The Airport Rule

Reach out to the people you admire most

Alex Luxenberg
3 min readNov 30, 2020

I have a personal rule of thumb that I’ve never told anyone about. I call it the ‘airport rule’ and it goes as follows: If I see someone I admire that I have not met and I am hesitant or intimidated to walk over to them, I think to myself…

What If I were sitting at a bar during a long delay at the airport and I looked up to notice that person sitting next to me. Would I say hello and try to strike up a conversation? Of course I would! So why is this situation any different?

Simply put, it’s the airport rule.

In real life we tend to put up barriers or make excuses for why we don’t introduce ourselves to revered executives or notable leaders or even just somebody who sits on the other side of your floor at work. We tell ourselves that ‘they don’t have time for us’ or ‘nobody bugs them, why should I?’

The exercise of approaching new people is even harder when everyone is working from home. ‘What am I supposed to do’ we question ourselves, ‘just email them?!’

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, particularly since the passing of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks who was arguably the most important Jewish thinker of our generation. I’ve read his books, listened to his podcasts and quoted him in speeches at family events. He was exalted, revered, a Lord! Who was I to reach out to him? Well, it turns out that we knew many people in common and it wouldn’t have been that hard.

Shortly after his passing my Facebook feed was filled with pictures and personal anecdotes about time spent with Rabbi Sacks or an important phone calls that changed the course of friend’s careers. He had just passed away, yet he seemed more easily accessible than ever.

I had a similar feeling after learning of the passing of Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos. Tony and I even had a meeting scheduled once, but it never happened and I never followed up.

This post isn’t meant to be morbid or even dramatic. I have way more examples of times I did reach out to people because I applied the ‘airport rule’. I have correspondence with Bob Iger and Adam Grant. I have memories of the time I met Jack Dorsey and the time that I asked Sheryl Sandberg a question in front of 1K+ people. I have real mentors who’ve lead publicly traded companies and global non-for-profits. All of this because I ask myself, ‘what would I do at an airport bar during a delay?’

I am reminding myself that I shouldn’t wait to connect with the people I respect most. I am thinking out loud about how to achieve this while working from home.

I’d be happy to hear your thoughts and experiences, whether it was BC (before COVID) or now. I don’t think I’ll be in an airport any time soon, but the rule still applies.