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July 11, 2011

Are you Tapping Abundance or Scarcity?

Today I met a man on the ferry who began to talk to me as soon as I was seated on the top deck of the small Bowen Queen. I thought he was a little different when he first began speaking to me but I couldn't really put my finger on why I thought that. When I have that thought come up with strangers, I try to acknowledge it internally and keep with the conversation. I want to see where it might go; see if my intuition is accurate.

He began talking to me about a course he had taken in Atlanta, Georgia that had to do with requesting things from others.  You apparently get sequestered for two weeks with others and then on the third week they let you loose on the unsuspecting public.  In this course,there were three pages of things that the participants were required to request; things that you almost always have to pay for. 

At the beginning of this course, they take away your wallet, your credit cards and cash and in exchange they give you a couple of small books which are your only currency.  The first time he took the course, he said he made about $3.00 a day. The second time he took the course he made enough to feed himself. The third time, he made more than enough to live on. (Read that last sentence again and think about that!)

This particular twist in the conversation started because I said I liked the boots he was wearing. They were a nice pair of shiny, black ankle-high leather boots with a square toe. He proceeded to tell me that he got them at Nordstroms. They had other boots on sale but he didn't want those. He wanted these boots and he wanted 10% off so he asked for the manager. The manager, a happy earnest young guy, said,  "What can I do for you?" The man said he wanted these boots and he'd like 10% off. The young manager looked at him and said he couldn't do that. They weren't on sale. "You can't just come into a store [in North America] and ask for 10% off," said the young guy who had no idea when he woke up that morning what kind of interpersonal mindtorture was coming down the pipe.

The young guy told this man  that he should look at the other boots that were on sale and choose one of those and then he just turned and walked away. But, this man, persisted, always remaining completely polite and calm and he continued to persist because he said it was only 10% and really there was no legitimate reason why it didn't make sense for the manager to give in. So, after 2 hours of this, the young manager finally relented.  "Really," I said, my right eyebrow pretty much raised as high as it could go thinking how much I'd hate to have him for a partner, imagining myself slinking into the woodwork on most public outings.

He then gave me another example. He told me about walking into a chain grocery store and having to get something off the shelves without paying for it. He asked for the manager. Now this particular manager began to ask him a lot of questions almost as if she was interviewing him. At the end of her questioning, which lasted about 20 minutes, she said she wanted to hire him. He said he didn't want a job but he had a friend outside and she needed $100 and could work for 3 days. After speaking with this man, the manager hired his friend on the spot just because of his request. She then turned to him and told him to take what he wanted off the shelves.

Finally, he told me about his experience of walking into a restaurant and asking for a free meal. Of course, the waiter had to call the manager and the manager was another young guy.They were going back and forth and finally in exasperation when the manager said he really didn't know what to do, the man took this opportunity to tell him: Get me a cheeseburger, some fries and a coke." He got it.

"People want to help you," he said. "We don't know how to ask for help," he said, at which point I thought he might just be a messenger from God.

Now, regardless of what you think of his approach, the lessons behind this story are interesting ones. Too often we think that things are impossible when all we have to do is ask for what we want.You know those people you meet who think just because things are a certain way they can't change even though take a look around, the rules are really quite arbitrary for the most part.

The other interesting thing to note is that I honestly believe it's probably true that you'd only ever end up having such a conversation (or maybe I'd only end up having such a conversation) on a ferry heading towards Salt Spring where individualists unite!


Lisa Wolfe said...

fascinating stories... he wore people down or out with his calm and rational peristence

Gayle Mavor said...

Yes. Interesting. But, as friends pointed out after I told them this story, unless you're doing this to achieve financial means in the service of others (not just getting 10 percent off shoes) then what's the point. Really, you're just being a pain in the ass.