Have you ever handed over money for something you at first adamantly refused to pay for?

I’m sitting in a cafe in Bangkok holding a little plastic elephant on a key-chain.

It’s not something I had any inclination of paying money for today.

Ten minutes ago a young woman walked in and — with a broad smile — handed me a note saying she was collecting money for the deaf.

I was hit immediately by that sense of closing up, knowing that she was asking for money.

I swiftly and courteously said no and turned back to my writing.

She stayed, nodded, and continued smiling graciously. She held eye-contact.

I put my palms together, smiled and again shook my head, hoping this gesture would drive the point home.

She continued to smile and pointed at her bunch of key-chains.

I smiled, nodded and kept my eyes forward to my writing, waiting for her shadow to disappear beyond my periphery.

But still she remained.

Time slowed.

And that’s when I broke.

Yes, I said, reaching for my wallet.


I handed her a hundred baht bill, but the souvenir cost sixty. I wanted to give her more.

I don’t know whether it was her smile, her persistence, or if a small part of me actually found a way to like the little plastic elephant, but it worked.

And I enjoyed that moment. I was happy to be part of her day’s success.

I felt like it was a win for both of us.

And it was.

She then approached other tables. Not saying a word. Smiling with teeth at everyone she met.

I watched as every single person shook their heads as I did at first. Then they continued what they were doing. And every one of them — bar one — eventually handed over the money. Several bought more than one elephant. Even after a no.

Many nos.

And still she smiled.

Still, she pleasantly persisted.

I’d say her success rate was 80%.

Pretty good for a 10-minute whip-around in a cafe.

I had to write this piece as soon as she left because I’ve personally struggled with selling and persuasion and the risk of being rejected.

The prospect of having someone say NO has been one of the most significant sources of worry and avoidance and ultimately failure for myself and many of the creative businesses and freelancers I’ve worked with too.

Talking to people and asking them for their money is hard.

Selling is hard.

Persuasion is hard.

But it is easy too.

This deaf girl reminded me of the power of grace, presence and persistence.

Yes, the deaf girl was collecting for a charity, but it was still a sale. I paid money for the value that she had created. In this case, I was sold on the joy I’d receive through contribution.

And she didn’t even need to communicate verbally.

Make an emotional connection with someone, and you are most of the way there.

We all need to sell things in some form, continually, throughout our lives.

We must continually sell others on ourselves.

So see this as inspiration.

If someone says no, it is not a signal that they won’t buy. 

It doesn’t mean they won’t say yes, whether that same day, later in the year or in a decade.

We are incredibly mouldable. We are also incredibly powerful.

Anything is possible.

Looking for YESes ultimately means looking for NOs. Both are worth a lot to you.

The NO met with a smile (your smile) is the key.

Do it and keep doing it. Keep following up with people.

Put in the numbers, rinse and repeat, refine your product (and your attitude)…

…and success is guaranteed.

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