How Overcoming Objections Got Me into Syracuse

Overcoming objections is a necessary part of chasing your goals.

A little story:

Some of you know I met my wife Mara at summer camp while we were both teens (we reconnected in our 20s). Well, we dated during high school, even though we went to different schools; I went to John Dewey High in Brooklyn; she went to Lawrence High, on Long Island.

One day Mara told me she wanted to go to Brown University for college. I didn’t know much about it; I thought it was an arts school. I hadn’t thought much about college myself.

That night, I asked my mom where she thought I should apply to school. She had two answers.

“You’re an unusual kid who could probably do well without going to college,” she said. “On the other hand, you’d be the first in our family to graduate from college. It could be a great idea. Go see what your guidance counselor has to say.”

So the next day I went to see my guidance counselor, Ms. Winston (I changed her name).

Ms. Winston looked over my grades (all pass/fail, since our school was experimental), my SATS (760 – very low) and my family’s finances (non-existent).

“Maybe you should go to a trade school,” she said. “Maybe a four-year college is not for you.”

I went home very upset. But my mom wouldn’t hear any of it.

“F*ck Ms. Winston,” my mom said. “Get that college guide book with all the schools in it. Find the most expensive school in New York state.”

It turned out to be Syracuse.

“How could I possibly get in there?” I said. “I have no grades, we have no money, my SATs are very low.”

My mom immediately ticked off the things I did have that most kids didn’t: I had worked several jobs since I was little; I was my class’s treasurer; I often took care of my brothers; etc.

My mom added that even our having no money could help, because Syracuse needed a certain number of students on financial aid.

See, my mother never accepted the word “no.” Instead, she always looked for the angles that no one else saw. (She invented the concept of What Else?)

I applied to Syracuse, and when I had my interview there, I sold the woman interviewing me.

I told her, “I know I don’t have grades and my SATs are low, but I’ve been working to make money since I was ten. And I’m my class treasurer. And I take care of my brothers a lot…” I went on and on, listing everything that made me unique. At the end I said, “If you accept me, I’m going to make the best of every inch of this campus. You will never regret it."

Sure enough, I got in. That admissions officer took a chance on me. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Syracuse put me on the path that led to the rest of my life, to my eventual success.

Often, you only need to make one great sale. You only need to capture one game-changer.

So you gotta have the balls to not listen to "no."

But sometimes we get down and we forget that. Sometimes we only hear the “no” and we give up.

Do you let “no” stop you? Or do you keep moving, and selling, and looking for all the other angles?


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