How to Get Personal (with Nadir Vissanjy)

The day before presenting to the Franklin Fellows,  Nadir Vissanjy texted the Narps board.

“Do you mind if I bring a couple of friends for the workshop?”

No explanation. No background. Just a request.

Nadir was our first presenter to the fellowship. So, we didn’t know what to expect.  The better question, however, was “who we should expect”.

36 hours after the text, our fellows arrived for dinner. They found Nadir, 12 free notebooks (thanks Nadir), and 6 of Nadir’s closest friends.

We  should have booked a bigger room.

Please note: our next workshop will run through the entire freshman dining hall

The workshop focused on developing social ties. As part of his workshop, Nadir brought in 6 close (extremely personable) friends. They ranged from students at the Harvard School of Education to fraternity presidents at MIT.

For context, Nadir is a student at MIT Sloan and the Harvard Kennedy School. He is also an incredible mentor, a serial networker, and all-around genuine guy. Nadir makes ambition look flattering.

It’s impossible to replicate Nadir’s energy. But, there are a couple of lessons we all could learn from the workshop.

8 Life Lessons with Nadir Vissanjy

1. Always Write the Thank-You Note

To begin the workshop, Nadir took out a wad of envelopes, creamy-paper, and stamps.

“Thank you notes is one thing that will make you stand out.”

So, for the first half of his workshop, he divided the fellows into two groups. One half took 15 minutes to write a thank-you note. Nadir advised that we think about someone we usually forget to thank. After we finished writing, he took the letters, asked for their address, and helped us mail them. Nadir’s advice: after meeting with anyone older, follow up with an email in 24 hours and a letter within the week.

2. Be Interested

We all want to be interesting people. But, as Nadir points out, it’s much more important to be  interested in others. For this, Nadir took the other half of the fellows and paired them with one of his friends. The two had a 15 minute, one-on-one conversation. After finishing, we reflected on the power of listening and tips make others feel listened to.

3. Tell Your Story

Nadir began the workshop by telling his story. He was born in Portugal, grew up in California as an undocumented citizen, and has worked his way to MIT and HKS (the Harvard Kennedy School). As part of his narrative, he stressed the importance of relationships. He grew up with a single mother in California, but was blessed with a number of mentors growing up. Nadir, as you’ll quickly notice, constantly gives credit to others. But, he also recognizes the importance of sharing. By beginning the workshop with his own story, he created rapport with the entire fellowship.

4. Research Your Attendees

Ahead of Time Behind the scenes, Nadir put priority on the people in the workshop. He emailed the LifeHack board to request brief bios on each of our fellows. Before arriving, he had memorized each of our names, major facts about us, and where we were from. This wasn’t part of his workshop, but it is a part of who Nadir has become.

5. Show, Don’t Tell

Presenting about “interpersonal relationships” is difficult with people you don’t know. How can they know that you’re worth your stuff? The answer is to show, don’t tell.

Nadir did so not by talking about friendships, but by showing them. By bringing in 6 friends for a group of 12 fellows, he showed he has a community that cares for him. When you present, think about how you can show your expertise (and not just talk about it.)

6. Keep the Conversation Going

Nadir emphasizes that after meeting someone you’re interested in, you have to keep the conversation going.  One way is to ask a clarifying question about something you talked about. For example, if you spoke with someone about renewable energy, in your email you could ask for good books to read on the subject. End each interaction with a hook (i.e. a reason to keep talking). After the workshop, Nadir followed up by introducing the board to a close friend (someone who is now scheduled to present in April).

7. Share the Spotlight

Nadir made sure his friends felt involved. So, for the final 15 minutes of the workshop, Darnisa Amante  led the workshop’s final reflection. As well, they both gave the other 5 friends opportunities to share experiences about social connections. Nadir didn’t hoard attention, he let it grow with his friends. By doing so, he helped everyone feel involved. As well, he helped provide a diversity of perspective.

8. Start By Giving

Nadir literally began the workshop by giving out 12 MIT Sloan notebooks to the fellows. But, his giving isn’t always so literal. In almost any interaction with Nadir, he tries to help you out first. For Nadir, this is his habit of giving.  By beginning the workshop by giving, he showed his commitment to help everyone grow.

Nadir ran an incredible first workshop for the fellowship. He taught the fellowship important skills to interact with others. More importantly, however, he showed the fellows how to run a spectacular workshop.

So, Nadir. Thank you for the incredible workshop.With such a great start, we’re looking forward to the next 9 weeks.

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