How to Increase the Odds of Getting Anything You Want

In class one time a woman was complaining about how hard it is to recruit participants for her experiment. The professor told her that she just had to approach people who fit the profile she was looking for and ask them. She was clearly uncomfortable with this idea and protested “what if they say no?”.

I couldn’t help myself, so I made the observation that this would give the women in the class insight into what men go through when we’re asking women out on dates. Its an old chestnut, but I think there’s real value in the idea “half of life is showing up”.

Literally related to dating, I truly believe its a numbers game. I think anyone who is unhappily single just needs to go on more dates, and keep going on them until you click with someone. The love of your life isn’t going to break into your apartment to find you! Dating can be exhausting, but its part of the process. A women I worked with met her future husband when they were both waiting in cars for their friends outside a 7-11. He started chatting her up, got her phone number, and years later she was working with me, married to him and had two kids. He decided it was worth taking a chance on talking to the woman in the next car and it paid off for him big time.

The brother of a former professor of mine went to MIT. I asked him if his brother had astronomically high marks, and found out that he didn’t, he’d just gone down to Boston to visit some friends, got talking to people in the media lab, and they liked him well enough that they encouraged him to apply and fast tracked his application.

When I describe my brother’s job, people are amazed (some people have even asked if he won a contest to get the job 🙂 ). When there was an opening, a friend told him about it, he applied and he got it. Similarly I was on a reality TV show / documentary years ago. I enjoyed watching the show, so I applied for the next season and got on it (I joke with people that I’m the most minor celebrity in the world – I’ve been recognized by strangers a total of 3 times).

In the 4 Hour Workweek Tim Ferriss relates giving a talk to a group and offering a deluxe vacation to whoever could connect with the most famous person (all they had to do was get a personal note or e-mail back from them). He wanted to prove the point that if you just make overtures to people, sometimes they’ll respond. Ironically, he didn’t give out the prize because NO ONE applied! Supposedly tons of scholarships aren’t awarded every year because no one applied: everyone assumes they won’t be competitive, and take themselves out of the race before it starts.

I’m certainly not saying that all you have to do is desire something and you’ll get it (talk to “The Secret” nuts for that perspective). We all have desires that we don’t do anything about, and often the hardest part is doing ANYTHING to move us in the direction of achieving it.

Think about the things you’d like out of life, and consider if there’s something you could do in 1 hour that might (no matter how improbably) help you achieve it. Give it a try this week and see what happens!

What experiences have you had where you took a long shot and something big paid off?

20 replies on “How to Increase the Odds of Getting Anything You Want”

Someone once told me about his “Counting down the “no’s” “theory. Basically we ask for what we want and if we get a”no”, we tick it off as a “one less no”, and carry on till we get a “yes”.

Seems logical though might not be so easy for the faint hearted.

I took a long shot, but it hasn’t paid off yet. There was a job posting in the newspaper a month or two ago for Astronauts for the Canadian Space Agency. So I applied. So did 5500 other Canadians. But I’m on to the second round now. I think there are 8 rounds before they announce the training class.

There’ve been several .. erm, intimacy-related instances where I blurted out something that I was certain would get me a slap in the face, only to have it happen, but I don’t think that’s what you’re after here.

Probably the biggest crazy-suggestion-to-payoff ratio event was back in 2000. I was a reporter for an all-news radio station. At the prodding of some friends, I suggested to my news director that it’d be neat to send me from Toronto to New York City to report on the first Canadian edition of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”

He said sure … so I spent three or four days in New York, at the Millennium Broadway, reporting on a game show taping and seeing the sights. Got paid for it. Awesome time.

Dating always felt like an endless job interview. The truth is, every guy was wrong “for the job” until I found the guy who was/is right. I dated enough to know I was pretty tired of dating. “What’s your favorite color, food, sport?” Just shoot me now…

My biggest long shot? LOL I’ve taken so many risks! Moving from Ontario to BC to go back to school was a huge long shot for me. Signed-up to do Ironman Canada…Wow…huge long shot! Moved from the city to a cattle ranch. Moo. Started a blog…posted my underwear online. Really, I’ll never stop doing things that put me out of my “comfort zone.”

I took a bit of a long shot/risk a couple months ago by applying for a job in silicon valley (I’m from Toronto).

Now i’m making over 50% more and I hear the weather here in the winter is great 🙂

I guess all of my moves have been long shots. Dublin to Amsterdam. Dublin to New York. New York to Toronto. I’m still standing so they’ve worked out so far. Now my family are trying to persuade me to move to Newfoundland, so onwards and upwards! I often think thaqt the big “moves”/risks are easier to take a chance on than the small ones.

Nobleea: That’s awesome! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.

bigasssuperstar: That’s exactly what I was after. You’re the man!

Squawkfox: I actually enjoy dating (other than the asking), but I’ve heard your complaint for from a number of people.

DividendMan: Fresh out of university I worked in silicon valley too, and you’re right, the pay is dramatically better than Toronto.

guinness: You should move to south africa or australia next (keep up your trend of moving to new countries).

Mr. Cheap: aha! well, i’m not about to share details of those … I’m not particularly proud of some of those exploits .. they were interesting times, but .. yeah.

It reminds me of one potential downside of taking the risk of outright asking for what you want: it has to be a fair platform. Most of the time that we’re afraid to ask for something, it’s because we perceive that we’re at a lower point of status or power. It feels like we’d be seen as out of line to speak up, so we feel intimidated into keeping our wants, needs or desires quiet.

But it can work the other way, too: if you’re assertive in voicing your requests, be aware that the person you’re addressing may not be in an adequate position to say no, even if they’d be better off doing so.

It’s one thing to go to your boss and say “I want a 10% raise”, because your boss has the power and authority to tell you to go to hell with your crazy want. But if you’re, say, dating someone whose self-esteem isn’t the best or really digs you so much s/he wants to impress you, pushing the limits of what you’re asking for may not be fair if the other party is not in a solid position to feel safe and secure telling you to take a hike.

So, bottom line: don’t be so intimidated by powers-that-be when it comes to asking for what you want, but own your own responsibility when making requests of others.

Here’s another instance of it being mostly a numbers game: getting published. Talent is often trumped by persistence. When someone who is an OK writer submits 300 pieces in one year, odds are they’ll get published before someone with a sliver of talent that only submits 10 pieces.

Sad but true.

I agree wholeheartedly with this post. Most of the greatest changes in my life were basically by taking the leap and “showing up.” For example I just recently moved to honolulu via a one way to scuba more and landed a job in the industry that I wouldn’t have got back home. Also, the other day I randomly called up a CEO of a large equity fund and after talking for a few minutes he liked my idea so we are working on the possibility of starting a book.

These things would have never have happened if I didn’t show up. Overcoming the fear of failure and having the ability to make an ass of yourself without caring is probably the biggest influence in your success.

Hi- I loved this post!!! In fact, I wish I had written it! Just got a job teaching a class in the MBA program at a local college and an offer to present on finance solutions for health care professionals because “I am incredibly tenacious.” This post highlights one of the most important life skills there is; PERSISTENCE!
Thanks, Barb

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