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Suzanne Falter-Barns

Living Your Joy
by Suzanne Falter-Barns



HOW TO BE APPROPRIATELY PUSHY

One of the things that's often hard to know is how and when to be pushy appropriately. In these hardscrabble times, perfectly polite people don't stand much of a chance of getting what they want if they spend all their time worrying about other people's feelings. However, not enough can be said for making yourself known out there in a decent and unobnoxious manner. The key is to use your intuition and your brain, both at the same time, and pray for a little luck.

Living Your Joy by Suzanne Falter-Barns

When Lazaro Hernandez was a fashion student at Parson's School of Design in New York, he had a chance encounter in an airport that for a fashion-guy-in-training was akin to seeing God. Lazaro spotted Anna Wintour, the redoubtable editor in chief of Vogue Magazine, getting on his airplane. "You should go talk to her," his mother urged. "Maybe she can help you with your career." Lazaro wasn't so sure he had the nerve to approach, but one hour into the flight, he could stand it no longer.

Lazaro wrote a humble note on an airsick bag, which explained that he was a fashion student who would soon be looking for an internship. He noted that she probably got requests like this all the time, but wondered if perhaps someone had given her a chance at the beginning of her career. He also wrote that he knew she had the power to help him. Then, trembling, he approached. Lazaro stood before Ms. Wintour's seated figure, and said her name. No answer. He repeated her name several times. No answer. He even crossed the uncrossable boundary and touched her arm. Still no reply. Finally, he left his plea under her martini glass and crept back to his seat. Several months later, he received a call from a major designer who'd gotten Lazaro's letter from Ms. Wintour with instructions that it was not to be ignored. A subsequent interview proved that he had talent, and Lazaro was hired for his first internship.

Lazaro not only had great luck to get on an airplane with the most powerful woman in the fashion industry, he had the savvy to make use of the opportunity. He was ready when his break came with a portfolio of samples he'd worked hard on, making it the best it could be. Then he did the most important thing of all: he sent Ms. Wintour a thank you note, which prompted a fax from the woman herself saying she was glad it all worked out.

This to me is a fine example of well-handled pushiness, in that Lazaro used the opportunity as much as he could, but then was completely respectful and gracious. It is also evidence that a letter works, especially when delivered under unique circumstances. Designer Michael Kors, who dryly noted in an interview that "The fashion industry is proof that the meek shall never inherit the earth," recounted his own attempts to get discovered in the beginning. When he was a store clerk, he sold Calvin Klein a ski jacket, and stuffed his design sketches into the sleeve as the jacket was en route to delivery. A documentary film director I know who needed a quote from a famous director to help her get grants pulled a similar coup. She found out where Woody Allen lived, then had a copy of her latest film delivered to his door with a handwritten note requesting a favorable comment. He obliged.

Everyone has to start somewhere, even the rich and famous. So if you can approach politely, preferably through some other means than the front office, your efforts will probably not be seen as pushy but as what one does to get a break. Part of the reason this works is the honesty involved. You are telling them what you need up front. Which makes this sort of maneuver entirely different than talking up a potential contact at a cocktail party with the sole agenda of having them look at your work, or hanging out a health club frequented by a certain star so you can add them to your list of influential friends. Important people, just like the rest of us, do not like to be used. On the other hand, most people do like to be helpful, and a direct request can be amazingly effective.

Too often we assume that the way to approach an industry or a leader is from the bottom, worming your way up through the ranks. A much more effective approach is just to go straight to the top, where you very well may connect with the person who can make everything happen for you. This is why letters are such a good tool for approaching these people. They can read it in their own time, they're not too obtrusive, and if well-written and delivered in a subtle but attention-getting way, they can work wonders.

We probably won't all be as lucky as Lazaro Hernandez was when the editor of Vogue got on his plane. On the other hand, we can get past the front office with a little imagination. The advertising industry is full of stories of people who did outrageous things to get noticed. One copywriter I knew sent pizzas to the top three agency creative directors he wanted to work for. Each box contained two slices of pizza; the remaining wedges were cleverly written pieces of his resume. And while his resume did emerge spotted with grease and tomato sauce, he got calls from all three creative directors and ultimately a job from one of them.

One of the keys to these creative marketing strategies is to be totally and completely ready to show your best stuff before you send out your missive. You must do your research on who you want to connect with and why. Do not make the mistake of not knowing exactly who you need to talk to, either. Instead, study the top players in the field and understand that they each have their own unique culture. See if you can determine in advance which one you'd fit best into. Talk to friends of friends who might now. Research the company though on-line publication archives, such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Call up receptionists and pump them for information, telling them you're updating your database (which you are.) You can also figure out who the key players in any company are, by making a trip to the library and looking them up in the Standard Directory of Advertisers, or in company literature, annual reports, or even company websites.

How Much Joy Can You Stand? by Suzanne Falter-Barns

Make a point of going after the people you want and need to meet first. Should you connect with the decision-makers, and they are not interested at first, maintain contact and let them know you're out there every so often. Do not pester them with repetitive emails. Instead, think of fun, charming ways to connect through the postal mail -- or send a very occasional email that offers them something useful they can use. If nothing else, you'll signal your intense commitment to working for their company, and this may very well yield gold in the long run. They will come to see you as dedicated, hard-working and tremendously loyal to their cause.

This is often how authors and others find their way on to the top network television shows that sell books, such as the infamous Oprah. While some are lucky enough to get through on the initial efforts of a company publicist, many must use more imaginative means, or just the slow drip theory of persistence. The publishers of Sara Ban Breathnach's book, Simple Abundance, somehow managed to place a copy of the book on the desk of every single Oprah producer on the day it was published, so they found them when they came in the in the morning. The effect was big and dramatic, the producers were forced to really look at the book, and Ms. Breathnach was on the show repeatedly after that.

Other authors use persistence to achieve the same result. Jan Yager, author of a book on friendship that was published in 1997, sent copies of her book and promotion materials to all the producers on Oprah several times over the course of two years. While they never responded, she took it in stride, remembering that they were busy people and that their lack of response was nothing personal. Periodically, she wrote to the producers, whenever she got her book on another important television or radio show. She created a web site, listed herself in several directories of experts the media uses for bookings, and did everything she could to make herself visible to Oprah's producers.

Two years later, her persistence paid off. When they called to say they were considering her along with 20 other experts for one slot on their show, she immediately got her materials out to them, then she carried her beeper everywhere while she waited for their call. The segment was ultimately canceled, but another show about friendship was in the works for a later date, so Jan's materials were forwarded to those producers. Jan was eventually put on Oprah, by which time she'd done her homework of fine-tuning her TV presence, and making sure she was comfortable on camera and had camera-friendly clothing. Even though the segment was supposed to show a film clip of Jan in her home, commenting on a friendship issue the show covered, she talked the producers into bringing her into the studio for some face time on air with Oprah, as well. Not surprisingly, orders and sales for her book went up substantially, and now Jan Yager has a new book out, called Getting Booked.

Sometimes our dreams calls for radical pushiness. Caleb Carr first presented his best-selling novel, The Alienist, as a non-fiction title. Carr, who had a background as a writer of military history books, pitched a group of editors by telling them the 'true' story of a serial killer loose in Manhattan during the Teddy Roosevelt era. It wasn't until the end of the pitch, when the editors were salivating for the story, that Carr revealed the truth ... that it was entirely made up. At which point, he presented them with the manuscript for his first novel, which they promptly bought.

The art of the subtle, but consistent follow-up is also an important part of being pushy effectively. It's remarkable the number of people who put creative, interesting proposals out there, and don't ever bother to follow up. One advertising creative director I knew, who regularly received unusual pitches to look at art director and copywriter portfolios, told me that at least seventy percent never followed up their mailing with a call. This creative director was simply too busy to hunt these people down himself, so he figured if they didn't call, they weren't that interested to begin with. That was how he decided who to see and whom not to see.

Remember that it never hurts to ask. If you're going to set big goals and target important people, you must not only be patient, you must be appropriately pushy. The worst that will happen is that the particular person you're hoping to connect with won't give you the time of day, and so you move on. This is part of what I consider being a good parent to your baby, which is how you must view your creative project. You really have to be its defender and champion in every aspect, for who else will be? You must stick up for it at every turn, and do your very best at putting it into the hands of the people who can take it to the next level. Above all, you must be willing to think big and do the seemingly ridiculous things this project is asking you to do.

You will be rewarded not necessarily with all the results you crave, but with the sure, sound sense that you've taken the steps that needed to be taken, knowing there was little else you could do. That's being pushy appropriately.

 

Five Concrete Steps Towards Making the Right Connections

1. Take out your journal and make the following lists:

Who would you like to make aware of your project? (Name names here.)

What would you like them to do for you? (Be very specific.)

2. Next to each person's name, brainstorm ten possible ways you could reach them. Be sure to include your personal network here, as well as any ingenious ideas that pop up about novel ways to approach them.

3. Pick at least five actions you could take in the next week to advance this goal.

4. Be sure to share this list with your support buddy, support group, or personal coach Ė these are reliable allies in life who will remind you of your list, ask of your progress, and generally cheer you on. If you donítí have such support already in place, set this part up first. (And if you feel afraid to ask, donít worry Ö youíll be available to offer the same to them!)

5. Keep the list above, and keep a progress log along with it. Be sure to keep tabs on your progress, so this project doesnít end up in the never-to-be-completed zone.

 

SHOULD YOU QUIT YOUR JOB FOR YOUR DREAM?

A Questionnaire by Suzanne Falter-Barns

The next time youíre moodily sitting in your office, wishing you were living your dream instead, answer the following questionsÖ or answer them now! Theyíll give you a sense of whether or not nowís the time to make the break.

My job is making me crazy; so crazy Iíd do anything to quit.

a.) Highly agree
b.) Mildly agree
c.) Donít really agree
d.) Strongly disagree

If I left my job for my dream, Iím not sure what Iíd do first, or even how Iíd begin it.

a.) Highly agree
b.) Mildly agree
c.) Donít really agree
d.) Strongly disagree

My boss runs my life Ö or ruins it. I feel completely misunderstood and trapped by this job. I donít even know if I could quit Ė how would I survive? Who would even hire me?

a.) Highly agree
b.) Mildly agree
c.) Donít really agree
d.) Strongly disagree

I hate this job but I really need the money. I donít see any other viable alternative.

a.) Highly agree
b.) Mildly agree
c.) Donít really agree
d.) Strongly disagree

If I stay at my work just a little longer, I stand a good chance of getting a promotion and a raise. Then I could find my way clear to saving a little money for my dream.

a.) Highly agree
b.) Mildly agree
c.) Donít really agree
d.) Strongly disagree

Yeah, I could quit my job for my dream, but I could run off to Tahiti, too. Thatís way too much risk for my taste.

a.) Highly agree
b.) Mildly agree
c.) Donít really agree
d.) Strongly disagree

My spouse/partner is okay with the thought of me quitting my job for my dream. Weíve talked it through and he/she sees it as the next thing I need to do.

a.) Highly agree
b.) Mildly agree
c.) Donít really agree
d.) Strongly disagree

My spouse/partner fully understands what life will be like when I make the leap to begin my dream. He/she will be there for me, emotionally and even financially if necessary.

a.) Highly agree
b.) Mildly agree
c.) Donít really agree
d.) Strongly disagree

I have a business plan for my dream all organized and ready to go. Iíve even scoped out sources for capital, and necessary space and materials to get to work.

a.) Highly agree
b.) Mildly agree
c.) Donít really agree
d.) Strongly disagree

I have a savings account for my dream with enough to get started, plus an emergency savings account worth 6 months of my general living expenses. Iíve also scoped out alternatives to my current health care and insurance.

a.) Highly agree
b.) Mildly agree
c.) Donít really agree
d.) Strongly disagree

Iíve been developing a systematic plan for leaving my job for a while nowÖ I feel Iím almost ready to go.

a.) Highly agree
b.) Mildly agree
c.) Donít really agree
d.) Strongly disagree

I have an adequate support system in place to really help me move ahead with my dream. It includes good friends and advisors, adequate child or elder care, a supportive spouse, and even a coach or mentor.

a.) Highly agree
b.) Mildly agree
c.) Donít really agree
d.) Strongly disagree

If you answered mostly a) and b) to questions 1-4, youíre stuck. Your job has forced you to forget about essential pieces of yourself Ė itís time to get some career coaching now.

If you answered mostly a) and b) to questions 5 & 6, youíre a borderline case. You havenít yet decided whether your dream is all that important to the quality of your life. Just an experiment, you might want to sit with a blank piece of paper and really brainstorm what it would be like to live your dream.

If you answered mostly a) and b) to questions 7-11Ö what are you waiting for? Youíve got a plan, youíve set up the necessary support and youíre good to go; you should be able to weather the inevitable ups and downs. Be sure to allow your company enough notice to make the transition smoothly, so you can leave with glowing reviews. Congratulations!


To learn more about how to find the time, money and energy to live your dreams, read Suzanne Falter-Barnsí new book, Living Your Joy: A Practical Guide to Happiness (Ballantine).
© 2002 Suzanne Falter-Barns. All Rights Reserved.  www.howmuchjoy.com


Suzanne Falter-Barns
Suzanne Falter-Barns Barns is the author of the new book, Living Your Joy: A Practical Guide to Happiness (Ballantine) and How Much Joy Can You Stand? A Creative Guide To Facing Your Fears and Making Your Dreams Come True (Ballantine Wellspring.) You can learn more about guided visualizations at www.howmuchjoy.com/tangdysp.html. Suzanne Falter-Barnsí free ezine, The Joy Letter, brings you practical tips and tools for your dream every other week. Sign up at www.howmuchjoy.com/joyletter.html and receive her valuable report, "Thirty-Five Guaranteed Time Savers". It helps you create time to finally live your dreams.

 

Visit Suzanne at:
www.howmuchjoy.com

 

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