I met Daniel Epstein this past summer while teaching at the inaugural Bold Academy's “School For Superheroes” in Boulder, Colorado. Daniel led a jam-packed Q&A session around the art of “The Ask” for new and veteran entrepreneurs and change-makers, and I sat in on the session. He made a number of interesting points and I had a chance to follow up with him and ask him to share a few more insights.
Here’s our conversation.
You focused on a particular topic at Bold Academy: The Art of The Ask, and you talked a lot about why it’s so important to ask for what you want and to get your message out to the right audience. What makes someone successful at asking for what they want?
Daniel: The most important thing is conviction. Don’t be shy about it. If you genuinely believe in what you’re asking for, or what you’re asking for someone to do—then you’ll do a good job. You have to believe in what you’re doing.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a customer, a relationship, or anything—if you actually, deeply believe in your core that this is something that they would love or benefit from, then that makes the ask easier. You need conviction.
A lot of people don’t ask for what they want. Why is it so important to ask for it?
Daniel: You’ve got to ask for so much as an entrepreneur. If you don’t ask, you won’t get it. However, you need to have a solid vision and conviction in what you’re doing. That’s first.
You also mentioned that after you ask for what you need—let’s say you ask for someone’s time, or you reach out to someone for a connection or piece of information—the next most important things are to Follow Up and Follow Through. What does this mean?
Daniel: So many people will ask for something and then never follow up. This blows my mind.
You’ve got to do all of it.
Then, follow up—if you asked for a meeting in October, reach out to them and schedule that meeting and make it happen.
And then, follow through. Call them when you say you’re going to call them, and if you say you’ll send something to them after the meeting, send it.
The drop-off rate for both seems really high: most people don’t ask; then a large percentage of those people that ask still don’t follow up; and then again, of the people who follow-up, many of them don’t follow through. This makes someone who asks, follows up and follows through somewhat remarkable, don’t you think?
Daniel: Absolutely. If you ask, follow up, and follow through, you are doing something most people don’t do.
There’s one caveat, however: doing all of this requires an incredible amount of energy and time. On a personal level, how do you make time for it all? Is it possible to follow up and follow through with everyone you meet?
Daniel: No – You’ve got to focus on what your priority is at that time. I try to never drop the ball. Do I drop the ball? Of course. It happens. I try not to. So if it’s not a priority, what I say is this:
“Unfortunately at this time that’s not a priority for me so I won’t be able to follow through.”
When things DO matter, however, NEVER drop the ball. We work with a lot of investors in my company—and when they get excited about a new business or an entrepreneur, they will often reach out and the entrepreneur will say, “Sure, I’ll get back to you,”—and then might not follow up. When the entrepreneur doesn’t follow up, well—it’s incredible to me. Don’t do this. Don’t be this person. You have to follow up.
But when you start to have time and pressure demands, you’ve got to know early on not to overpromise. Be genuine. Follow through. When you can't, don't say that you will get something done and not follow up–Say you'll do it, and when you do, follow through.
I can’t stress this enough: Always, always follow through.
And if you mess up—of course you mess up—be genuine about it. Be honest when you make a mistake, and tell them. Say, “Hey, I never got back to you about this in a timely matter and I’m really sorry about dropping the ball. Things have been hectic but I really want to talk to you.”
Here’s the bottom line. When you say you’re going to do something, do it. It’s so obvious and simple and yet so many people don’t do it.
Let’s think about this from another angle: Why do you think most people don’t follow up?
Daniel: I think it comes down to discipline. The difference between a good and a great entrepreneur (or any profession, really), is having discipline.
You can’t create something of real significance unless you really hustle, and going the extra mile when you follow up and follow through makes a difference.
I think there’s a cultural acceptance of just saying, “Sure, sure, I’ll get it to you,” without really intending to do it that can be a problem. It’s so common that people don’t follow up that doing so makes you stand out. I think you need to have the discipline to say that you won’t when you actually aren’t going to do something, and do it when you say you’re going to do it.
So you have to be willing to say to someone—during that time when you’re meeting—“I wish I could schedule a meeting, but my priorities are laser focused on my current projects and I probably won’t be able to do that.” That can be tough.
Daniel: Right. It’s about discipline.
After working with so many entrepreneurs, are there any key characteristics and traits that stand out to you? What do you see in people who are successful?
Daniel: Three things come to mind right away:
The most important thing we select for in character traits is a paradoxical blend of confidence and humility—the confidence that they can make a difference in the lives of a million people. They need a conviction.
But also, it’s about the humility and realization that they can’t do it alone—that they need teams and partners. The humility to be honest when they don’t know the answer.
They also need the ability to hustle; not just the conviction that something’s important. You need passion, determination, conviction, discipline to make this thing a reality. We work with entrepreneurs that would probably give up their own lives before they see their business or solution fail—that’s how passionate they are.
The last thing—and this isn’t always true, so I won’t say it’s a hard-fast rule—but having a conviction in something isn’t enough; I like to look for why this individual is personally motivated to solve this particular problem. Usually there’s an underlying cause of belief, an experience they’ve had on the ground that has personally motivated them. They have some sort of relationship to the problem set that they are solving.
Every entrepreneur, after all, is solving a problem—so with my company, we choose entrepreneurs that are solving what I like to call BFP’s (“Big Fucking Problems”) and we like to see that they have a NEED to solve this that is somehow embedded in their DNA.
Have you ever walked over to someone with headphones in their ears and started talking to them, just to have them wave their hands and point at their headphones, mouthing to you, “SORRY I'M ON THE PHONE?” You interrupt your half-finished thought and back slowly away, as the person apologizes to their telephone recipient on the other end.
It's enough of an occurrence (at least for me) that I can't tell when someone's on the phone–that I wonder if the design of the device and the body language surrounding the device is a bit muddled. It becomes unclear if you're sitting, listening to music, talking, watching an important demo, or what you're actually doing–and whether or not it's a good time to try to get your attention.
In a second example: I saw a presenter give a talk while using his phone as a set of notes; unfortunately, the simple behavior of standing, looking down, one hand out below and glancing at the phone was disconcerting. His stance shifted to that all-too-familiar stance of not making eye contact, glancing down, closing off his body positioning, and reading from a notepad. Worse, he actually looked distracted–despite his engaging material.
With the universal application of small mobile devices, it's sometimes unclear whether you're using the device to talk, game, speak, read, or any other number of communication, creation and connective purposes. The devices are designed almost exclusively for connections across the phone, to another person beyond the immediate context, and also for the user's ease of functionality–but what about designing the devices to give clues in the current context about what's going on? (Provided, of course, that the user wants people to know what they're up to–this is not always the case).
How can product design in an increasingly mobile and connected world become more context-sensitive to your immediate location and surrounding environment? Is it possible to create a set of simple cues and clues that change your current context–making your connection with alternate realities and worlds simpler for you as a result?
In general, human body language gives clues to what someone is doing–sitting at desks, holding telephones, even the design of the dated telephone booth created a portal from which a person could separate from every day context and perform an activity that also clued the external environment into what he or she was doing–the telephone booth, for example, says: “Don't come into the box while I'm here; I'm talking.”
On a phone or tablet, this gets harder–what, exactly, are you doing with the small square computer in your hands? What does that mean for the people around you and for your approachability and accessibility?
What if phones and tablets “talked”–externally–and communicated to us some information about what the user was doing?
For example: what if, while standing outside on a balcony, staring off at space, or on a company bus with your headphones in, the external part of the phone turned bright pink as a sign that says, “Look, I'm on an important call, don't talk to me?”
Three simple color indicators, perhaps neon hues, that tell a story about what the user is doing–or the relationship of the user to the people around them.
Neon Purple: Thought and Creation Space. Don't Even Consider Disrupting the Bubble.
Neon Pink: I'm on a phone call.
Neon Yellow: Earbuds in, feel free to disrupt me.
How can we change the design of the phone to communicate what it is that we're doing in a way that's externally-facing (and useful)?
Sometimes–more nearly like every time–after finishing a project, I hate it.
I want nothing to do with it. I see it in all of the flaws, errors, imperfects. All the ideas that didn't transpire the way I wanted them to show up; the folds that didn't turn into corners and angles the way that I wanted, the misprinted line weights, the typos, the sentences. The project in its fascinating speculations and the seeming sigh of its final iteration. The scalding difference between my brain's dreams, desires and wishes and the tested, iterated manifestation of creating that product with my hands and resources.
It seems impossible to see the final product without the embedded knowledge of all of the processes that it took to get there.
The same is true on stage. I finish my talk, I finish the presentation, the idea, and I leave, not deflated, but with a fatigue from the project's finale and the owner's knowledge of everything that could have been or should have been, with the result left on the table. Everything left. Performance. Done.
I wonder why on earth I did the project in the first place, and whether or not its worth anything. Surely, they'll all hate it.
The thing is, no one else knows what you know.
What's fascinating is that for all the razor-edged criticism I can muster, the audience is presented only with the work at hand; they see the work for the first time, with new eyes, with their own perspective.
Everyone has a different opinion. Many see flaws I never saw. Conversations are sparked and ideas fly.
Sometimes the reviews are quite good.
Because I, the owner, cannot comprehend what it means to experience the data, the idea, the print, the drawing, the presentation for the first time. (This is why giving presentations is also so difficult). But the thing is they don't know inside my brain, inside all of the things that could have been; they just see what is.
Your audience, users, customers–they don't know what they don't know. (There is grace in this). They don't know the alternate version of the website. They don't know the 8 chapters that got chopped. They don't know the fourteen other parts to your talk that you accidentally skipped over.
They only know what they saw. What you gave them, in it's presented (final?) version.
Just because you know all the details, doesn't mean that they do.
What does this mean?
It's important to remember to maintain enthusiasm through a launch, through a release. The birth of a project is a commencement for you–the end of the creation cycle–and the initiation of the new project in the audiences eyes. They experience newly. Look at it with their wonder. Try to visualize experiencing it for the first time.
It is important to also remember that a project life cycle has within it the natural hangover phase; the point at which you are so sick of hearing or thinking about it any more that it's time to put the pencils down, pin the work up, step back, get feedback, and take a short rest. An overnight to reconsider. And preparing for this lethargic state, in my experience, helps wonders. I need to plan a night of quiet before the storm of publication or release. You can't stop a launch after you release; rather, this is when the communications and marketing builds steam.
And sometimes, months later, I go back and look at the work that I did, the project, the talk, recorded digitally, the book, on a fresh counter top. And I realize, finally, strangely, after the time apart, that the work isn't all that bad. That maybe, in fact, I did a good job.
Of course, sometimes the work is bad, and I cringe, and I learn–but sometimes, I finally see.
You can have everything you want, and you will never be enough.
I keep running my head in into two cultural mindsets that I think have negative consequences in American culture (this is not necessarily true everywhere. The French, for example, don't necessarily subscribe to the American parenting ideal of praising a kid for everything they do). But within this culture, there are a couple of paradigms that might not be accurate.
You can have anything you want.
First, the idea that you can do, be or have anything you want. Growing up here, we are taught this over and over again. Do you agree? Is this true? Can you really be anything you want? Can you have everything?
Regardless of the outcome of this debate, one consequence of this assumption is that we don't get taught how to decide. How to say no.
Is the flip side of being taught you can have everything you want failing to teach us how to make decisions? Does this make prioritization and deciding impossible?
You will never be enough.
Second, there seems to be a cultural construction or ideal that you will never be enough. This idea pervades–you will never have enough, and you will never be enough. This culture of scarcity–of not having enough–means that we're always seeking something to fill us up or fill the void. Hence, we shop like crazy.
Brene Brown identifies this culture of scarcity in several common phrases that we say every single day. When you wake up in the morning, the first thought many people have is
“I didn't get enough sleep.” Not enough. (Why?)
Then, we start the work day:
“I don't have enough time.” Again, not enough. (Why?)
These two cultural constructions–a culture of scarcity (“you are not enough, you don't have enough,”) and a culture of achievement (“you can be anything you want, you can have everything you want,”)–are they beneficial? How do they serve us, and how do they deceive us?
And worse, does the combination of these two cultural thoughts make us all slightly neurotic? (I can be anything! But shit! I'll never be enough! But I can have everything!)
Out of curiosity, what if we had a different mantra? What would the opposite construct look like? Perhaps:
You are enough.
You already have everything you need.
There is nothing in this world that you need to own or acquire to make your life better.
Three months and twelve days ago I was given $100. The $100 was given to me at a conference promoting world domination. It was timely; as the founder of the conference had just published a book called the $100 Startup—and he asked each of the 1000 attendees:
“If it only takes $100 to start a business, what could you do with this $100 over the next year?”
“Consider this an investment in you. What will you do with it?”
I decided to figure it out before I left the conference. I didn’t want to take a year to figure it out; I’m not that patient. I like doing things now. What could I do right away? One of the talks at the conference was by Scott Harrison, founder of Charity: Water, and he talked about one billion people on this planet who don't have access to clean water. As an open water swimmer, lover of all things water, and general life enthusiast, I was turned. I decided to raise money for my birthday (I’ll actually be 29 in just a couple of days), and put a target of 1000 people donating $29 so we could raise $29,000.
We blew it out of the water (oh yes: start counting the puns). We raised $32,398 in 72 days and there’s still money coming in. In the aftermath of the campaign, I’ve been inundated with queries about successful fundraising strategies. Last week I gave a talk “29 thoughts from raising $29,000,” at PowderKeg. Granted, there are differences between raising a million dollars and a couple thousand; and there are also significant differences between raising money for charity versus for business—but there's also some interesting overlap–so for everyone who's curious, here's a recap of some of the strategies I used.
“29 thoughts from raising $29,000"—highlights
I won’t go over everything from the talk, but here’s a list of the highlights of what I learned and what I’d do differently (or again).
(1) Be audacious. Go after something big. I don’t raise money. I have a full-time job. I have a part-time job. I have freelance clients. Who has time to campaign on the side? Let’s rephrase this: why not? who has time not to?
(2) Put yourself on the line. Go all in. We believe in people who do crazy things. If you meet someone who has a conviction for something, who can’t shut up, who loves the way this crazy conductor / part works or the man that jumped from the sky from more than 24 miles and broke the speed of sound—those are the interesting people. Don’t fit in. Do something weird, and people will love it. And the crazier, the better.
(3) Actions, not words: be crazy. As part of the campaign, I put a crazy goal up there and coupled it with an equally-crazy promise. I said:
If people donate more than $29,000, I’ll swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco.
In my birthday suit.
That’s right, naked.
It was a… flashy campaign. (#pun)
(4) Tell a story. People want to be a part of your story. Do you have a business or a project that they can become a part of? Bring them into the narrative of the story. Humans are natural born storytellers. Facts aren’t persuasive, but emotions and stories are.
In this case, we created three stories—and this is an important point—your different storylines and the way you capture the narrative will resonate with different audiences.
Story 1: “Here’s to the crazy ones.” A play on Jack Keroack and Steve Jobs. By the way—it’s a Jack Kerouack quote, not a Steve Jobs quote.
Story 2: “The power of micro-actions.” A lot of people don’t donate because they don’t feel as though their contribution actually makes a difference. I broke it down into pieces that made it a community effort – if 1000 people donated just $29, we could do this.
Follow up thought:*Asking for money takes the same time no matter how much you’re asking for. I would definitely up the ante and ask for a lot more money next time. Know what’s cooler than $29 from 1000 people? $29,000 from 1000 people.
Story 3: Water is life. There are 800 million people in our planet that don’t have clean water. That’s one out of every nine people who can’t turn on a faucet to run water down the drain. Who walk through dangerous conditions to get water to live. Who don’t have an education because they’re searching for water instead. It’s an entire economy waiting to be activated. As someone who splashes through oceans, runs on beaches, takes deliciously long hot showers, drinks an abundant amount of coffee—this made me sick. The world is not fair. I’m ridiculously over-blessed and I can’t sit and whine about not having the latest iMac or iThing when there are other things do do.
More people die from dirty water and poor sanitation than all forms of violence. $29 can change someone’s life. It’s actually pretty easy to do.
(5) Ask. You don’t get what you don’t ask for.
The art of asking is a funny business. Most people will tell you a story and then leave the table without explicitly stating what they would like you to do. Tell people what you want them to do and what, exactly, you’d like to get from them.
“I’d like you to invest $300,000 in my company.”
Keep it simple. Put the ask on the table. Look them in the eye. And—this is the most important part—then shut the fuck up. Ask, simply, and then wait. Don’t throw a bunch of garbage words into the space between your ask and the person’s response. The waiting part—that silence—is defeaning, but critical. For more on this scenario, ask me in person. I have lots to say about this.
(6) Ask, Part 2. Ask everyone. I asked my bus driver, my taxi driver, the brunch group, people at my swim, the coffee barista. I ended up having one of my @lyft drivers laughing so hard that he gave me cash straight out and volunteered to graffiti-paint my body for the swim. You. Must. Ask. Everyone.
(7) Do The Math. I didn’t set a goal and then sit back and wait. I obsessively graphed and charted each scenario for how much I would ask and what I needed to accomplish my goal. Would I ask 1000 people for $29? Would we get 100 people donating $29?
The final distribution was 460 people donating, plus an additional collection of $2900 from the party (raffle tickets and party tickets were $29-$87). With approximately 300 people donating $29; 80 people donating $58-87; 10 donated $100 and another 10 $290, a single $1000 donation, a single $2900 donation, and a single $5000 donation. The majority of the donations were under $100.
(8) Have A Plan… and Show Up.
I crafted a group of 400 people I knew and emailed them every two weeks throughout the course of the campaign. (For more on email design and templates, I have all of them saved with responses collated). I posted nearly every day on social media outlets (Facebook and Twitter) and owned the fact that I was doing it (“I will be posting until this campaign is over!”). I made a press commitment to try to publish one article a week for 12 weeks to gain attention and eyeballs for the campaign. (We ended up with ten essays throughout the course of the campaign over 9 weeks, not as evenly spaced as I would have hoped).
(9) Email is King. Your fastest and direct connection to most people is through their email inbox, and it’s more scaleable than telephone calls. Treat these emails with respect, and use them wisely. The highest return on the campaign came after each time I sent an email.
(10) What you hear is not what they hear. I got nervous that I was talking incessantly about my project (I was). I got sick of my own voice. The thing is, people receive your emails or see your tweets (or don’t) and they are busy—out shopping, eating, running errands, at work. They want to donate, but forget. The email follow-up in two weeks triggers people who want to donate to take action.
People generally need to see your ideas 4-7 times before they really familiarize themselves with it. Multiple messages is okay. If you send one email and no one responds, you might need to send another message. Just because you are talking about it all the time does not mean that they hear everthing you’re saying.
And if you create a great story—and you sweep people up in your project, they will rally behind you and want to know how the campaign is doing, and they want to know when you win. People love a good story. The additional messages aren’t a nuisance if they’re well-crafted—they’re bringing people into the story and along for the ride. Share your enthusiasm with them.
(11) Make people feel good about helping. If you’re awkward, they’re awkward. Believe in what you ask for.
(12) Say thank you. you can never, ever say thank you enough.
(13) Swim Naked. Okay, this isn’t really a necessity, but on September 20th we crossed the $29,000 threshold and 36 hours later, on Saturday, September 22nd, I got into a boat early in the dark morning, motored out to the island, took off all my clothes (less a swim cap) and swam from Alcatraz to fulfill my end of the bargain. Which brings me to the next point…
(14) Do what you say you’re going to do. People will rally behind you if you're consistent. If you're reliable. Even if it's crazy. If they can trust you. Do something, and then hustle like crazy to make it happen.
There are at least 15 more thoughts on how to run a campaign and fundraise successfully–I'll link to a couple interviews that are coming out and feel free to send a question to me here or here and I'll share more.
There are a billion people in our planet that don’t have clean water. That’s one out of every nine people, who can’t turn on a faucet to run water down the drain. Who walk through dangerous conditions to get water to live.
And you? Start your own campaign. Do something. Today. There were fewer than 48 hours between hearing the story in Portland and setting up my campaign on Monday, July 10th. I’ve already heard of at least 3 spin-off campaigns. You can do it. You can also still donate: trust me, I’ll find a way to get the money to Charity: Water. In fact, I’d be thrilled to tell Charity: Water that we still have donations coming in. You can find me.
When did someone sit down and promise you that it was supposed to be easy? Or better yet, fair? It's not guaranteed to be easy or fair, and the people who get what they want go after it in spite of and because of each and every advantage or disadvantage they are thrown.
In the words of my coach, during a particularly arduous sequence of events:
“Just fucking do it.”
“Show me you can do it no matter what. This is when you become better than the best. Not when circumstances are perfect. It's when circumstances are shit and you do it anyways.”
What if there was a Quora or HackerNews-like system for ranking the effectiveness of an email? Embedded in your user profile is a system for thumbs-up and thumbs-down, whereby the user can rank on a binary your relative effectiveness of email.
Your cumulative score, weighted by the rank of the user ranking you, plus frequency of interactions with that user (high frequency of interactions x high relative score = higher weight on your overall rank), influences the organization of the “priority inbox.” People who send better emails get better placement in your inbox.
Thought 2: Speed of Response and Delivery
What if when you sent a message, rather than flagging it “high priority” or “urgent,” you could actually include the estimated time you need the message back? Perhaps based on Covey's four quadrants of important/urgent/not important/not urgent, users could tag an email as long-term, short-term, urgent, or not urgent. (My email to my colleagues about wanting piano sheet music earlier today, for example, was not urgent).
If we included the estimated time we needed to get it back (3 weeks, 6 weeks, etc), perhaps that would lighten the load on the end user by organizing and aggregating messages into time-based quadrants?
Or, on the user side, perhaps the emails could drop into “project” buckets and filter to the top of each bucket based on the priority reading from Thought 1?
Quick update: after receiving a bit of feedback and re-reading this post, it's not reading quite the way that I want it to read. I've since taken the first draft and re-written what I think makes more sense to add points to the conversation.
Ever say yes to something and wish you hadn't? Or get stuck in a situation where you're not sure how to say no to something? Or better yet, get asked for money and you don't know how to say no? I have a hard time saying no (an impossible time, sometimes, because I want to say yes to everything), so recently I said no to meeting someone for coffee and it was the right call. I had to use a phrase I rarely say:
“No, I won't meet you for coffee.”
Those words were really hard to say. For some reason, saying no feels like an impossibility for me.
Usually I say no only if I can't–if I'm on a plane or in another state, for instance. If I've maxed out my credit card cycle for the month, so I can't donate for another two weeks. Things like that.
But is this a good behavior pattern to adopt? It's certainly proved wonderful in my life–but I know there are times when saying no is prudent. When you need to say no because there are other priorities. When meeting for 5-6 various in-person interactions totals as much as 20 hours per week, and 20 hours per week of transit, travel, follow-up and coordination time could be better spent writing a book or finishing projects for my clients.
How do you say no? How do you know when not to meet with someone, or when donating or giving money is going to put you in more trouble than help someone else? Granted, I just raised $29,000 for charity and asked a LOT of people to help me out–so the world works on a big cycle of people saying yes. I'm not going to dispute that. And for every person that said yes, there were hundreds of people who said no–and that's absolutely fine. It's the way the world works. So, when can I say no?
I talk a lot with people older than I am, and they mention that they only learned later in life how much they value their own quirks and life preferences. Being at home. Staying out late. Spending time with their friends. Read any end-of-life list and you won't see someone say,
“Boy, I wish I had said yes to more appointments and meetings.”
Me? I love writing. I love reading. I absolutely adore being home, by myself, with my computer, rationalizing and thinking and mulling over ideas and pieces. Picture Tina Fey in 30 Rock delighting over organization. That's me and books.
It takes me time–a lot of time–to put these ideas together. I typically need uninterrupted space, for hours, to really sort things out and put them together and string words into phrases and meanings. On a lot of days I get up really early just to do this and I often stay up late or find time on Friday or Saturday night to write posts (like this one, in fact) because I want and crave the space for my ideas.
So meeting daily for 10AM meetings is not ideal for me. (In fact, and more on this in another post, I try to schedule all of my meetings on what I call “Meeting Thursdays,” so I can enjoy most of my other days sans-meetings).
And I start to wonder how people with more demands on their time do it, because I'm not a big shot by any means (and never will be)–and yet I get a lot of requests for coffee, meetings, one-on-one events, and space on my calendar, as I'm certain so many working and busy people do. It's more than I can handle, in fact, and I'll have to say no to them if I want to get any work on my personal projects done.
I did the math, and I realized that if I were to meet with every person for coffee each week, I'd give up 10-20 hours a week of time, or 80 hours a month, and for someone who's been saying she wants to write a book for several years now, I've got to stop and ask myself–
Is meeting for this coffee worth more to you than doing the writing you want to do?
And while yes, I would love to meet you for coffee, and I'm overjoyed at the prospect of spending time with so many lovely people, I know that in order to get the projects done that I want to get done, I sometimes have to say no.
I have to say no.
Same goes for subscriptions, memberships, and many other things. And I used to feel bad–sort of–about saying No. I felt like I ought to say yes, take the opportunity, do it. It might have some opportunity! I might be missing something! Classic FOMO.
How do you say no, kindly? There are two key phrases that really help–try these out:
“I wish I could join you. However, I need to carve out space for myself this week and I don't have time to meet you.”
“I can't. I need to carve out space for myself this week.”
And for money:
“It's not in my budget.”
It's your decision to say yes or no. And in a world with an abundance of yes, sometimes I need to select the “no” answer.
I dread those words* Meeting face-to-face takes a lot of time and energy and coordination. It's not a 1-hour event. It's the time it takes me to dress up a little nicer in the morning, rearrange my morning schedule, take the bus or lyft or uber to the place (okay, add 30 minutes for transportation), spend an hour or longer with you, spend another 30 minutes getting to my next destination, and then decompressing afterwards and getting back into my routines and items I need to get done.
That's four hours. FOUR HOURS. Of time.
I'd much rather do a phone call. 15-20 minutes, tell me what you need, let's jam while I walk to my next destination. Better yet, send me all the research you've done in an email, let me skim it, and specify exactly what you want in clear language and how I can help you. If you tell me what to do, I can help.
The problem with “meeting for coffee” is that they take up a third of my day, and with just 5 people a week, that adds up to a third of my working time. That's a lot of time, and it's inefficient.
Let's not meet for coffee.
There are exceptions, of course, and this isn't to assume that I don't like having coffee with people. I do. Just only a couple times per week. More than 3 and I'm toast. There's work to be done, people.
Quick update: after receiving a bit of feedback and re-reading this post, it's not reading quite the way that I want it to read. I've since taken the first draft (original below) and re-written what I think makes more sense to add points to the conversation. See the updated essay here.
“Let’s meet for coffee.”
I dread those words* Meeting face-to-face takes a lot of time and energy and coordination. It’s not a 1-hour event. It’s the time it takes me to dress up a little nicer in the morning, rearrange my morning schedule, take the bus or lyft or uber to the place (okay, add 30 minutes for transportation), spend an hour or longer with you, spend another 30 minutes getting to my next destination, and then decompressing afterwards and getting back into my routines and items I need to get done.
That’s four hours. FOUR HOURS. Of time.
I’d much rather do a phone call. 15-20 minutes, tell me what you need, let’s jam while I walk to my next destination. Better yet, send me all the research you’ve done in an email, let me skim it, and specify exactly what you want in clear language and how I can help you. If you tell me what to do, I can help.
The problem with “meeting for coffee” is that they take up a third of my day, and with just 5 people a week, that adds up to a third of my working time. That’s a lot of time, and it’s inefficient.
Let’s not meet for coffee.
There are exceptions, of course, and this isn’t to assume that I don’t like having coffee with people. I do. Just only a couple times per week. More than 3 and I’m toast. There’s work to be done, people.