The word of the day: Sales

The exchange of goods or services; an instance of selling; being sold.

You can’t say no to brunch at Philip’s, despite the shortcomings. His living room seats about 8 people comfortably, 12 uncomfortably, and today buckles under the strain of 20 hungover hipsters with paper plates on their laps. Plus the whole ordeal is tragically vegan. But there is always way too much Champagne and that guarantees good conversation. Between bites of a soyrizo scramble, Jeff asks me questions about Sales. That’s today’s word of the day.

Jeff:

Sell me this pen.

Me:

What? Look, I’ve seen Wolf of Wall Street. This isn’t —

Jeff:

You said sales is about influence. Influence me to buy this pen.

Before I protest, I noticed that this gauntlet is noticed by other brunchers. Damn it. I take the pen from Jeff, sit up straight, and hold it in front of his nose.

Me:

OK, asshole. I’ll sell you this pen. But like, let’s get real about this. Some preliminaries. Do you have money? Money you are willing to part with, today?

Jeff:

Yeah, I do. And I might part with it, if your pitch is convincing…

I interrupt.

Me:

Well, here’s the thing. We both know you don’t want this pen. So I’m going to sell you something you want along with this pen. Something that can change your life completely, and forever. Would you pay for that?

Jeff:

Hm… intriguing. Yeah, I suppose I would pay for something like that.

I put the pen down on the table with a snap.

Me:

Finally, are you open to an unsolicited personal observation at some point during this sales pitch?

Jeff:

I don’t know what that means, so sure.

Me:

Great! Let’s start with an exercise to help me understand your needs and goals. Take this pen.

With my mimosa in a solo cup held precariously between my kneecaps, I gingerly retrieve a napkin from across the coffee table and place it in front of Jeff.

Me:

OK. Write down what you are having for breakfast five years from now. Don’t overthink it. Put yourself at breakfast, exactly five years from today, look down, and write down what you see.

Jeff:

What I’m actually eating?

Me:

Yeah, what’s on your plate. It’s December 14, 2022 if that helps.

Jeff:

OK… It really doesn’t. But let me think about it. I don’t know. There are so many possibilities. I’ll probably… still be in Oakland?”

I tap the napkin in front of him.

Me:

Breakfast. Write down the breakfast.

Jeff:

Right. Well then eggs for sure, because I mean… I’m having eggs no matter where I am. And bacon?

Jeff is interrupted by Sheppard, who’s following this conversation.

Shep:

Five years is a long time? What if there’s an uprising of self-aware robots and resources are kind of scarce? Maybe you’ll be eating vegan?

Jeff:

Oooh. Robot uprising is a good point, but I’m not going vegan. Singularity or no. I’m having bacon and eggs. And since I’m in California, let’s add some fresh avocado too.

Me:

Write it down.

Jeff writes down “Bacon, eggs, and avocado” on the napkin. Before he can put the cap back on the pen, I flip the napkin over.

Me:

Not so fast. Here’s the next question. Close your eyes and imagine a world of no obstacles. No barriers to your ambition. You can live the exact life you want to live from this day forward. Live where you want. Do what you want. Be whoever you want to be. Now open your eyes: what are you having for breakfast, five years from today?

Jeff:

I mean, you’re asking about my dream breakfast — ?

Me:

I am but I’m not. What I’m really asking is, “what is the life you want?” Truly and candidly.

Jeff:

Wow. I mean, that’s a huge question…

Me:

It is… but maybe it’s the only question? Even though we don’t actually ask ourselves out loud, we’re answering it every day. Through our actions and our inactions. Everything we do is world-facing memo: “This is who I want to be. This is what I want to do.” So I want you, just for the purpose of this napkin, to let yourself envision the life you’d actually want to live.

The room is a lot quieter now, waiting for Jeff’s answer.

Jeff:

I want to be an entertainer obviously.

Me:

Obviously. Everyone in this room knows that. And you should be. So what would breakfast look like if the world you wanted was true?

Jeff:

There’s grapefruit. There’s grapefruit because I live in LA. And that’s where I need to be if I’m serious about writing—and I think I’m serious about writing. I mean, I could even live with Kirby; he’s been trying to get me down there for ages. I definitely want to get some parts too, but I mostly want to write. Television. And shoot stuff! Remember when I used to make all those movies–-“

Me:

That’s great, Jeff. I don’t care. Breakfast. What. Is. For. Fucking breakfast.

Jeff:

Ha! So grapefruit… and eggs and bacon, obviously, but then… why not some cottage cheese? Is this craft services because —

Me:

No, it’s not craft services.

Jeff:

This is kind of restrictive, you know.

Me:

Look man, just keep it restaurant-ish.

Jeff starts scribbling “Grapefruit. Eggs. Bacon. Cottage cheese.”

Jeff:

Well, since I’m crushing it, then I’m adding some lox and…

Kelly:

Frittata?

Jeff:

Yes!

Sandy:

Dude, cinnamon buns.

The room oohs.

Jeff:

Definitely.

I tap the napkin. Jeff writes down his second breakfast and hands the napkin back to me. I hold it up for the room. Everyone is watching like I’m about to do a magic trick. In the kitchen someone pops the 11th bottle of Champagne that morning.

Me:

You wrote down two visions of the future. I’m not here to judge either one. They both sound like decent breakfasts and bacon is involved either way, so your future looks bright. What’s important is that both visions are possible. There is nothing in the realm of fantasy here. Cottage cheese exists. You can move to LA. You know how to write. You are dumb enough to be an actor—

Jeff:

Thanks.

Me:

—and I don’t think there is anything really stopping you from living that grapefruit, bacon and eggs, cottage cheese, frittata, lox, and cinnamon buns life. You can have this breakfast. Is that fair to say?

The group murmurs and Jeff nods his assent.

Me:

But now my unsolicited personal observation: When I asked you for the breakfast you will be having… you didn’t mention grapefruit. You said bacon and eggs and avocado in Oakland. The breakfast you will have in five years is different from the breakfast you could have without obstacles. Is that right?

Jeff:

I mean… yeah.

Me:

Why. What’s the difference?

Jeff:

OK, you’re getting psychological.

Me:

I’m talking about breakfast. We agree that both are realistic, but you think one is more realistic. It seems like.

Jeff:

Well, Maybe I’m scared of failing? Or I’m worried that I don’t know how to actually do it? I mean, I’m also just super comfortable here and… well, maybe I’m afraid of admitting I actually want that second breakfast.

Me:

Perfect! So there’s a breakfast you want. And a breakfast you don’t want. And Jeff, I want you to get the breakfast you want. I mean it. We’re pals, right? So now I’m coming clean. This is what I’m going to try to sell you today. Do you want that grapefruit, Jeff?

Jeff:

I think I do.

Me:

Dude. I’m half-numb from 30 mimosas; you have to do better. Do. You. Want. The. Grapefruit.

Jeff stands.

Jeff:

Yes! I want that grapefruit and that cottage cheese!

Sandy:

And cinnamon buns!

Jeff:

And cinnamon buns!

The room reacts with glee.

Me:

So if it isn’t obvious, these breakfasts are a metaphor—

Kelly:

What, really?

Me:

—for a change in mindset. To live a different life five years from now, it sometimes takes a change today. Do you believe that’s true?

Jeff:

That makes sense.

Me:

Now here’s the hard part. To make this happen you have to sign a declaration. Circle the breakfast you want and cross out the breakfast you don’t. You’re going to do it here, in the living room, over breakfast, in front of your dear friends. Once you do, everyone will applaud, blah-blah-blah. Ready?

Jeff:

Fuck yeah. I’m actually excited.

Once again the pen is in my hand.

Me:

And here’s the good news. This pen—the pen that you will use to signal to your friends, to the universe, and to yourself, that you are committed to the future you want — is surprisingly affordable. Because it’s Saturday and I’m almost drunk, the price is every single dollar you have on your person right now. All the money in your wallet.

Shep:

Whaaaaa—

Jeff:

Haha, I don’t even know how much I have on me.

Me:

It doesn’t matter. If it’s a dollar, then that’s the price. If you have $1,000 I’ll take that too. But your future isn’t free. Every journey means sacrifice. You don’t get that grapefruit breakfast unless you buy in.

Everyone is looking at Jeff. He pulls his wallet out and sighs.

Jeff:

I literally just went to an ATM. $120 dollars.

Me:

And if you act now, I’ll throw in a full breakfast, exactly five years from today, on me.