Today’s article, How to Get 100% More For Free, is a guest post by FL at FinanciaLibre. As FL explains on his site, FinanciaLibre is here to help you bridge the gap between the wealth you have and the wealth you need to for optimal freedom and maximum life awesomeness. An economist by training with an MBA from a top-5 business school, FL has written several economics research papers, had his work presented before the Supreme Court (Note: an earlier version incorrectly indicated that FL has testified before the Supreme Court), and advised Fortune 100 companies. Prior to reaching age 35, FL achieved and financial independence; he will never again have to participate in mandatory work.
Note from FinanceSuperhero: I wrote the introduction above; it is not a self-congratulatory bio from FL.
To get 100% more of something, you usually have to pay twice as much.
Yeah, you can sometimes grab a bulk discount, but that only gets you a little more for “free.” Say, 15%. And it mostly applies to stuff like toilet paper and peanuts.
Which is great but not exactly life changing.
It turns out, though, that really, truly valuable stuff – things like personalized help getting a better job, or even tax-free cash – are available at discounts that make cheap TP and legumes look downright caro.
By which I mean the good stuff’s free.
You just gotta mind your pints and quarts to get it.
Someone out there’s saying, “Shucks, FL, I got me six tacos for the price of three last week. Ain’t hard to do.”
Ok. It’s agreed that tacos are nice and can be had for half-off. But they pale in comparison with career growth or cash. They’re more like peanuts. And getting fat at the Taco Hut doesn’t tell us much about how to score 100% more good stuff in life.
So, instead of chowing down on Tex-Mex, let’s listen to a story about two dudes we’ll call Rico 1 and Rico 2. Despite their names, they aren’t rich. And they aren’t real smart.
The Ricos can’t nail down the finer points of an effective cover letter. So each emails a rough draft letter to a bunch of different contacts and asks for their help. A few people respond to their respective Rico with redline comments and vague encouragement.
To this point in the story, Rico 1 and Rico 2 are identical. But now they diverge just ever so slightly.
Both Ricos reply to those who provided assistance, and both ask for yet more help on yet another cover letter. (Like I said, not real smart.) But Rico 1 is expressly grateful for the assistance provided on the first letter. And Rico 2 is expressly neutral about the help.
So how does each fare going forward?
Well, neutral Rico 2 gets about 32% of the initial respondents to help him again. Which ain’t bad for a dunce.
Grateful Rico 1, on the other hand, gets 66% of the original helpers to help some more.
A 100%+ better result for Rico 1…simply by saying “thanks, bro.” Which is free.
The study summarized here exposes a super-profitable truth. Saying “thank you” can work for us wily Luchadores big time.
Exhibiting gratitude is an incredibly powerful motivator that causes people to do the things you want them to do. And in many cases to do those things eagerly.
Unlike so many other levers we can pull to get better personal or professional results, saying “thank you” is costless and, even without an external payoff, makes the thank-er (e.g., Rico 1) happier and healthier.
Which makes “thanks” pretty good stuff.
“I’d rather get me some free tacos than a durn’d redline cover letter,” you say.
All right, so it’s hard to put a dollar figure on career help, and some might prefer lunch to life coaching. But depending on the people you’re emailing, cover letter revisions are probably a lot more valuable than chicken wrapped in fried cornmeal.
Nevertheless, to sate your need for numbers, the power of “thanks” has been subjected to other, more economically geared studies that sketch out a rough financial value for gratitude.
These more quantitative studies also reveal additional insight into how we can turn tiny gestures of gratefulness into a whole lot of rich and creamy goodness in our everyday lives.
Maybe the best series of economic inquiry into the value of “thanks” investigates servers’ tips at restaurants.
Ever wonder why your waiter writes “Thanks!!!” along with seven smiley-face drawings on the check at Sunday brunch? It’s not just to torment your last bits of hangover with unbridled enthusiasm.
It’s because that scribble is worth around 18% in additional tips.
More personalized gestures of thanks (that are also essentially costless) are associated with even higher incremental tipping rates.
Which is not only free money. It’s also tax-free free money. Which is even better than picking a winning Powerball number or striking it rich with pink sheet stocks. Neither of which is riskless or cost-free like throwing out a gracias. And neither of which is worth trying unless you’re a masochist with a burning desire to be broke.
From one of the studies, this quote nicely summarizes the economic power of “thanks” when it’s scaled up to industrial levels:
“Inexpensive and personalized gestures of gratitude…could mean millions of dollars in extra income annually…”
By now you’re probably furiously scrawling out thank you notes onto stray Post-Its and shouting your appreciation at random passersby.
That’s not the worst possible way to go about your business. But it’s not the best, either.
The research on “thanks” implies a handful of practices for putting gratefulness to use for maximum Luchadorian profit and life awesomeness:
1. Be Honest
As a species, we’ve developed highly attuned bull-dars and crap-ometers. If we get a whiff of BS or saccharine-sweet-overkill, or if we suspect someone’s being less than 100% genuine with us, we aren’t going to do anything to help. We might even try to punish the bad behavior.
So don’t bother thanking people with a less-than-earnest emotion behind the gesture. They’ll see through you faster than chicken tacos give you indigestion.
As illustration, recall Office Space character Bill Lumbergh, Peter’s passive-aggressive boss. He thanked the crap out of people. But he was less-than-earnest. So they smashed his Porsche and burned down his office.
Be honest. You’re thanking somebody for something you genuinely believe they deserve thanks for.
By being honest, you light up the part of the thank-ee’s brain that makes them feel needed and socially valuable. Which they like. And which they like you for doing. It doesn’t work if you’re a phony like Lumbergh. Or if you drive a Porsche (probably).
2. Be Timely
Before I retired I used to do a fair amount of interviewing – I’d chat with candidates for jobs or placement into b-school.
Most of the time (but not all… really?!), people sent follow-up thank you notes. And most of the time they were very nice. And they more or less hit all the right notes.
But a handful of times I got an email and honestly wondered who the hell the sender was: Do I know this person, or is this some souped-up version 2.0 Nigerian inheritance scam?
I’d eventually figure it out: Oh, I interviewed this sloth two weeks ago. For the position we filled last Thursday.
Get on it. If the “thanks” isn’t there at the right time, the window for profit’s already closed. Can you be too eager beaver? Well, sure. But early is almost always better than late.
3. Be Specific
To get the most out of people around you and make your “thank you” currency buy as much as possible, you’ve gotta be specific about the thanks.
This is different from being honest. “Specific” means you’re detailing why the person you’re thanking is valuable and appreciated.
If Rico 1 says, “Thanks for being great!” that’s way less powerful than saying, “Thank you for the thoughtful revisions to my boneheaded cover letter.”
By being specific, you link the “thanks” reward with a specific behavior that’s valuable to you. And which might benefit you again in the future.
For example, staff shown gratitude for their work efforts by The Man are more engaged, work harder and are way less likely to jump ship than employees who aren’t shown appreciation.
That kind of gratitude works well for The Man because it’s tied with specific actions that benefit The Man.
4. Make It Actionable
Something that makes advertising ineffective is the absence of a call to action. You have to tell your audience what you want them to do. Or else you’ll have gotten everybody hot and bothered for nothing.
Same thing with “thanks.” To be really effective at parlaying a thank-you into a return, it has to be obvious what you’d like that return to look like. And the return has to be manageable and realistic; asking for a pair of Ferraris won’t get you far.
For waiters, it’s implicit and doable: “Here’s the bill. That line next to the word ‘Gratuity’ is vacant. Please fill it with a large integer.”
For Rico 1, it was explicit and more or less reasonable: “I’m a colossal dunce. Please help me with another cover letter.”
If you do this, you’re more likely to get what you want. In some cases, 100% more likely.
All of which can be tough to do artfully. So let me summarize here:
Thank you, excellent reader, for enjoying this beautifully crafted piece of artisan econ-awesomeness.
I’m super-pumped you enjoyed the ride, and I hope our time together has left you wiser, happier and one-step closer to financial independence.
If you wouldn’t mind, I’d really appreciate your help with something: Could you work regular stops at FinanciaLibre and Finance Superhero into your daily routine for making your every waking moment the absolute best ever?
That’d be rad.
How have intentional-yet-unexpected gestures of gratitude impacted you? Do you strive to exhibit thanks to others on a regular basis?
Also, check back here on Sunday for a delayed version of The Legion of Super-Posts.