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Until yesterday, I had never met or even spoken with anybody that is widely considered a true genius. Someone whose body of work is so extraordinary that mere mortals could not begin to grasp the enormity, breadth and depth of his contributions to science and technology, if not society as a whole.

I finally had the honor of speaking with one of the greatest deep thinkers of our generation, if not history. The purpose of the discussion was to conduct research for an article I am writing about a company he founded, only one of his many amazing accomplishments.

I had a month to prepare for the call which meant that I had 30 days to stress over coming up with a series of questions that would be worthy of his time. The first question in my mind was “why in the world would this guy even waste his time to talk with me?” I concluded that if I did in fact ask him that, he may well reply “if you don’t know, why should I?” and then promptly hang up the phone.

About 30 minutes prior to the call it dawned on me that he is brilliant and all I have to do is shut up, listen and take notes…a lot of them. In fact, the less I talked the lower the risk that I would flaunt my stupidity.

Just the fact that he would take the time to talk with me was shocking enough. I have never been so apprehensive. But then something even more amazing happened. He was so, um, uh, well…human.

He was gracious, patient with my lack of knowledge, engaging and of course, brilliant and fascinating. But beyond his obvious brilliance he was a human being with heart and soul. One that cares about other people and even trying to help me with the article.

The time flew by and afterwards, I just sat back in a semi-conscious state and marveled over what had just happened. I just had the honor of speaking with one of the greatest living minds. I am better for the time he so graciously shared with me although he got nothing in return.

Later, it occurred to me how nice it would be if the majority of us with only average intellects would give of our time so freely. Of course, how can we be expected to give our time freely given that every minute of our lives is consumed by very important, if not critical, things to do.

But now I have a different type of stress. I have the responsibility to write something that he will hopefully look at and feel that his time was not wasted.