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Peer To Peer

I cried like a baby. Alone in my office, late at night, watching The Kennedy Center Honors. There was Aretha Franklin singing, You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, a song penned by Carole King—who was the one being honored. What made me so emotional? Seeing a songwriter and a singer both being recognized by their peers as exceptional made me realize it’s that kind of respect I crave, too. I know how that sounds, but I can’t be the only one who feels this way. No matter what you do, don’t you want others who understand (and who matter) to acknowledge you and your work?

I love what I do and even if nobody noticed, I’d do it anyway. I also really appreciate it when readers, listeners, and audience members take the time to write me a nice note. Still, one of my proudest moments ever was winning the Theodor S. Geisel Award for having written the best book of the year in 2001. Why? It was the recognition (and respect) of fellow authors—who were the ones who chose my book as the best—that made it mean the most . . . and my parents were there to share the moment. More on that in a minute. At The Kennedy Center Honors the recipients of the award sit in a balcony overlooking the stage, while other artists sing their praises—or sing their songs. Led Zeppelin beamed when Jack Black called them, “The best band ever. Ever!” Robert Plant weeped when Nancy Wilson (of Heart) nailed, Stairway to Heaven. Sting, Billy Joel, Paul McCartney (and many other honorees) got choked up while watching from above. It’s the same reason actors covet the Screen Actor’s Guild Award, it’s a peer-to-peer award.

So how does this apply to us and our work? I think we should strive to do work worthy of recognition—no matter how seemingly small or insignificant it seems—and master our craft (or j