The best way to get people on your side

A while ago I was listening to a Podcast in which Tim Ferriss was interviewing Nick Kokonas.

It was a rich episode, dense in teachings and experiences Kokonas (co-founder of The Alinea group and Founder of Tock) shared which really gave me a lot to think about.

One in particular stuck with me, and that was on the power of invested capital on motivation.

The principle 

Put it simply: your motivation in doing something grows as your investment (of time and/or money) on that thing grows. It could be linear, it often is exponential (so a little increase in your investment might have a massive boost on your motivation).


Nick Kokonas was referring to one time in which his family wanted to go see a movie he absolutely did not want to see. But they convinced him so he got tickets (60$, which for him it was what 60 cents is for a regular person – nothing). On the day of the movie his family had a rich lunch, it was pouring rain, they were sleepy… nobody wanted to go. Yet, he made them go because he had purchased the tickets. Not to teach them a lesson or anything, but HE WANTED THEM TO GO because HE HAD INVESTED IN GOING, regardless of the fact that he initially did not want to go see that movie.

My mother taught me that food should not be wasted. Ever. So what do I do? If it is in the plate, I eat it. If it is about to expire, I cook it. If it has expired and still looks kind-of-ok, I cook it and eat it. Why? Because I bought it. It’s purely irrational because one thing is a 10$ piece of sirloin, another a 1 month old egg or a half-finished heavy cream box. If I think about it logically, I get mad at myself because sometimes I really eat something I should not, risking to get sick, simply to finish stuff that I had commitment on, either because I bought it, or because I bought it AND cooked it (double investment, 10 times the motivation to finish it).

When things go down on the stock markets, many would argue that a prudent approach would be to quit an investment, especially if you are still in green territory. If you bought a stock at 100$, it got to 120$, then down to 105$, you can either say “I sell and I made 5$” and be happy about it, or you can say “I am 15$ short of where I was so I will keep it until it gets back to 120$”. Funny how you never got the 120$ in the first place so you see that position as a loss, not as a gain. Oh, someone (I did that in the past) would also think “good, the stock is down but it will go up again so I will BUY MORE”. I lost about 1k$ that way.

You get the gist: the more you invest in something, the more motivation you have for that something to work out for you.

What does this mean in large organisations 

As I refer to in Chapters 6 to 11 of Office of Cards, winning in a large organisation is not a solo-game, you need allies, support, people cheering you, people on your corner. You need to #MakeNoEnemies, #GetHelp and #BeOtherCentric.

#MakeNoEnemies is the bare minimum, but #GetHelp is probably the most important thing to keep in mind when you are trying to get someone to become your fan because, by asking people to help you, you make them invest something in you, be it time, experience, network, or even money, in some cases.

I remember once someone (A) reached out to me asking to make an introduction to a very influential person I knew (B). I cared about this person and wanted to help, so what did I do? Made the intro? Nope 🙂 What I did was: 1- be very clear with A that I don’t make introductions lightly as I know people are busy (especially B) and I value my name as a reference so when I make the intro they judge me for making it, and I want that judgement to be a good one; 2- talk A into having something to bring to the table of B, to make sure there would be some sort of exchange and not a one-way chat when they’d talk; 3- talk to B to explain A’s situation and why he wanted the intro and how he could help; 4- made the intro; 5- followed up with both parties after they talked. This is caring about someone 🙂

Now, if you think about it from A’s standpoint, he got me to make an investment in him. So, what would I do now? Not only I would prepare carefully, but I would also follow up! I would want to make sure that the reason he needed me for is unfolding as he’d hoped. If I run into him in the corridor, I would ask how that thing is going.

Think about how likely that would be if he’d simply told me “I proactively reached out to B about XYZ”. Would I care? Maybe, but chances are I would not. And even if I would, it would be a lesser degree of care vs the situation in which I made the connection for him.

Another time I had had a clash with a colleague. This person was not easy to deal with and we had a disagreement that led to friction in our day to day, nothing major of course, but I wanted to address it trying to #MakeNoEnemies.

So what did I do? I knew this person was very passionate about their job (marketing), and also very capable and experienced. So I thought I could use that to make a connection, and asked for help on marketing my online wine business. I went there very humbly, offered a coffee and asked for help in reviewing my marketing strategy as the business was not performing as well as I’d hoped. This person was a bit cold at first, but then the spark ignited the fire and the passion for marketing took over, and we started a 2h conversation about what could be done to improve my sales. This person basically did the marketing plan I should have done in the first place!

So, what do you think happened then? Not only did my sales improve massively, but also this person and I removed the friction that was there, got to know each other better and every time we spoke they asked about my website, always giving tips (sometimes I also received nightly emails as they were checking the campaigns I was putting on). And, it goes without saying, I never paid anything for this massive value (although I did offer several bottles of wine!).

This is how #GetHelp can be used as a way to build solid relationships in large corporations. And this is the power of invested capital. The caveat here is that you need to carefully read the person and assess the situation to make sure you pick a topic in which you maximise the chances that they will be open to help you, otherwise you waste your bullet and, if someone refused to help once, the power of invested capital works against you as they are more likely to say “no” again, building on the “no” they gave in the first place. 

For more reference on this, read Chapter 10 – The yes-pattern of Office of Cards.

(And life)?

As its subtitle indicates, Office of Cards talks about rules and principles that help people win in large corporations, but also in day-to-day life situations.

So just consider what asking for help might mean, think about why you feel compelled to double down on an investment you made. Think of your gym subscription: you pay so you go (instead of “you want to go so you have to pay; cause and effect work in reverse for many people). Think of your New York Marathon draft: you entered, they picked you, so you train and you go (again, for many it’s not “I train because I run the marathon” but rather “I run the marathon so I have to train”). Or maybe those great charity challenges where you commit on doing something for good and people invest in your success and then support you through your challenge.


Making an investment, of time or money, is something that should not be taken lightly because it’s not “just” a quick decision with a time-limited impact, it may become a long term investment in which your equity grows (or decreases) in value over time. And be careful: this growth might be true or perceived. If it is true you are good, if it is perceived you have a problem (and you end up buying more stocks when the market is down, increasing your losses, like I did a few years back). #PerceptionIsReality

This is why salespeople always try to start a sales pitch with small questions it is easy to say “yes” to or agree with, because once you are on the yes-pattern, it’s hard to jump off of it, and it gets harder the more yes-es you said. It’s what I call “incremental questions” (Chapter 10 of Office of Cards), which in itself is a twist on the Socratic Method. #ListenFirstTalkLater #AskWhy

Conversely, asking others to make an investment in you is a great way to get them to understand you a little better, to support you, to take an interest in you and your success, so you can use this as a tool to develop deep and meaningful relationships.

Remember: when you took a step in any direction, it’s easier to take another step in the same direction, than go back to where you started.

Think about what this means to you, it’s life changing, believe me.

As always, thanks for reading, sharing, commenting and “liking” 🙂