Episode 4: Finding Money

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Obstacles are a part of life—things happen, stuff gets in our way, situations go awry.

One day everything seems great in your world—maybe not perfect, but overall things are going to plan. And then something happens … say, like the world's worst hurricane:

Has this ever happened to you?

  • – an important customer cancels an order
  • – a key employee leaves
  • – a M%*&#&%&* Hurricane drops 10-feet of water on your largest customer

Whatever it is …

You don’t deserve this. You didn’t see it coming. You don’t have a good plan for it.

Now what?

Even if ice-water runs through your veins or you think you are a hardcase like the Ben Affleck character in the movie The Accountant

Ben in the Accountant

… you are still going to be emotional and frustrated.

So deal with those emotions immediately:

First, feel bad for yourself. (poor me)
Then, look for someone else to blame. 
Next, rehash in your mind over and over what you could have done differently.
Finally, think about what other people should have done to help you.


You have achieved Peak Misery and Maximum Bitterness!

Time to get back to work, and do something to rise above your circumstances.

To show this in a practical way, here’s a bad situation I was once in:

Some time ago, I told a well-known billionaire, Marvin Davis, “I will find you 50 million dollars — and I will do it in two weeks.”

I should not have said that or agreed to it because 50 million is a lot of money, and 2-weeks is a tiny sliver of time.

        This is episode 4. If you missed any previous episodes, look here:

         episode 1: a surprise call
         episode 2: I jump on a plane but where is it going?
         episode 3: a man worth $5.8 billion


Making matters worse, I signed a contract and shook hands. I was all-in.

This was the definition of an impossible situation.

And exactly how I found myself gulping down a fourth beer at the Corner Club Sports Bar, in downtown Moscow, Idaho.

The Corner Club in Moscow is a tough sports bar in a sports crazy town.

Inside this cinderblock bomb shelter turned watering hole, Moscow residents have come together for generations over tubs of beer and salty peanuts to yell at television screens … and each other.

“This is where you celebrate a fifty million dollar contract?” my colleague asked, as he led me past eight air hockey tables to the main boozing area at the back of the bar. Two regulars in flannel shirts are knocking back boilermakers beneath a sign that reads, “No Guts, No Glory.”

No Guts? I had just signed on to a suicide mission, and the reality of the situation was beginning to sink in.

A mini-keg of beer sounded just about right.

We ordered up 128 ounces of Sierra Nevada Torpedo, and got down to business, which meant facing some difficult facts.

1. I promised my new client/boss I would deliver him 50 million
2. To do this, I would need to visit the offices at least 25 investors …
3. Who are scattered around the world in California, New York, London, Moscow and Tel-aviv
4. An impossible task without use of a large private jet.

All I had been given was $50,000 and two associates, I called them Red-tie and Blue-tie.

“What we’ve got here before us, gentlemen is a classic KOBAYASHI MARU,” I said to them in between gulps of Torpedo.

“That test on Star Trek that nobody could pass? I love that episode, ” said Red Tie.

“It’s a no win situation,” I said.

“Yeah, even James T. Kirk failed the test twice,” said Blue Tie.

“This is a definitely a Kobayashi Maru.” I said, shaking my head.

An impossible situation is often called a Kobayashi Maru; referring to a training exercise in the fictional Star Trek universe designed to test the character of Starfleet Academy cadets in a no-win scenario.

A method to follow when faced with a Kobayashi Maru (impossible situation)

  • First, think intensely about your situation.
  • Second, imagine the circumstances blocking your progress are being lifted … one by one.
  • Next … you need to wait, and do nothing.

I have written extensively that sometimes the best action is to do nothing. 

Why the wait? Your mind needs some time to work through some new scenarios and play them out. Within 24 hours, your mind will then fire out a whole new set of solutions, one or more of which may work.

To illustrate more precisely, let me turn to a famous example. Fans of the TV show Seinfeld might remember an episode called "The Opposite" where George Costanza magically improves his life by doing the opposite of whatever he'd normally do. "If every instinct you have is wrong," Jerry says to him, "then the opposite would be right." The larger point is that sometimes our instincts need to be reversed and pushed in another direction.

Back in The Corner Club, an unglamorous sports bar serving a cheap, simple selection of drinks like the ones we were having named “Torpedo.”

“What did Captain Kirk do?” asked Blue Tie, which actually wasn’t a bad question.

“He cheated,” said Red Tie. “He snuck into Star Fleet and reprogrammed the computer.”

“So let’s do that,” said Red Tie tossing a handful of popcorn into his mouth. “How can we rig our game?”

Over a batch of Corner Club chili cheesy fries, here’s what we came up with:

Oren's Rules for Winning the Unwinnable Kobayashi Maru Game

  1. You cannot choose any of the current options on the table
  2. You ask yourself, what's the opposite of obvious?
  3. Then ask seriously, how can I make THAT happen?
  4. Try any reasonable answer, just pick the plan that sucks the least. You're not buying a washing machine at Home Depot, eg. you have limited options. You're stuck and you need to do something other than quit.
  5. Execute the plan you chose as well as possible; throw your back into it.
  6. And accept the possibility of failure, so don't “hope it all works out".
  7. But do work with industry and have faith you are doing the right thing.

I asked: What’s the opposite of going to see 25 investors in two weeks, an impossible mission?

Get all the investors to come see us!

“So how are we going to get a bunch of investors to come to Moscow, Idaho?” asked the bartender, who had jumped into the conversation right around point 4.

The keen reader will have noticed: This is NOT GOOD when your plan for raising $50 million involves help from a bartender in Idaho. 

I said, "We have zero chance of getting investors to come here, to us. But if we put together a beautiful presentation and work the phones …  we might get them to come to us if we were say, at the Beverly Hills Hotel.”

“Our boss Marvin owns that place,” said Red Tie, pleased with himself for discovering the obvious, which is what I had counted on him to do.

“Really?” I said. “Well, that’s so convenient.”

Two days later I was driving down the Pacific Coast Highway on my way to our private bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, courtesy of Marvin Davis.

I stopped by a Whole Foods just off Sunset Blvd. to pick up a few things, because, at $75 a hamburger, my funds wouldn’t last long at the Hotel.

I walking back to the car with about three hundred dollars worth of locally sourced and "sustainably farmed" snacks when a white Escalade screeched to a stop right next to me. Two guys jumped out, running right at me. True story, I don't make any of this up and I have written about this before.  One of them, who I figured at about 240 lbs with a neck the size of a garbage can lifted me into the air, and was dragging me towards the open door of the Escalade.

I’m thinking, I finally make it into a private bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel with a plan to keep Marvin Davis happy with $50 million, and I wind up getting robbed, maybe kidnapped, for some Almond Butter and Kale Chips … is this how my life story is going to end?

To be continued…

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