Sunday, May 18, 2008

Don't stop at "No."

The world is full of “no.”

No, you will never make it to the Olympics. No, you didn’t get into this college. No, you didn’t get the job. No, you will never write the great American novel. No, you are too old to be a great chef. No, you can’t afford this house. No, you can’t move to Europe.

Don’t believe any of it.

Strange I should say this, because when you were little children, after saying “No!” repeatedly to something you were doing sans cesse, or to one of your endless requests for another cookie, I’d say in exasperation, “Don’t you know that “No” means “No?”

In grown up life however, “no” doesn’t mean stop. “No” is often the first and easiest word out of someone’s mouth. They probably don’t even mean it or know any better. “No” should never stop you. When you are pursuing a person or dream, getting an appointment, trying to return something in a store etc, you have to:

--Get past the “no.”
--Never take the first “no” someone says to you.
--Learn to view “no” as the first step in getting to “yes.”
--And when you have really arrived at NO, then you must take a new direction.

I cannot tell you the number of times I have gotten past, “No.” I view “No” as the beginning, not the end of an encounter. When the credit card person on the end of an 800 number says “No” to my request, I don’t yell at this person, I just view them as powerless to say “yes” to me, and ask to speak to a supervisor. No anger involved. Just get to the person who can say “yes.” Sometimes it is as easy as saying goodbye, hanging up and calling again to get a different operator who says "yes" immediately.

Get yourself to the person who can say “yes,” – even if it is the President of a company.

Your goal in life is to get to “yes.” When I was looking for a job as a copywriter in advertising, if I had stopped at every “No,” I would never have had the happy, successful career I did. Imagine all the “No’s” I heard as I walked around Manhattan with my portfolio, trying to get a creative director to see me.

“No, you can’t have an appointment.” “No, he’s not interviewing anybody.” “No there are no openings here.” “No, he is too busy.” “No, we don’t hire junior copywriters.” “No you don’t have any job experience.”

Sometimes, getting to the person who can say yes is as simple as waiting until the secretary has gone to lunch and the person himself answers the phone and you’ve got five seconds to make your case.

Another way to get past someone’s “No” is to enlist that person to help you. When I was founding the Merida English Library, a woman named Marilyn Smith would come in and tell me I'd never get it off the ground. I realized I had to turn this woman into my ally. I said, “Look, I really need this children’s reading room to work. How can we make this happen? Can you help me?” In short, keep the conversation going. Turn the “no” into a positive, problem solving experience.

And finally, there are times when you really will arrive at a definitive "No." Don’t beat your head against the wall and remain bitter or antagonized. Accept it, knowing that you’ve exhausted all possibilities. Change your tactic and move on to a new situation where your outcome will be yes.

When the first No really means No In sexual matters. If either man or woman says no, IT MEANS NO. It does not mean yes. No in this case means No and you should not persist your way to yes.

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