The Joy of Being a Regular

So everyday I have pretty much the same schedule. Wake up at 6:30am, get in my morning workout, eat breakfast, catch up with emails, work on my photos and any other miscellaneous tasks and leave to catch the bus to go tutoring. After my first tutoring session, I take another bus and have around 2 hours of a break. I always go to Paris Baguette and order an Americano and chill there and do some writing and then go to this little Korean restaurant across the street and get a tonkatsu.

Doing this everyday has caused the people at Paris Baguette and that restaurant to know my face. It is really nice because I know all the people who work at both places and I always feel at home being here, rather than just being a mere customer.

For example when I kept on coming to Paris Baguette at around the same time, ordering an Americano and chilling here and using my laptop, the people noticed me. One of the cashiers asked me if I worked around here, and I told her how I was from America and I tutored English nearby. They remember what I want and when I go near the front they ask me, “Americano, right?” and I nod and go to the same spot I go to everyday near the entrance.

When it comes to the restaurant, I always order either a beef tonkatsu, a fish tonkatsu, or soondubu (spicy tofu soup). I don’t eat a lot of white rice in my diet so I would always eat only a tiny bit of the rice. Once they started to recognize me, one of the ladies who worked there asked me why I didn’t eat much rice. When I told them that I didn’t want to get fat from the rice they laughed and told one another. The next time I came I was pleasantly surprised to see one of the ladies recognized me and heard her yell to the chef to just give me a little bit of rice because I didn’t eat that much.

I then realized at that point that I was a “regular.”

The idea of being a “regular” and having all the employees know you by a first-name basis is something very romanticized in popular media on tv and the movies. Who doesn’t want to go to their favorite café and tell the cashier “give me the usual.” The cashier than proceeds to say, “An espresso with extra cream and hold the sugar, right?” I think I have finally achieved that for the first time in my life, and it is a very humbling feeling. Usually when we think about our experiences at stores, restaurants, or even cafes we can think about snotty people working there who doesn’t give a damn about us. But having people know your preferences and stuff like that makes the experience so much more personal.

I wonder what life was like when everyone just lived in little towns where everybody knew another. You would go to the same grocer for your fruits and vegetables and chat a little and then head to the deli to get some meat. While you are there, you might tell the butcher your day and how things are with your family and stuff. And when going to buy new clothes, the store manager would know what style that you like and would proceed to fit you with clothes that mirror your character.

Nowadays the world has become a pretty impersonal place. One of the largest complaints that customers have is when it comes to customer-support. In attempting to cut costs, companies hire the least skilled laborers at minimum wage who provide mediocre service. Take Walmart for example. Sure it may have some of the lowest prices, but at what price? All of their scandals aside, they have a workforce that are much less trained and knowledgeable than smaller mom-and-pop stores. I used to believe that low prices were the most important thing, but nowadays I much prefer service over price.

Companies should realize this as well. Customers are more likely to purchase more things if they feel comfortable and welcomed by employees who know what they are talking about. I would gladly spend more money for better service, and leave a store feeling satisfied knowing that I got my money’s worth.

But the sad reality is that mom-and-pops stores are going bankrupt all over America, being overtaken by huge retail stores such as Walmart. Regardless of how great their service, they simply can’t complete with lower prices. And with the shopping experience going online, we no longer need to even interact with salesmen or people when purchasing what we want.

But human interaction is what makes life worth living. Can you imagine one day where you don’t even need to leave your house? It’s probably going to be here before you know it. Everything will go online. Everyone will start to buy everything they need online and even go to work online from home. There will no longer be any “need” to even take a step away from your computer. Kind of imagine that world pictured in Walle where humanity just lives on huge levitating chairs and does everything they need from there. As ridiculous as it may sound, it is where humanity is heading towards.

So now what can you do about it, the individual? Even though the world is becoming into a much more impersonal world, it doesn’t mean that you have to grow more impersonal as well. Sure you may feel socially awkward when striking up a conversation with a stranger or even a clerk, but nothing is holding you back. There is no Big Brother looking over your shoulder watching your every action.

We have to remind ourselves that the person at the cashier is a person, just like me and you. They have their own lives, families to worry about, bills to pay, and a life to live. The next time you are getting service from anywhere, don’t feel afraid to strike up a conversation or even say hi to the other person. Who knows, that person may be having a crappy day and they may be shocked to see a random customer inquiring about how their day is going.

So become a “regular” with everyone you interact with. Even if you see the same people at work everyday, take a minute or two out of your day and ask them how they are doing. Bypass the typical “I’m doing fine” response and tell them how you really feel. If you feel like crap tell them “I feel exhausted from sleeping at 3AM last night, but this coffee is keeping me awake” or if you feel great don’t simply say that you feel good. Tell them, “I feel FANTASTIC.” People will marvel at hearing honesty and something genuine.

Now excuse me while I go and order my Americano.

How to argue everytime and win

So I just listened to the audiobook recording of “How to argue everytime and win.” When I was looking for new audiobooks, this one showed up as one of the most popular. When I first read the title of it, I scoffed at myself a little for the author to make such a bold statement. I thought to myself, “How can you expect to win everytime you argue? It just doesn’t work that way.” I was also wondering to myself why it was so important to “win” in any argument that you got in. But regardless, it sounded really interesting so I decided to take a little peek what it was all about.

I was actually really surprised by how great this audiobook was. The author, Gerry Spence, first came off as a really arrogant and conservative type of guy, but the more I listened his words, great messages of humility, acceptance, and even love permeated throughout his ideology. According to him, the point of arguing was to “get what you want” and that it shouldn’t be necessarily seen as an inherently selfish thing, but rather a way for us to be honest with ourselves in terms of our needs.

As a lawyer for over 40 years, the author is almost an artist in the art of arguing and he shares many of his tips how to “always win.” He also reshapes the of definition of winning as NOT simply wanting the other party to bow down in defeat, but rather winning as to have the best argument that connects on a logical and even more importantly, emotional level.

To always make a moving argument that connects with people, we must realize that it is not the words we say, but the emotion behind the words. You can choose the most eloquent word in the English dictionary but unless you say it with passion and emotion, it won’t mean anything to the listener. Using a simpler word with much more energy and vigor is thousands of times more effective than using a fancy word you find in the thesauraus with no heart.

One of the largest fundamentals of a winning argument is preparation. At times we may feel that the best speakers out there are just simply gifted, but talent means nothing without hard work and preparation. To know our argument inside is of upmost importance, and we must also prepare what the other party may say in order to try to contradict us. A great way to prepare is to actually write down your argument. Whatever thoughts we may have in our head do not truly exist until they are scribbled onto a piece of paper. And once we actually outline our thoughts into a coherent structure, we can learn to truly embody our argument until it becomes a part of us. At that point we won’t even need that  piece of paper anymore.

The author also invites us to reveal our weaknesses beforehand because when we let others know about our flaws early on it shows honesty and integrity, but if the opposing party reveals it we lose all credibility. By revealing all of our weaknesses and speaking with truth, the other side loses many options to attack our arguments.

To also have a winning mindset is of upmost importance. If we do not truly believe in our argument or our opinion of something beforehand, we can concede to defeat that much easier. The author tells us to eliminate the idea of “trying” from our dictionary. By trying gives us the option to fail. But once we replace the word “trying” with the word “winning,” can we actually have the winning mindset and to have no doubt in what we believe in. And how can we lose if we don’t allow us the possibility of losing?

Not only does he refer to arguing inside the courtroom or when it comes to politics, but also inside the family and when it comes to loved ones as well. However when it comes to arguing with our loved ones or our family, we must learn to lose. It may sound a little contradictory to the title of the book, but it advocates the idea of losing to loved ones and focusing on love for the greater good. Our loved ones are not perfect and they may have flaws, and we have to learn how to submit to them every once in a while to bring them happiness. We might hate that chick flick we are going to watch with our girlfriend, but why argue about something that isn’t a huge deal and that will bring her happiness?

We must also consider the idea of prejudice when it comes to arguing. The author used a great metaphor which alluded to prejudice being like a bunch of junk in your mind, without any room to fit anything else in there. So if a person is prejudiced to a certain argument or idea, it can be almost impossible to win that person over. For example, imagine telling a lumberjack about saving the forests. He will just look at you and scoff and tell you that if he doesn’t chop down trees his family cannot eat. It will be very difficult in uncovering the veil of prejudice from his eyes, but it is still possible. If you present him with a different job opportunity that will be much safer to his health and will have the same pay, you can sway his thoughts on the idea of saving the forests.

I don’t want to make this post too long so I’ll end it here. I’ll divide the rich knowledge I have learned with you guys in a few more posts. So never underestimate the power of your words and more importantly, the heart behind it!

It is not what you say, but what people hear.

I am currently listening to a great audiobook called “It is not what you say, but what people hear.” Link: http://www.amazon.com/Words-That-Work-What-People/dp/1401302599

So pretty much the premise of the book is exactly what the title says: It is not what you say, but what people hear. So meaning regardless of how good your message is and how eloquent it is, if it is misunderstood by your audience, it looses all effect.

So his core message is that you must try hard to put yourself into the shoes of your listeners, and make sure that you deliver your message as concisely as possible with them being able to understand yourself. If you are not able to connect and reach out with your audience, the meaning of your message can be misunderstood, and at worst, misinterpreted.

He suggests 11 rules for effective communication:

1. Use small words.
2. Use short sentences.
3. Credibility is as important as philosophy.
4. Consistency matters.
5. Novelty: offer something new.
6. Sound and texture matter.
7. Speak aspirationally.
8. Visualize.
9. Ask a question.
10. Provide context and explain relevance.
11. Visual imagery matters.

Now these are all supposted to apply more to the corporate, political, and advertising world, but I feel that it carries much everyday value as well. Communication in today’s society is one of the most important skills, and many times we can be misunderstood by who we are talking to. Whether it be our friends, our family members, or our loved ones. How many times have you heard someone say something that is misunderstood and later say… “That’s not what I meant!”

One of the philosophies that I believe in is “less is more.” So it is unnecessary to say what you can say in three sentences that can be said in one. By adding frivilous flowery language to our words, our listeners can often lose sight of what we are trying to say, whereas SAT words can confuse them as well.

Now I’m not saying never use advanced words or thoughts when speaking to your listeners, but always know the context you are in. If you are talking to your professor or fellow college friends it will probably be okay, but if you are talking to a random person on the street or an aquaintance don’t assume they know what you are talking about.

Which brings me to five more points said by the author:

1. Never assume knowledge or awareness.
2. Get the order right.
3. Gender can obstruct understanding.
4. It’s about the children.
5. How you define determines how you are received.

Trying to condense this entire book into a single blog post is near impossible, but I will tell you what I took out of it:

To be an effective speaker, you must be even more effective as a listener. If you want to get your intended message across to whoever you are talking to, you must really see things from their side of the fence. And to really put yourself into the shoes of your listener, you must know what they are thinking and how they are feeling.

So be a fervent listener and don’t be afraid to ask questions. By asking questions, we let our listeners know that we actually care about their concerns  which puts both parties on a more even playing field.

And never assume that the other person know what you are talking about or trying to convey. You might have thought about a certain idea for hours upon end or studied a certain concept, but not everybody will be as well-knowledged about it as yourself.

For example, I sometimes forget that not everybody is as technical about photography as myself. So I sometimes find myself using extremely technical terms such as “aperture” when another word such as “lens opening” can work much better.

So really try to pay attention to what you say to other people and know the strength and power of your words. The power of words should never be underestimated as the power of listening shouldn’t be underestimated as well.

So another assignment for you guys. Speak less, and listen more. Ask questions and really figure out what the other person feels.