Persuading by Showing Weakness

Lately I've been reading Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive for the second time. A lot of what the authors include makes a lot of sense to me. One chapter in particular stood out to me. The main idea of the chapter was that you can use your weaknesses to your advantage to make them into strengths. And by that, I don't mean in the cliche interview question response kind of way (my biggest weakness is that I work too hard and care too much).

Rather, this concept is best used to portray authenticity and honesty by exposing a part of you that is less than stellar. Consider the following examples

Progressive's campaign to inform potential customers of the lowest price for insurance, even if it's from another company.

Avis car rental's slogan "We're #2, but we try harder."

One of the old Volkswagen Beetle's campaigns "It will stay uglier longer."

Naturally, one caveat to this is that the weakness you expose can't be so significant that it completely turns people away from what you are offering. But properly played, I think that this tool can be effectively used to show people that you are just a regular person (or company) with regular faults. Of course, if you can follow your shortcoming with one or three or ten reasons why you are still amazing, then you'll have a better shot at being persuasive.

Dinner Company

If you could have dinner with any living person, who would it be?

For an aspiring businessman, a reasonable answer might be someone who is the founder and former CEO of a 3 billion dollar company. But what if the person who asked you the question was that person and you were already having dinner with him?

Essentially, that's what happened to me last when when the CBPM had its advisory board dinner. I had the opportunity to sit across from Scott Cook, founder of Intuit Inc.

The main takeaway for me, however, was not the dinner company conversation. I was just amazed with the level of support UW and the CBPM provide to each one of its MBAs. I really believe that no other school I applied to would have provided me as good of an opportunity to connect with top executives from major companies.

For that reason and so many more, I'm so glad I came to Wisconsin.

P.S. The next day, I got to have lunch with Colleen Goggins (super nice lady).


A while back, I listed motivation as one of the top three things I would look for if I were a hiring manager.

I think persistence is another. The Japanese have a proverb that states "nana korobi ya oki", which means if you fall down seven times, get up eight times (fuzzy logic if you think about it, but you get the idea).

We all get knocked down from time to time. But not everyone has the courage to get back up. The ones that do are the ones I want on my team.


My Biggest Regret

When I was in college, I began the search for an internship for the summer between my junior and senior years. I checked my school's recruiting web site and found an intriguing posting for a small company named Mondoro, a furniture and home accessory manufacturer located in Hong Kong. The position was designed to be a mixture of day-to-day operations, marketing, and involvement with local charities. Included in the internship was airfare to Hong Kong, room and board, and a small monthly stipend.

I applied for the position online and interviewed with the Mondoro's founder and CEO, Anita Hummel, on campus. I was impressed by her business savvy and her vision for her company. Apparently, she was impressed with me because she offered me the internship. I happily accepted, and prepared to spend my summer in Hong Kong.

A couple of months later, as I was doing my taxes for the previous year, I found out that I owed the IRS about $1,000 as the result of some independent contract work I had done the previous summer (how that all worked would have been nice to know earlier).

Worried about earning enough money to pay tuition in the fall, I decided that I couldn't afford to spend my summer in Hong Kong and canceled my plans with Anita. In turn, I found an internship with a financial reporting company in Philadelphia that paid 14.25 an hour.

To make a long story short, my summer was a complete bust. Within a month of moving to Philadelphia, both the person who interviewed me and the HR rep who prepared for my arrival had left the company. I found myself literally copying data from one window and pasting it in another window for eight hours a day, five days a week. Add that experience with a myriad of other bad experiences (sleeping on the floor, company car breaking down, getting stuck in West Philly at 1 AM, etc.), and you could pretty much say that I wish I'd gone to Hong Kong.

In fact, I consider this to be my biggest professional regret up to this point in my career. Mondoro may not have paid much financially, but it would have given me a significant amount of experience and adventure. Instead, I completed an internship that I don't even put on my resume.

The takeaway from all of this is that I learned to choose opportunities that will strengthen, enlighten, and stretch me instead of opportunities that appear to make more financial sense in the short term. My solace in making the wrong decision is that I learned this lesson. And the fact that my copy and paste skills are pretty dang awesome.

Going Red by Going Green

In a move that a lot of us saw coming months ago, Frito-Lay announced today that they are scrapping the still new, biodegradable SunChips bag. Effective immediately, the company will be replacing the packaging of five of its six flavors.

The move comes after the eco-friendly bag, infamous for being deafeningly loud, attracted the ire of thousands of munchers. Many of these critics have been quite vocal across the various forms of social media. The result for Frito has been an 11% decrease in sales over the last 52 weeks.

The underlying issue behind this whole fiasco is that most people only want to be green if it doesn't inconvenience them in any way, shape, or form. I'm not saying that there aren't people who don't make personal sacrifices to reduce their footprint, but as a whole we are often unwilling to compromise.

For example, we like buying cars that have high mpg cause it saves us on gas and *I guess* cause it's good for the environment (and stuff). But how many have actually switched to bicycles or public transit at the cost of personal convenience? How many of us go out of our way to recycle our paper, bottles, and cans?

Again, there have been a small percentage of people who have led the way to greener living, but we have a long way to go. I'm not a tree-hugger, hippie, or even an Al Gore fan. I don't really consider myself an environmentalist. But I find it a little funny that we have the technology to make something compostable, but we refuse to use it because it is slightly annoying.

In the meantime, SunChips will go back to its former, non-biodegradable self. And we will go back to munching in silence.

The Art of Non-Conformity

Over the weekend, I had the chance to attend the Madison stop of author/blogger Chris Guillebeau's 50 state, "Unconventional Book Tour". I had the chance to grab a copy of his book and listen to him speak about the advantages of living a non-conventional life.

Here are the main takeaways I learned from Chris.

Pursue meaningful adventure over efficiency
All too often, we focus on checking off tasks and getting a certain amount of work done. While efficiency is not a bad thing per se, don't overlook other opportunities at it's expense. Instead, seek out meaningful adventure. Chris epitomizes this principle with his goal to visit all 192 countries before his 35th birthday.

Leave a legacy
We should not only seek to leave something behind, but focus our efforts on what we can contribute that will help make the world a better place. We should ask ourselves what we can offer that no one else can.

Follow a passion that resonates with others too
Frequently we hear that we should follow something that we are passionate about. But a sometimes forgotten caveat to that is to select something that others are passionate about as well. You may love watching TV on the couch, but if you can't sustain yourself doing this or make a positive contribution, it may not be the best choice for you. This principle reminds me of the Hedgehog Concept.

It's not too late
With the explosion of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and hundreds of other amazing ideas that have spread throughout the Internet, it is easy to think that we have missed the boat and that we are too late to make our mark. The response to this is that we can always make a difference in world and we shouldn't let late timing prevent us from trying. Everyone has something to offer. Everyone can make an impact.