Lots of industries have one. You're sitting around the table with your editor discussing a book jacket and someone says, "Maybe we can get Chip Kidd to design it?"
Or the ad agency and the client are discussing the new campaign, and inevitably, someone says, "Maybe Tina Fey could be our spokesperson…"
And Ben Zander to conduct, Bill Cosby to endorse, Fred Wilson to invest, you get the idea. The shortlist are the esteemed, obvious choices, the folks who are seen as making it all come together.
How to get on the shortlist?
After all, once you're on the shortlist, not only do your fees double, but the amount of work increases to the point where you can't possibly do it all.
It's easy to seduce yourself into thinking it's a straight up meritocracy. The funniest comedians, the most gifted graphic designers, the most impactful speakers–these folks are chosen for the shortlist because they deserve it.
Except that's not correct.
Yes, of course, you need a minimum amount of talent to make the shortlist. It might even help to be a genius. But plenty of people with talent (and plenty of geniuses) aren't there, aren't thought of by industry outsiders and those looking for a straightforward way to bring on someone they can trust.
No, the shortlist requires more than that. Luck, sure, but also the persistence of doing the work in the right place in the right way for a very long time. Not an overnight success, but one that took a decade or three.
The secret of getting on the shortlist is doing your best work fearlessly for a long time before you get on the list, and (especially) doing it even if you're not on the list.