The sign outside the building was written in both Italian and English. And while the three of us might not have understood the Italian very well, we certainly understood the English:
So that was it. While the three of us had taken a three-hour train ride up to Milan to see the city and explore, the primary reason had been to see Leonardo Davinci's painting 'The Last Supper.' But we weren't going to get to see it. We would just be three guys hanging out in Milan eating paninis for a day.
But Chad was cut from a different fabric than Will and myself. While the three of us were all studying Italian at the same school in Florence, Chad was about 10 years older than us. He had also been a self-made millionaire, then bankrupt, then a self made millionaire again and a religiously focused motivational speaker. He wasn't one to call it quits easily.
So he pushed on into the lobby anyway, spoke his broken Italian to the woman at the desk while Will and I looked on cluelessly. And sure enough he ended up getting us tickets. Here I was, used to quitting things quite quickly and accepting the word 'no' as fact, but Todd changed everything. Had it not been for him, I never would have been able to see one of history's most famous paintings. And while seeing the painting was significant, the lesson I learned about persistence was even more significant.
I think of that day a lot. I think of it when roadblocks come up or somebody says something is not possible. I think about Todd saying, "it doesn't hurt to ask." Years later I read an interview with the movie Producer Brian Grazer where he talked about his own personal philosophy on being rejected. And he said:
No is just a moment in time.
I thought of both those things as I called the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston last Monday. My sister lives in Boston and I take the bus up a couple of times a year to hang out for a quick weekend. We were discussing dates when she suggested the coming weekend. She said:
We are going to Brew at the Zoo. It's a beer festival that takes place in the Zoo.
Now she could have just invited me up to Boston to go to the zoo and that would have been enough. But beer AND animals, I mean come on.
Tickets are sold out but the website says they might be available at the gate.
So I went on the website and sure enough it said that tickets had sold out. But the site also said if you were interested in tickets to please call Jessica. It listed her number.
So I called. I got her voicemail. So I left a message like this:
Hi Jessica my name is Richard and I was calling to see if I could get a ticket to Brew at the Zoo this Saturday, I am coming up to visit my sister and I would really love it if we could go to this together. Please let me know if it is possible.
And I left my number.
Tuesday came and I called again. Voicemail again.
Hi Jessica this is Rich. I had called yesterday about possibly getting a ticket to brew at the Zoo this weekend. I am coming up to visit my sister and I would really love to go with my sister to Brew at the Zoo. Please let me know if I can buy a ticket. Thanks so much.
I tried to stress my desire to go as well as my affection and love for my sister without overdoing it. I hadn't yet bought a bus ticket, so my going up to Boston was pretty heavily dependent on getting a ticket to this one of a kind event.
The rest of the day passed with no response.
Wednesday morning I got a call from a strange area code. I answered.
Hi this is Jessica from the Franklin Park Zoo.
Hi Jessica, do you have good news for me?
And the way she held out her 'I' was almost sad, like she felt guilty. It sounded like the beginning of a:
I don't. I'm sorry but we can put you on our mailing list for next year and if you'd like to donate to our new Frog and Turtle Arboretum we'd be very appreciative.
But it wasn't remorse that I heard in her voice, it was almost... empathy. She said:
I do. I can't deny you if you are coming to see your sister.
Huzzah! It had worked! My persistent sympathy strategy had worked. I would get to drink beer and see Monkeys or Giraffes or something. Actually I really had no idea how it was going to go because I hadn’t read the website or really done much research on the event because once my sister said the words "Zoo" and "beer" in the same sentence I was hooked anyway.
And it was totally worth it. I go to see a tiny baby Gorilla, a baboony looking thing, a hippopotamus looking thing, and a butt-load of lemurs, bats, and other creatures. We took pictures, we spoke to the animals, and we drank a ton of beer. Some good, some not so good.
But the most important thing was I made it happen. And that's the coolest thing of all.