When NO is Not an Option

Misti Burmeister with Warren Buffet

 

“Keep pursuing what you want only when doing so adds value to your life and those around you.” — Misti Burmeister

While there’s no shortage of wealthy people in the United States, there are very few whose beliefs and actions inspire me. Warren Buffett is one of them. So, when Kristina Bouweiri, my good friend and the CEO of Reston Limousine, gave me the priceless gift of tickets to his sold-out keynote speech in D.C., I was elated … and determined to get a photo with Mr. Buffett.

On the evening of the event, I was waiting when they opened the doors. I quickly found my seat, set my stuff down and found Mr. Buffett’s table. As I stared at his name tent, which was neatly placed on a long, beautifully-decorated table with special silverware, glasses and plates, I had this nagging feeling I didn’t belong there.

The table was clearly set for “royalty,” and I had no business near it. In my quick search for a sense of stability – an “OK” to be standing near this table – I spotted a security guard.

“I’m a young professional,” I told her. “And I’d greatly appreciate a photo with Mr. Buffett. Is there a strategy you’d suggest for getting one?”

With a touch of motherly irritation, she said, “There are 1,600 people here tonight. Do you realize how much the sponsors paid to get a photo with Mr. Buffett? There’s no way you’ll get one.”

Clearly, pursing her support was a worthless endeavor. But I am simply too stubborn to give up that easily.

I made my way around the “royal” table, reading the names of the other people seated there, hoping I might know someone who could introduce me. Yeah, not so much!

Suddenly, there he was – standing right in front of his chair. A couple people walked up to him, shook his hand and quickly walked away.

I tossed my phone (already in camera mode) to a server and asked her to get a picture of me with Mr. Buffett. Then, I walked right up to him, shook his hand and asked for a photo. He graciously took two.

When I excitedly shared the photos with my new friends at my table, they asked, “How on earth did you get that?”

“I actually meant to give him this copy of my book when I got the photo,” I said. “So, I’ll take it to him now, and you can see how I did it.”

Dinner had been served, and people were eating. The only person talking to Mr. Buffett was the man seated next to him. I walked up and knelt beside the guest of honor, gave him a copy of my book and proceeded to engage him in a brief conversation.

So, when should you take no for an answer? And when should you ignore that pesky word and stubbornly pursue what you want?

1.      When it really matters to you: Most people stop pursing something because they quickly forget (or stop focusing on) why it’s important to them. I know that a photo with Warren Buffett might seem like a silly thing to get hell-bent on achieving. But it was important to me to have a picture with a man who inspires me, to be associated with him – not only by others who see the picture, but in my own mind.

2.      When it adds value: Keep pursuing what you want only when doing so adds value to your life and those around you. About five minutes into my conversation with Mr. Buffett, the man with whom he had been chatting let me know in a very polite way that, by interrupting their conversation and staying for five minutes, I crossed the line between getting what I want and respecting what other people want. Lesson learned!

3.      When you stumble: Common sense tells us that if we never ask for what we want, we are unlikely to get it. Yet, few ask. Why? Because we don’t want it enough or because we’re afraid to hear the word “no.” Rather than allowing fear or your limiting thoughts to stop you from getting the experiences you want, keep moving forward! You’ll likely trip (or even fall) many times but you can dust yourself off later. That’s the only way to, as Steve Siebold puts it, “Desensitize [yourself] to hearing the word ‘no’.”   

Get stubborn. Stumble a bit. And enjoy the ride. That’s what life is for!

Keeping it simple,

Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations and Hidden Heroes.

 

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