my blog here. I hope you enjoyed it. All feedback is welcome. Thanks for reading it.