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May 14, 2018

I Challenged High Schoolers to Get a Discount on a Cup of Coffee. Here’s What Happened

Next time you walk into a coffee shop, ask for a discount on a cup of coffee. How will you ask for it? Will you feel uncomfortable?

Now here’s the catch: you can’t ask for a discount point blank. There’s a chance that a direct ask could get you the discount, but I want you to get it without a direct ask. In life there will be times when a direct ask doesn’t work, and it’s in these times that you will need a different approach to reach your goal.

The secret: ask for the discount using empathy. Build a relationship with the person behind the counter before you ask for help in the form of a discount.

What can you say or do to endear yourself within seconds so that they want to give you a discount?

The First Coffee Challenge

It was a Monday night when I issued that same challenge to a group of high school students at Minds Matter. I had just spoken to them on the subject of advocating for yourself. Minds Matter serves high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds. They’re not taught how to be their own advocates. They’re not taught how to ask for what they want; they’re taught to accept whatever people are willing to give them at face value.

This belief limits them and their potential, so I wanted to address it head-on that Monday night.

The first student to get a discount on a cup of coffee and to email me would receive $100 towards their college fund from me. It’s funny because I could hear the air leave the room as soon as I said that. Both the mentees (the high school students) and the mentors (volunteers) were afraid. I had thrown down the coffee challenge and put an incentive behind it.

I honestly thought one, maybe two, kids would take me up on the challenge. Needless to say, my eyes popped when I opened my inbox the next day.

RELATED: Case Study: How Minds Matter Made 2x Roi with a Live Auction

Over the course of the week, emails from the students streamed into my inbox. So many of them had successfully accomplished the coffee challenge. The last email brought tears to my eyes:

Hello. I accomplished the challenge. ????

I went to 7/11 and I said to the cashier, “How are you doing brother?”

He answered, “I am good how are you, sir?”

After greeting I asked, “May I get a discount boss? I am a student and I don’t make money. I am buying coffee so I can stay awake. I am giving you all I have. If you give me a discount I can have money for another day.”

His reaction was priceless. He put his hand in his pocket and took out money and said he’d pay for me so I can stay in school and meet my dreams.

The fear of advocating for yourself by asking for help stems from a lack of self-esteem. That’s a huge hurdle to overcome, but the overwhelming response from these students showed how powerful empathy can be.

The students learned two things:

1. Nothing is out of reach with self-esteem

2. People will help when they can empathize

Worst case scenario, someone says no. But here’s the thing, not a single student reported back that someone told them no.

They learned that courage comes from vulnerability and vulnerability is universally understood.

So when they asked for help, the person behind the counter gave it to them. This endears the student to that person or that coffee shop, causing them to return over and over again. That barista built social capital with the student and the student learns a third very important lesson:

3. When you help someone, that person is down for you.

There’s no better way to learn this lesson than to have experienced it first-hand.

Your Turn, Visionary!

Do you dare? The coffee challenge is simple, yet I’d be willing to bet that most people who read this article right now wouldn’t dare do it. If you are resisting the idea, you have to ask yourself this:

If you’re not willing to ask for help on a $3 cup of coffee, how will you do it for the things that really matter?

When you have the courage to ask for a discount on a cup of coffee, you build the courage (and humility) to ask for the audacious.

Then anything is available to you, even if it’s not presented that way to the rest of the world. A fixed offer, a take it or leave it situation, a non-negotiable, anything is within your reach.

Visionaries have big goals and big dreams. You’ll often have some fear around your goals, or maybe you’re afraid people will be haters.

Self-esteem brings you to the point where you’re totally comfortable with that one audacious ask. This ask will allow you to obtain or experience something most people never think is possible.

RELATED: How to Build Social Capital: Asking for Introductions

A Lesson Worth Its Weight In Gold

Think of those moments when someone goes to bat for you. Think of those moments when someone vouches or opens doors for you. Think of when someone has gone above and beyond what you expected.

It’s then that you begin to realize how meaningful a relationship is to you, and yet you hold back on developing more of those relationships because you hold back on asking for help.

When you build relationships by helping others and giving, you recognize how powerful your help is to someone else. This makes you more receptive to asking others for help, and the cycle of asking and giving, asking and giving, continues. You begin to realize how another person’s help can take you well beyond what you could have imagined.

Advocating for yourself by asking for help is one of the most courageous things you can do when chasing your vision. Try it. I’d love to hear from you and learn how it went.

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