Beginning in the 19th century, a hat tip (or the act of “tipping the hat”) was a common on-verbal greeting between friends while out walking or at social events. Typically two men (female hat tips were rare) would lift brim of their hats to greet each other rather than exchange words.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s the term “hat tip” became an internet abbreviation of acknowledgement to another individual who contributed an idea or drew attention to a link of interest. It was considered polite to credit the person by name if they shared an article link, professional referral, or other online resources with you.
It is commonly assumed the modern hat tip (and military salute) evolved from the middle ages when two knights might meet on the road and lift their visors to identify themselves as friends.
The short explanation is that a hat tip is a sign of recognition, appreciation, respect, or gratitude between two people.
This week I was favored with not one, but two individual hat tips from people who took the time to call or email me and compliment me on the work I publish over at Big Yellow Sticky. The first person pointed out a specific recent post as a favorite, and the second person complimented the ongoing work as a whole and stated that many of the messages just seemed to find him at the right time — exactly when he needed to hear the message shared on the sticky note.
As creatives (people who make things and put them out into the world) there are very few things quite as motivating as hearing from people outside your close circle of associates who express regard for your work.
Receiving confirmation that the “stuff” you launched out into the universe landed safely in someone else’s imagination and then took root enough to inspire, comfort, or otherwise propel them forward to work on their own projects (or simply smile and know they aren’t alone either) is quite an honor.
We all run across things out in the world everyday (music, books, movies, poems, comics, etc.) which make us stop and think, or feel gratitude, or remember a happy thought from our past.
Think about the last time that happened to you
It could have been a month ago, a week ago, or an hour ago.
Whenever it was, go back and look up the contact information for the person who created it or shared it. You can find people on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, websites and blogs.
Take a moment to reach out to that person.
Phone calls are good, a written note is better, a personal email is okay, and a social media comment or retweet is an acceptable minimum. I think the more personal the impact their work had on you, the more person your attempt to contact them should be.
It’s important not to ask them for anything (no free copies of stuff or autographs or social media mentions), you’re simply going to give them a hat tip by recognizing the work they published affected you in a positive way.
Share with them the fact the work they created had an impact on you. Let them know which piece of work it was (the particular article, song, painting, etc.) and why it specifically spoke to you. Express gratitude for the content they produce and let them know you’re out there in the world, experiencing it and sharing it with others.
You reaching out to them and sharing how much you like their work will be one of the most treasured rewards they receive for their efforts. And if the person was on the fence about whether to keep producing their work and hitting the publish button because they felt they were toiling away in isolation — your personal moment of contact could be the inspiration they need to keep on creating.