Have you ever faced an impossible situation and wondered how the hell you plan to overcome? Let me share with you my thoughts on how to overcome impossible situations and win. They tend to happen on a regular basis nowadays.
How I Overcome An Impossible Situation Consulting For A Client
While rummaging through my old computer files, I came across this gem of an audio clip from my days consulting at Personal Capital from 2013 – 2015. One of the marketing directors wanted me to read an advertising pitch they had put together with an ad agency for a one minute spot on Sirius Satellite Radio.
Although Personal Capital wasn't paying me big bucks for this advertising pitch, they were paying me 25 hours a week to consult with them in their marketing department.
They were free to ask me to do whatever, and I was excited to do whatever as an enthusiastic consultant who just spent 1.5 years in solitary confinement aka early retirement. Further, I would be able to give Financial Samurai a shoutout in the ad, which was a nice synergistic bonus given advertising is not cheap.
The ad agency responsible for writing the copy got in touch with me. We worked on some edits together. Everything was good except for one major problem. They wanted me to record the entire 170 word pitch in under 60 seconds!
I told them I'd try. After 15 tries, I told them that if they wanted me to speak in a natural, sexy, and convincing voice, this was not possible. The ad agency came back and basically told me, “You can do it!” So I tried another 10 times with no success.
The Final Attempt At The Impossible
Always do your best. But sometimes you've just got to laugh at the impossible. Just LAUGH and LAUGH and LAUGH until you start crying with joy. This recording perfectly incapsulates one of those precious moments. It starts about 20% of the way into the pitch with the first 5 seconds going relatively well until I mess up a line. Then I start panicking because there's hardly any time left.
Have a listen to the outtake. I was practicing in front of my wife whom you can hear in the background not helping me keep it together!
Tips On Working With Clients And Managers
If you want to overcome impossible situations at work, here are my tips.
1) Be open to trying anything.
After 13 years in traditional finance and 1.5 years working solo on Financial Samurai, I wanted to try something new. Despite knowing economic necessity was forcing many people to go to their soul-crushing day jobs, I was getting bored staying home all day. Partly because I didn't have to work, I longed for some stimulating fun work. I reminisced about the wonderful time I had in business school after learning grades didn't matter.
When Personal Capital's marketing director reached out to me about helping them build their content marketing initiative, I agreed to a 25 hour a week rolling three-month contract. It was the chance to work at a then Series B startup, learn about digital marketing, and pivot to a new industry. Further, I craved some human interaction.
Personal Capital was also open to trying something new by enlisting a personal finance blogger as a spokesperson. In the startup marketing world, it's all about testing until something hits.
2) Always know your value.
You've always got to start small and work your way up. I was willing to do the radio advertisement based on my agreed upon hourly rate. I also worked way more than 25 hours a week and didn't invoice for my extra work because I was having fun and learning. However, for anybody who is more dependent on the extra income, to not charge is probably a mistake.
Today, if a company were to ask me now to do some corporate consulting or be a radio advertising pitchman, they are going to pay at least 3X more than what I charged back then due to my intervening years of relevant consulting experience.
It's important to always reassess the value you provide and the price you charge. This advice doesn't just apply to consultants. It also applies to folks with day jobs. The people most mindful of their worth tend to push for and get more raises and promotions.
The preference of most companies is to not give you a raise until you ask for one. Remember, an employer maximizes profits when its employees stay comfortably numb. Know your BATNA!
3) Keep things light-hearted.
Reading 170 words in under 60 seconds in a natural voice is nuts. But instead of getting mad or irritated at being asked to do the impossible, I had fun with it! If they wanted me to spend hours trying, I didn't mind because I was paid by the hour. To make things work, the ad agency eventually cut several lines from the original copy as requested.
Due to my light-hearted attitude, I think my client really appreciated my efforts to deliver. As a result, I was able to roll my 3-month consulting contract for another year and a half.
Some folks take things way too seriously. Instead of playing along with head-scratching articles such as, “How To Convince Your Spouse To Work Longer So You Can Retire Earlier” or “How To Get Your Parents To Buy You Everything As An Adult,” they will blow a fuse, comment vociferously, and threaten never to return to FS! And then when I respond in a manner not satisfactory to their liking, then I'll get called condescending or whatever. What a no win situation.
Unless you're living somewhere devastated by war with no limbs, life is pretty amazing. You don't have to always do what you're told. You don't have to go to the best schools. You don't need to make a million bucks a year to live like the top 0.1%. You don't need to feel offended by a joke. It's much better to laugh and be happy.
Do You Want To Learn Or Earn?
For younger folks out there hoping to go straight to the corner office without doing any grunt work, be mindful of whether you are in the learn phase or the earn phase. Here's how you tell. If you don't know jack, you are in the learn phase. If the company will take a significant hit to revenue or production, you are in the earn phase.
Businesses exist to make a profit. Yes, there are a whole bunch of social missions that go along with running a business as well. Only idiots like me spend hours every day writing new content and never charging a dime. Yet the most important question you can ask yourself is whether you are providing enough value. If you can say yes, your opportunities increase!
I hope everybody gets to laugh so hard that tears come. It might be the most priceless feeling you'll ever experience. You can choose to have impossible situations get you down. Or you can choose to make the best of EVERYTHING.
Still A Client Today
As I revise this post years later, it's great that Personal Capital is still a FS partner today. The key to overcoming impossible situations is to always do your best. If you have clients who trust you, you can build a long-term and highly profitable relationship.