A Master Draws No Distinction Between Work and Play [quote]

A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.

-Francois Auguste Rene Chateaubriand (1800′s French Writer & Diplomat) via Balancing Blogging, Work, and Life | Justin Was Here.

The Power of Having a Mindset of Infinite Opportunity [guest post]

Doing Rejection Therapy has allowed me to meet all kinds of interesting people. One of them is Matt Ramos, a college student in California. He’s in the process of transforming himself from being a shy quiet guy to a fearless doer who gets after his dreams. I thought I might share his story with you here. I hope you enjoy it!

- Jason

The Power of Having a Mindset of Infinite Opportunity

By Matt Ramos

I was a huge introvert throughout my teenage years.

I was extremely timid around all people because I made assumptions as to what they were thinking about me.

Being in a shy mindset created a life where very few doors opened for me. Or even if many doors did open, I never gave myself a chance to walk through it due to the fear of being embarrassed or rejected.

The few times I did open the door only revealed humiliating experiences. I was rejected by my high school crush of two years. I didn’t fit in with anyone because I didn’t want to be another face in the crowd, which made people call me weird. I had it rough because I was the second quietest kid in the school. So people would give their sympathy to the shyest kid in the school, whereas I was simply a shadow.

So for the next couple of years, I shut myself out from the world. If the world would be that terrible, then why should I put myself out there?

After more negative experiences, I finally stumbled on the SFGate article that features Jason Shen.

I knew I had to follow the example that was given in Rejection Therapy.

Rejection Therapy Begins

In January and February of 2011, I did a daily rejection everyday. I was able to ask people if they wanted something I offered (like food), ask girls out, ask people to study with me, ask someone for a sip of her drink, and ask people to catch up with me.

For example, there was a girl in front of me in my class that intrigued me. She seemed to be interesting. Then I thought to myself, “How can I benefit her?”

When you think in terms of benefiting that person, then they are more likely to accept. Everyone would say yes to something that benefited them right?

So on the third day of class, I finally got the courage to ask her, “Hi, so what did you think of our professor?”

She told me that, “Well he doesn’t really look like a professor; he looks more like a surfer!”

Then we ended up chatting for a few more minutes after that. Before she left, I asked her if she wanted to study with me in that class. She gladly accepted.

Throughout that whole class, we ended up chatting together. We built up rapport and started making jokes with one another.

We lost touch after the class ended because she was from out of town.

However, taking that chance enabled me to get a good grade in my class and kept me from being totally bored in that class.

I’ll take a risk of rejection for those benefits any day. Instead of sitting around on my iphone and playing Angry Birds all day, I found out that talking to strangers could be more rewarding.

Create Your Own Infinite Opportunity

It’s like an once-in-a-lifetime experience except you have full control over how you can get it. You don’t have to wait around passively for opportunity to come. You can create it at any moment.

You have the power to create as many door-opening opportunities as you’d want if you change your mindset in one way.

That one way is letting go of a desired outcome and letting that outcome just happen.

If the girl rejects you, you win because you just got rejected. If she accepts your date, then you win because you just got a date. It’s a win-win situation.

If you ask someone to help you with something (study, projects, etc.), and they say no, you win because you just got rejected. If they say yes, then you’ve got the help you need. It’s a win-win situation.

When you can think of rejection as a door-opening experience rather than a feeling of inferiority or embarrassment, then you have an infinite amount of doors in front of you all the time.

Rejection can hurt but will you let that fear of being hurt take all the opportunity away from you?

It’s your right to take a chance.

The rest is up to you to actually take that chance.

If you want to start your own 30-day Rejection Therapy challenge, you can go to rejectiontherapy.com, ask Jason about it, or contact me.


Matt Ramos is a college student who wants to eliminate fear, create possibilities, and contribute to the world as much as possible by the age of 30. Rejection Therapy is just one of his tools to make that vision a reality. You can visit his site here at http://30vanquish.com

My Best Negotiation Story To Date (Jul 2011)

I’ve got a minor confession to make: I’m not very good at negotiating. I don’t like doing it and I tend to avoid it. It’s something I’m working on. I’ve started to get over it through practice and seeing negotiation more as a form of persuasion than anything else.

A great book on this topic is Getting More: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real Worldby Stuart Diamond. There are a lot books on negotiating and I’ve read some of them, but Diamond’s book feels most rooted in reality, in ordinary life situations. It’s also less about power dynamics and more about, as the title references, “achieving goals” which is something I can really get behind. So check it out.

Anyway, some of the feedback I’ve gotten from you (readers of The Art of Ass-Kicking) is that you like reading my stories. So here’s the best negotiation story to date. If I do better I’ll try to write about it if I can (without revealing important private information). I’d love to hear your experiences with negotiation in the comments!

How I Made $5,000 in a 20 minute Phone Call

The year (2008-09) was an interesting one. I had finished my bachelors degree at Stanford and was continuing through a masters in Biology and preparing to enter the job market. In the fall I had participated in the recruiting process for several management consulting firms but the combination of a terrible economy + poor thinking on the fly skills meant I got some interviews but no offers. I decided to shift gears and go after service / nonprofit positions – and got final rounds with Teach for America + a service fellowship.

The Daily position was exciting because it was a mission driven organization that was formed as a nonprofit but was run like a business – the COO is responsible for the P&L and reports to a 9 person board of directors. I decided to apply for the position after several rounds of interviews, got an offer.

I figured the next step would be to negotiate the offer. I knew I was in a good position because somehow the interviewer had let it slip that there had only been for applicants for the position and that 2 were too old (5+ years after college) to do the job. So while it didn’t do much for my ego to know that I only beat out one person, it meant they didn’t have a lot of options. So they ought to be willing to discuss… =)

I brought up the idea of negotiating the comp package to my interviewer, who was the outgoing COO. She had a very policy/bureaucratic manner and was a bit taken back and almost shocked by my suggestion of negotiating the salary. “The salary is standard, has been the same for many years and doesn’t change!”

(This response might also have been because she had spent the year doing major cost cutting to keep the organization a float). But she also wanted to make sure that there was a COO of the Daily for next year, so she passed my request on to the Chairman of the Friends of the Stanford Daily – a guy with a lot of power and one of the original founders of the Daily nonprofit.

I remember reading a book on negotiating comp packages and it said – if you couldn’t move salary, work on tangential benefits/perks. I had gotten into a summer program at Stanford’s Business School that was basically an expensive mini-MBA camp. I had hoped to win a scholarship to attend but didn’t get it. I still wanted to go but it was $10,000 and would cut into my first few weeks at the Daily.

So I got on a call with this guy, let’s call him Jeff. I told him I was interested in the position but I was looking for a higher offer than what was given ($42,000). While I knew they wanted me, I also didn’t have another offer on the table, which always makes negotiating harder.

Jeff wasn’t willing to budge on salary – the Daily was going through tough economic times and he couldn’t offer anything higher. So I bring up this mini-MBA and ask if I could start later and get the whole program paid for since it would directly add value to my ability to be COO.

He thinks about it (the guy has an MBA from Stanford himself) and offers to pay for half. But also since it cuts into my first three weeks at work, I wouldn’t get paid for that time. So I do the math – this offer means I still have to shell out 5k AND I lose out on about 2k of salary. Not a good deal.

Then in my flash of brillance, I ask – what if instead of paying $5k for the program, you put aside $5k for me to use in approved educational purchases? BINGO. He can’t refuse the number since he had already put it out there, and now I could start work on time and have the flexibility to use the money in a variety of ways.

I used the $5k over the course of the year to buy a number of business books, some sales training programs, and flights for several staff members to attend a conference on college newspapers held at Yale.  It was a win for everyone and though it may not be amazing, it’s my best negotiation story to date.

Lessons Learned

You have more leverage than you think

Negotiating is scary and asking for more comes with risk. But if you have any kind of offer or are in a discussion, the other side isn’t going to walk away because you suggest you want more. They’re there for a reason – they want what you can bring to the table – so don’t forget that.

Give reasons

When you ask for something, it’s helpful to give a reason. One reason might be – someone else is offering more, another might be – give me more and I’ll bring something else to the table, a third might be – helping me is really helping the organization. I used the 3rd reason.

Get them to throw out an offer

This isn’t always the right thing, but if you are uncomfortable asking for more, it’s helpful to get the other party to make an offer. When Jeff indicated he would pay for half of the summer MBA program, I now had a solid offer to work with.

Be flexible

In the book Getting More, Professor Diamond says to trade items of unequal value. In order to do this, you have to bring a lot more items to the table of discussion/negotiation. In my case, Jeff had to hold the line on salary but could offer discretionary funds for easier-to-justify things such as “professional development”.

I hope you enjoyed my tale! I’d love to hear of any negotiation stories you’ve had and what you’ve learned from them.

The Armor You Need to Be Rich [quote]

If you wish to be rich, however, you must grow a carapace. A mental armour. Not so thick as to blind you to well-constructed criticism and advice, especially from those you trust. Nor so thick as to cut you off from friends and family. But thick enough to shrug off the inevitable sniggering and malicious mockery that will follow your inevitable failures. Not to mention the poorly hidden envy that will accompany your eventual success.

After a lifetime of making money and observing better men and women than me fall by the wayside, I am convinced that fear of failing in the eyes of the world is the single biggest impediment to amassing wealth

via Felix Dennis, founder of Maxim and author of How To Be Rich

I’m Running a 5k

I never liked running as a kid.

I remember running the mile at gym one time and taking over 11 minutes. My dad made fun of me – “You let a bunch of girls beat you!” – and I was embarrassed. Luckily, as a gymnast, my job was to operate at 95% of my max energy for about 20-90 seconds and then rest. Sustained physical exertion wasn’t really part of my vocabulary. Wen I got to college we’d run a few miles once in a while  and I would hate my life. Panting, cramps, headaches, exhaustion. How anyone could enjoy running was beyond me.

(I bet you know where this is going)

In the last few months, running has become a really exciting and fun endeavor for me. I’m not running very far or very fast, but I’m really enjoying it. So much that it’s lead me to participate in my first athletic competition in over two years[1]:

On July 31st, I’ll be running in the SF Marathon’s 5k race [2].

What happened? How did I go from hating running to loving it? Three things: a desire to push myself, a pair of Vibrams Five-Fingers and RunKeeper.

A Desire to Push Myself

Since a bit before starting my startup, I decided to drop my gym membership. I was mostly working out at work, in quick, 15 minute break periods, and I didn’t want to pay the monthly fee. Unfortunately, this limited the kinds of exercises I could do – mostly bodyweight stuff like pushups, situps and pullups.

I have to say this – it’s a lot easier to push yourself when you’re working out at the gym than when you’re working out at home or in the office. I did do the 100 pushup challenge with my coworker Jordan which was fun, but doing a lot of pushups get kind of boring. I was looking for a new challenge.

Vibrams Five Fingers

These shoes and the barefoot running movement has stirred up a lot of controversy. A quick quote from a New York Times article on the subject:

Recent research suggests that for all their high-tech features, modern running shoes may not actually do much to improve a runner’s performance or prevent injuries. Some runners are convinced that they are better off with shoes that are little more than thin gloves for the feet — or with no shoes at all.

Plenty of medical experts disagree with this notion. The result has been a raging debate in running circles, pitting a quirky band of barefoot runners and researchers against the running-shoe and sports-medicine establishments.

After reading some of Born to Run, a book about a running buff who always got injured until he studied a tribe of indigenous people in Mexico, modeled their running style (barefoot) and emerged an injury-free runner, I wanted to check it out.

As many of you know, I blew out my knee doing gymnastics about 4 years ago and running seemed like it’d be out of the picture. But proponents of the barefoot running movement argue, and some scientific research suggests, that running barefoot puts much less strain on your knees and other joints because you are absorbing most of the impact through your calf rather than having the shock hit your heel and travel all the way up your leg.

I’ve also seen folks running Vibrams, which are very thin rubber shoes that are more like gloves for your feet – including individual slots for each toe. I thought they looked kind of quirky and cool, and decided in May to buy a pair and give the whole bare foot running thing a shot.

It was awesome.

Running in Vibrams feels great. It made me feel light and bouncy – like a kid. As a gymnast we generally train with no shoes or socks, so I really appreciate having sensation in my toes and the ability to grip the ground with each step. This was a turning point for me. I think I ran 4 or 5 days that week – just a mile loop near my house. It was almost fun. I even wrote down my times for the first couple runs – (which were terrible)- but for the sake of transparency I’ll share them:

  • 11:47 (yes, that is barely 5 MPH!)
  • 11:32
  • 10:59
  • 10:21
  • 10:07

I started off miserably slow, but it’s amazing how fast the numbers start dropping once I kept working at it. But the final piece to the puzzle here is some technology:

The RunKeeper iPhone App

I first encountered this app in my Facebook news feed like 6 months ago, but re-remembered it after I started thinking about how I was going to track my progress when I didn’t know how far or fast I was running at any given time.

Cue RunKeeper. This is one powerful little app. It tracks where I’m going, how fast I’m going and gives me audio coaching on how I’m keeping up with my target pace. I get map of where I went, elevation metrics and an easy way to let my friends know I’ve been putting miles in.

In general I’m not a huge “data freak” who tracks everything they do, but RunKeeper makes it easy and useful, which is just a huge plus. It’s free too so if you’re a runner, I definitely recommend you check it out.

——-

To tie this all together: my desire to push myself is what caused me to give running a shot, the Vibrams have made running fun and interesting and RunKeeper has allowed me to track and measure my progress, which gets me interested in running farther and faster.

I’m really glad I’ve found a way to enjoy running. As I said earlier, I’m not running very fast or very far, but I love being able to push myself physically in a new way. I end most runs tired but not exhausted (once in a while, I’ll really push myself) and I feel great for the rest of the day.

One minor cavate to this positive story though is that I did sort of strain my calf recently. It makes sense – all that impact is getting absorbed by the muscle in the calf – it’s a lot to handle and I ramped up my miles pretty quickly. I was careful though and took a full week off from running and now I’m back in the game. Yay!

I’ll let you know how the race goes as well. My expectation is that I’ll run it in under 25 mins (you can see that I did 3.14 miles in 27:39) but my stretch goal is to do a sub 20min. I have a feeling I’ll be pretty juiced up at the starting line and the adrenaline boost might take some minutes off my pace. We’ll see.

Thanks for making it all the way to the end of the post. Hope you enjoyed it and I’d love to hear your experiences with running or your feedback in the comments!


FOOTNOTES [1] I’m still somewhat skeptical about whether or not running is a sport. It’s physical effort, that’s for sure. But is splitting wood a sport? How about endurance dancing? I guess if it requires physical ability, can be competitively measured and enough people do it, it’s a sport. [2] The SF Marathon has an interesting “Progressive Marathon” concept where you run 23 miles, tracking it on a workout sheet, before doing the 5k and “completing the marathon”. [3] I actually strained my calf recently and took a week off to recover, so it’s true that somethings my enthusiasm and “push through s you can probably see in July I’ve only run once, due to a strain in my calf, but