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A Simple Trick to Get Everything for Free

  • 5 min read

10 years ago I went on a road trip with “the boys” (the boys being 2 guys I barely knew back then).

We didn’t have a plan or direction but agreed to 3 rules:

1) If something scares you, you must do it
2) You can’t use money (or steal)
3) If someone makes you a proposal, invitation or request, you must say “yes”

That trip held of life lessons for us.

And a big one came from the challenge of dealing with rule 2.

If you can’t use money and you can’t steal. How do you still get by?

On a particularly hot day, we asked for water in a bar.

The barman: “That’s 3 euros.”

3 moneys is more than 0. So that wasn’t an option.

Spontaneously, someone said:

“What about that much bigger bottle over there, could we instead get that one for 0?”

The guy laughed: “What do you mean?

“Instead of paying 3 for the small bottle, could we get the bigger 1 and pay 0? That would be awesome.”

To our surprise, the barman, laughing at the ballsiness of the question replied: “Sure, here you go! Enjoy it to the fullest.”

We decided to try this approach from the get-go when looking for accommodation:

“I know it’s a weird thing to ask… But the 3 of us were kinda hoping that instead of paying, we could sleep here for free… Any chance you’d say yes to that?”

They replied: “Only if you get up at 4AM and go through our morning routine with us.”

My friend spat out a knee-jerk response:
“Ouch. 4AM is a no go. What else could we do in return?”

“You know what? We’ll figure that out together. You can stay here, meals on the house. But you have to spend time with us, get to know us, and find ways to show some goodwill.”

After the trip, I got curious and started experimenting with this.

What else would you be able to get for free, just by asking for it?

✔ Getting $500 software for free by calling the CEO and asking? Worked.

✔ Not selling anything on my blog but simply asking for readers to send money when they liked a post? Worked.

✔Asking women in bars to buy me drinks and get to know me? Worked for 90 days straight.

Could it really be as simple as asking?

Yes and no.

There’s a way in which it “works” and one in which it doesn’t.

You see, I tricked you with the title of this post.

This isn’t a trick.

You could say the exact same words and not get anything for free.

As I continued to experiment with this, I learned that your intention behind asking makes all the difference.

As soon as…

✖ I felt an ounce of pride about “getting away with this
✖ a part of me intended to “leech” of an other person
✖ I thought “let me use this trick to get stuff for free”

…I wouldn’t receive anything.

Except their severe dislike.

And rightfully so.

It’s not nice to try and manipulate people into giving you their energy for free.

If someone’s willing to do that, you might as well tip them double.

Now what was different in my intention when it did work?

During the trip, it was stating a genuine desire without expecting it to work.

The whole trip was a game. And hoped we could keep playing it. But didn’t impose it on others.

There wasn’t a part of us thinking “let’s use this person”, it was pure self-expression.

Taking a chance, assuming most people would probably shut us down.

After the trip, already “knowing” this worked, my intention became social experimentation.

I still didn’t intend to take advantage of others.

Instead, I wanted to discover the edges of what’s possible in my reality.

What both of these have in common:

They are unattached to outcome.

Instead of trying to manipulate, you’re trying to gather data.

In doing so, you don’t impose anything on the other person (or reality).

Instead of entitlement, it’s a playful invitation:

Would you do this thing with me that we’re not supposed to do according to social norms? Wouldn’t that be fun? If we broke the mold together?

When done right, there is an honest child-like quality to it. No neediness or entitlement. Just a little bit mischievous.

No agenda, besides poking the fabric of social reality and seeing what it does.

Now check in with yourself:

Was there a part of you that thought:

“great… I’ll keep that in mind so I can do it with the right intention and succeed in getting the free stuff!”

If so, that’s the part which stops it from “working”.

The moments when it “works” tend to be the ones when you don’t even see it as a situation which can “work” or “not work”.

Simply one where you’re having fun exploring.

It’s an ironic parts of life I’ve seen played out in many areas:

The more tightly you hold on to your desire to get something from others, the more people will be repelled by it.

Then when you no longer feel this need, you suddenly receive it all the time.

How to deal with that paradox is beyond the scope of this post.

But if there’s one thing I’d love for you to take away from it, it’s this:

Become an explorimenter.

Question the limitations of what you believe you “can” and “can’t” do in your (social, entrepreneurial,…) reality.

How do you really know something wouldn’t work?

Have you tried it?

Have you tried it without wanting it to work?

As a pure experiment, for the joy of finding out what’s possible?

P.S. Yes, the beard was because of rule 3.

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