Have You Ever Made An Exception?

Has anyone ever told you no?

An off the cuff remark from a former Wall Street Exec caught my attention.   He visited UCSC last week, and gave a talk about the financial crisis to our economics class.  Somehow in the Q&A we went on a tangent, and he got to talking philosophy.  The question:  How do you get what you want?

His words:

“Listen guys, life is a bitch.   People say no to you.  You need to reject that answer.  Every day tell my employees to get me a form signed or to get something done.   Maybe I need a reservation somewhere.   One time my rookie assistant told me “I couldn’t do it–they said no”   I told her “Of course they did!   I don’t care.   Get them to say yes!  Make it happen.   Never take no for an answer.   Keep pushing.  You’ll get what you need.   It doesn’t always work, but it does most of the time.”

His body language collapsed towards the end of his rant and it was obvious he wanted to take back some things he said.  There was an awkward fit of murmuring in the audience.  I can just imagine people filling in the hypothetical situations where you should take no for an answer.  Sure, he miscalibrated the remark, but there’s a lesson in here.

You should expect to hear the word no.   If you don’t hear it very often, you’re not pushing hard enough.    

The word “No” sucks.   Especially when it’s from someone who can help you.   Someone who has what you need.   A gatekeeper.   A person, just like you or me, whose life is busy and doesn’t need the added complexity you bring to the table.

If you haven’t planned for the possibility of a “no, I can’t do that,”  you’re a fool.  Two ways to mitigate this possibility come to mind:

You can phrase your question so “no” isn’t a default answer.   Here is a good example and a bad example of phrasing.

BAD:  ”Can you help me out with this [form/problem/task/etc]?”

GOOD:  ”I need you to help me out with this [form/problem/task/etc], how can we do this?”

Bottom line, think up ways to ask the question that make it a “long answer question” instead of a “multiple choice” question.   If you give people an easy way to say no, they will.  Because they’re busy.   And especially if they don’t know you very well.

Ask Whether They’ve Made An Exception

Okay, let’s say you phrased your question correctly, and you still hear “no.”   Here’s what you come back with:  “Have you ever made an exception?”

In my experience, most people say no to difficult or confusing questions.   Saying no is a default response.   By asking whether they’ve ever made an exception, you force them to think about it more.  This followup question gives you a starting point.   Find out more about the circumstances and try to finagle your way into meeting their standards.

Why is this relevant?

I recently discovered I was missing a grad requirement.  I need one more class to graduate UCSC.  At UCSC we run the quarter system, each quarter is 10 weeks long.   It was week 4.   That’s pretty late to realize I need to add a class.

I spent last Wednesday going to every Econ class I could and asking teachers for permission to enroll.   How many professors do you think gave me a permission code to their class?

Three out of four.   One said no and wouldn’t budge.  He actually started shouting at me. Three said yes.   Two were easy to convince, but one of them said no before saying yes.

The negative nancy professor is worth looking at:

“Professor, I’m new to your class.   I know it’s late in the quarter, but I really need to add a fourth class.   Is it too late to join?”

Recall good and bad question phasing.   I fucked up– I made it easy to say no.   So he said no.   It’s okay though–hit them with the trump card.

“Well, have you ever made an exception?  I looked at your syllabus and it says the first midterm in the two weeks.   I missed some homework but I only care about passing the class, I don’t need an A”

“… I suppose I could let you in.   Here’s a permission code.”

Victory feels good.

That permission code could mean the difference between an extra five weeks of school and almost $2000 dollars in tuition, or spending the month of July in Santa Monica with my family.   I’d rather spend time with my Mom before I travel the world than sitting in a classroom with a professor.  Wouldn’t you?


Interested in learning more about negotiating?   Check out Stuart Diamond’s book “Getting More.”   Most negotiating books focus on power struggles and posturing, but this one is different.  Most people act emotionally, not logically when they negotiate.  The author tells you how to keep things civil and still get what you want–and it works better than yelling.

Sound useful? Go buy the book.

When have you negotiated your way out of a hairy situation? Leave a comment and tell us about it.


Time has been flying!  Maybe some of you have the tendency to get wrapped up in work and forget to relax.   I know I do.   When that happens, you gotta relax.   There’s an addictive quality to being productive, but you can’t fire on all cylinders all the time.   There needs to be downtime.   Relax a little bit.   Reflect on what you have, appreciate it.    I appreciate the beautiful surroundings of Santa Cruz, my family, and my close friends.   I appreciate the exciting life I have ahead of me.   What don’t I appreciate?   It helps to not think about that for a couple moments a day.   Stay positive.


Paul Graham reminds us what’s truly important.  Sometimes progress seems slow and the scarcity mentality kicks in.  But there will always be opportunities–relax and let them come.

On progress: Making one small step every day will produce shocking results when you stop and reflect.    It’s easy to get bogged down or discouraged.  Sometimes we keep our true thoughts inside: to be agreeable, to be pragmatic.  These seem like the smart path.   They lead nowhere


Here’s an interesting video about combatting procrastination by Tim Ferris.   The key is to set low expectations–if you aim to accomplish too much, you’ll be too intimidated to smart.   Just do it.     Anything worth doing is worth doing badly at first–experience is the best teacher.

Remember this:  Deciding what you won’t do is just as important as deciding what you will.


Did you take time to relax and appreciate what you have today?   Are you working on your best project right now, or are you busy thinking about what you could do?


Long Term

The past week was a success.  Even though didn’t hit all my goals from last week, I’m still happy with what I did finish (check them out here).

Some quick updates:

1.  Going wine tasting tomorrow with my girlfriend in Sonoma, her late Valentine’s day gift.

2 & 3.  Attending two paleo events in San Jose:  Tuesday potluck (I’m bringing this salad) and Wednesday catered paleo dinner with guest speaker Dave Asprey (aka The Bulletproof Executive).

4.  Founded a Paleo Meetup group and I’m hosting a potluck on Earth Day.   Will be good to meet other paleo folks, I’m stoked for it.

Should be a good week!


Time for the bad stuff:  I only hit one of three goals.   Not bad, but not where I need to be.

FAIL #1:

The first goal, due tomorrow is to throw up an affiliate site.   I didn’t do it.   Instead, I attended a Webinar by the AdSenseFlippers on Keyword Research for a Niche Site.  Check out a description of the guide here.   If you missed the Webinar you’ll have to wait until they release the link.

FAIL #2:

Run an affiliate campaign.   I didn’t apply for a network yet and therefore I didn’t run any campaigns.   I’m scrapping my plans to run PPV (Popup) campaigns–my skills can better be used elsewhere.   I also am skittish about paid traffic because I want to conserve capital, not accidentally waste it.    PPV doesn’t appeal to me, and I’m gonna quit while I’m ahead.


Completed Positioning: The Battle for Your Mindthis excellent marketing lesson. The book is called “Positioning:  The Battle for Your Mind.”  It was recommended in CA$HVERTISING‘s index.

One sentence summary:

It’s best to be first, and if you can’t be first, create a new category for yourself.

You know Amelia Earhart because she was the first woman to fly solo across the atlantic.  Who was the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic?  Charles Lindbergh.   Who was second?

Why this matters to you:

If you’re in college, looking for a job or just want to present yourself better: go read chapter 20 right now.

“What are you?   People suffer from the same disease as products.  They try to be all things to all people.


The problem with this approach is the mind of the prospect.

It’s difficult enough to link one concept with each product.  It’s almost impossible with two or three or more concepts.


The most difficult part of positioning is selecting that one specific concept to hang your hat on.  Yet youst must, if you want to cut through the prospect’s wall of indifference.


What are you?  What is your own position in life?


…Most people aren’t ruthless enough to set up a single concept for themselves.  They vacillate.  They expect others to do it for them.


I have a feeling this chapter alone will impact my life course.   So go read it.


What are your long term goals?

Here are mine:


1 Month:

-Improve the look, feel, and content of this blog.   Add a “resources page” and fill out links to everything I know and found useful from the internet (similar to this post) Maybe I’ll throw up some personal recommendations on here and to have a portfolio for work completed.   Not sure whether to put schoolwork up there or not; who cares about it?

-Make my first dollar online.   This will come from Adsense or from an Affiliate campaign on Clickbank.   Maybe from Amazon Affiliate links.   Amazon marketplace and ebay auctions don’t count.  This one will be cool even though it’s only a dollar.  Watch for it!


6 Months:

-Move to Asia.   Connect with and meet up with Entrepreneurs who are doing interesting things.   Have some fun and kick ass at work the whole time.   Launch a product and sell at least one unit.

-Complete 20 fighters’ pullups, 35 dips, and 5 handstand pushups in an unbroken set.   I can do around 10/20/0 currently!


1 Year:  


-Run a profitable venture that pays all my bills.  That might mean cutting costs until I can pay my bills with the meager flow of cash.  It’s also important to use the some of the money to give back.

-Publish 60 blog posts.

-Hold a 10 minute deep squat position, balance out my muscular imbalances in my left and right legs (internal rotation, external rotation, tight calves).


Any book recommendations or ways to get better at bodyweight exercises?   Comment!



Read A Book a Week and Updates on Deadlines

8:32 PM on Friday night, and another blog post before I head home.   Noticing a trend yet?  =)

Last Friday I set three deadlines, view them here.

Here’s the update:  I finished Ca$hvertising as promised on schedule.   I had it done by April 2nd in the afternoon.  One down!

First day of classes was Tuesday, April 3rd.   I checked out Ken Germann’s marketing class– it looks fun and informative, but I eventually settled on Bernie Elbaum’s class, Economic History of the US.  I love his teaching and I’m a history nerd;  I couldn’t resist.   My other classes are “Issues and Problems in American Society” (Soc 10) and “Economic Rhetoric” (Econ 197).   Both look easy, I might take the Sociology class Pass/No Pass, though.

The looming deadlines:

  • DUE ON APRIL 15th:  The affiliate site.   I’ve decided to hire someone to do it.   I’ve posted some jobs on Odesk.com and asked around through friends, we’ll see what happens.
  • DUE ON APRIL 12th:  Run an affiliate campaign.   I need to get approved by an Affiliate Network such as Neverblue or Ads4Dough.   It’s kind of a problem though because I need to do a phone interview, and I lost my phone!   I’ll have a new one by monday and it’ll be business hours again, though.   This shouldn’t be a problem.


Will I hit them?   I think I can.




  • NEVER DO SCHOOLWORK EXCEPT ON TUESDAYS, THURSDAYS, AND SUNDAYS.  Why?  Because school is easy to overthink and overwork for.   I’m going to produce efficient papers and written assignments, and do only the most important readings.   This will be hard cause I’m a workaholic, but I need to focus on real work and concerns rather than academia now.   Besides, all my classes except for sections are scheduled onto those days.   Four day weekends baby!
  • READ ONE BOOK PER WEEK.   Next up?   Words That Sell by Richard Bayan, another book about Ad Copywriting.   This should help for Affiliate Marketing!


Do you have any pressing goals?   Let me know in the comments!