There is a scene in the movie Inception that I have kept with me ever since I first watched it. To set the stage: Cobb's world has been torn upside down. His crumbling life lies in front of him. Being separated from his children and the dire need to return home have hit hard. Now things have just reached an all time low. During this he's always wondering: “Is this the real life?” Of course the next step is to wonder if it is all fantasy. You get caught in the landslide and there really is no escape from reality. One day, you have to open your eyes, look up to the sky, and see. Your reality is what you made it.
Now, back to the real world. Flashback to early September of 2012. I'm sitting with an individual. We talk about some cards he needs, and there's one card I keep coming back to, Wurmcoil Engine. At this point, rotation is a few weeks out still, and I need another copy for the list I'm running for now. I'm still splitting time between grinding trades and grinding tournaments. We talk for a while, and suddenly I stop, and realize something:
“Look, the only thing I'm really interested in is the Wurmcoil Engine.”
We've all had this conversation before.
“Here's the thing, right now – the card is worth $12. I'm really only comfortable offering $7 because I just don't know what it will be worth after rotation. Are you willing to accept $7?”
There it is. The fastball across the meat of the plate. Are they going to watch it go straight into the catchers mitt? Or is it going sail over the outfield wall? Am I going to get the “How dare you!” look? Am I the hero or the goat? The guy looks down at the Wurmcoil. Looks at me. Looks back at the cards he needs and says, “Sure. That works for me.”
The Power of Choice.
Giving someone else the choice is not a strange concept. We do this every day in the world of Magic: The Gathering. You play a creature and then another one, and now your opponent has to choose which he kills with their removal spell. It happens all the time in trading. The problem we face is when the decision is made that certain situations must be dealt in very particular ways. Our reality is then defined by what we chose.
Now, what if I looked at the same person, and I told them “Hey, that cards worth $12, but I'll offer you $17 right now.” Am I wrong? You immediately want to tell them to “TAKE IT!” right? What if I know in two weeks that it will be worth $40. Is it still wrong to offer $17 now? Traditional thought is that a card is what it's worth. That's not the full story, lest we forget. To be successful at anything though, you must look at reality from a variety of ways. The past, the present, the future, and the far future all have a bearing on what you should do. There's a few key things that giving the choice does for you.
1) Cut to the chase.
Being up front is such a welcome relief. No one likes to do the “Trade Dance.” The tango of not giving too much information, or waiting the eons for someone to look up every price on their phone. Why not ask for what you want? Are you afraid of tipping your hand too soon? Using guides like eBay, TCGPlayer or SCG is only a part of the full Magic: The Gathering realm. Even if they are the most popular, let's not forget one thing - they are nothing more than a guide. Unless you are talking directly to a vendor, you are only talking about someone else's idea of what a card is worth. Are you just going to take the easy route and say that is your value too? Ok, but don't forget that fact. You are still using someone else's carefully crafted, researched, and figured out value. Do you know the reason why Pernicious Deed is $25 only with one vendor? Do you know why everyone doesn't think it's worth $40? Take the time to think about the why's. Don't just blindly follow the formula of value. You'll understand much better how prices change by looking at them more closely.
2) “When”, not “If.”
The saying is: “A 'No' is just one more step towards a 'Yes'.” We lose sight too often that what you want is a completely fair thing to ask for. If you've properly done your homework, and you have an accurate idea of what is reasonable, you are more likely to get a 'Yes' from any complete stranger than not. We forget this way too often. Often times, our expectations are so completely out in left field though, that making that happen becomes an intense up hill battle. Many people call this “biting off more than you can chew.” In reality, it's going in with the wrong mindset. Anything can happen, but it's hard to get to the moon by jumping up and down. You have to always remember what is reasonable and what is absurd. Taking the approach of knowing it's only a matter of time is a complete game changer. Once you are willing to put the time to get the Yes, the No's take on a completely different texture.
3) There is no pressure.
Most people HATE to trade, if you don't know this already. You might love it. They can't stand it. Have you forgotten what it feels like to get "One-Overed?" If they know you're savvy, they might sit there with this look like they are losing on something they don't know about. Ever feel like you're missing something? All most people want is to feel like they are in control of their destiny. You've already decided it's only a matter of time before someone says yes. After all, you're focus is to trade often. With no pressure being added on any single trade, people are free to do anything. How do you know that they didn't pick up that Fulminator Mage when it was still $2? How do you know they are not absolutely excited about even getting $15 for it? You never know what someone's situation is.
4) The decision affects YOU less.
Nothing truly affects you until everything is said and done. Giving someone else the means to decide already does one very important thing – You're already getting what you want. You are getting a card at the right price to allow you to do whatever it is you need to do. If they do in fact say No, nothing has really changed. You are still able to go about your business as if nothing new has happened. Since it was out of your control, you have no regret about it. You can get back to what matters, or even look at what you were asking for. Was it completely unrealistic? Or was it spot on?
The Power of Choice is just a simple exercise in asking for what you want. There' are countless reasons someone could say No, but there are also as many reasons the answer could be Yes. Your reality is what you see, hear, taste, live, know and feel. Their reality is not anything near where you are. There will be common ground, and striving for that is what trading, buying or selling is all about. Life is all about the same thing. Where and how do you meet on common ground? How do you both get what you want out of any given interaction? How do you not get taken advantage of? If you start by correctly knowing what you want, and then asking for it directly – getting to that common ground is very easy. In the end, Cobb's reality was what he made of it. Make your own reality.