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January 04, 2009

Epiphany about the status quo and the Asus Eee(w)

January 4. Day 188.

I've been thinking about what I wrote Friday: "PLEASE, asking gods, send some big transaction my way."

On second thought, that's the wrong approach. I can't wait around for something huge to come my way. That's not what this project is about. Asking is proactive. You make the opportunity. So, I need to create the big opportunities, not just the small ones.

If I just waited, I'd never get anywhere.

Yesterday, I made a list of things I want, things I need, and areas I could improve in my life by possibly asking. Mostly, financial. It's a good exercise in itself, but I also think I'm hitting on something new. An initial "aha moment" was that asking can bring better results when I aim to obtain something more, better, new.

My latest realization is that asking can improve the status quo -- even when I'm not out to get/buy/learn something more. Optimizing the status quo can be equally valuable, if not more so. But it requires careful planning, i.e. conceiving of what to ask for on a broader scale than individual transactions.

For example: I spend about $66/month on coffee (instead of renting an office or working from home, which are both unreasonable, I head out and order a latte.) What about thinking outside the box, and approaching my favorite cafe or two, offering to buy my drinks in bulk, up front, for a few hundred bucks, and saving a lot in the long run?

Or: I'll be heading back to Boston soon. Rather than futilely haggle with an airline (tried and failed), what if I went to a more logical source for help? My department grants $500 per year to every student for conference travel, as well as $500 in the final year for job interview travel. So, a student could feasibly use $4000 -- if she started in 2002 and graduated this year (like moi!). I've used $0. Wouldn't it be reasonable to request they finance my next trip to campus?

Or: I've heard of stores making crazy discounts these days, but haven't had much success. Instead of bargaining down one ring, one sweater, why not plan ahead? Are there presents I'll need? Clothes I must replace? Appliances or any big ticket purchases for the new house? Any group I'd like to make a donation toward? This wouldn't be about extra, fun, or impromptu purchases, but about the things I know I'll be needing. Look into the future, lump them together. And then, deal with a higher authority than a salesperson. Perhaps call or email someone from the corporate side of things, say I have $XXX to spend, and I'm willing to help you unload your 2008 inventory.

Or: If I really want to practice big league negotiations, but don't have the capital, why not do it for someone else? Post on Craigslist, or hang out by a car lot. Volunteer to help people bring their prices down, posing as a friend, sister, whatever. Do it for free (to start! ha!), with the agreement they can "fire" me or I can leave any time -- no commitment. Would be a great learning experience.

A few ideas to chew on...

This evening I ended up at a cafe where a man at the next table was using an Asus Eee. I've been toying with the idea of buying a netbook for about half a year, and I've never seen the Eee in person. The reviews make it seem great -- light, powerful, functional -- but would that keyboard be infuriatingly small?

The lad looked busy, so I very gently interrupted him.

"Hi, excuse me."


"Can I ask you a question? What kind of computer is that?"

"It's an Asus Eee."

"Am I interrupting?"

"No, it's okay." (He was browsing the internet.)

"Do you like it?"

"I love it. I've had it for a few months, and it's great."

"And the keyboard, it's not too small?"

"No, it's nice."

You don't say... "May I?"

He slid it askerward, and I picked it up to see the weight, then typed a sample text into an empty document:

"Hello. This keyboard it so small. But it's nice!"

The last three words were unabashed "sorry I wasted your time for the test drive, but your computer sucks" sugarcoating. Also, it was heavier than I expected given the tiny size.


Gained: Popped a myth. On to more optimized askings...
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