What I learned about business from a homeless guy.

I must confess.  I read the NY Post.

It all started because I was reading Broadway gossip columnist (and former podcast guest), Michael Riedel.  But then, well, I got sucked into their tabloid treatment of the news wormhole, and I can’t get out!  (Side note: I find it fascinating that despite its heavy circulation in the city and environs, Broadway shows rarely advertise in its pages or on its site.)

But despite the Post‘s obvious agendas, I still pick up a few pointers every so often, including this little tidbit I got from an article they posted yesterday.

The story was all about a green-shirted homeless dude who has been standing in Times Square with a sign that reads, “F–k You!  Pay Me!”  In addition, the guy hurls obscenities at passersby, and seems to just hate a whole lot of folks.  From what I read in the article, he’s obviously a little off his you-know-what, and could use some legitimate help (like so many of the city’s homeless, sadly).

The not-so-funny thing was, his crazy antics actually reminded me of a couple of people I do business with.

The more you work in any business, but especially this one, which involves a lot of emotion and a lot of drama, you’re going to eventually bump into some people who do a lot of crazy things.  They act irrationally, they demand the absurd, and some of them even hurl obscenities.  (I know one guy who hurled a stapler at an assistant, and another who hurled a Diet Coke at an executive.)

There was a time in my career when this kind of behavior so upset me, in the same way that it would upset me if I saw the green-shirted guy in Times Square screaming at tourists.  And if I was dealing with those folks, I’d try to reason with them.  I’d explain my rationale.  And the next thing you know, I’d want to hurl something myself!  I’d find myself filled with anxiety, and sitting up at night . . . while they probably slept super soundly.

And I’d end up nowhere.

Because the fact is, you can’t reason with the irrational.

Once you realize this, you can deal with it a whole lot better.

See, nothing I say to the guy in Times Square is going to get him to stop.  So now, I just walk on the other side of the street, and wait until he burns himself out and goes somewhere else.  And nothing you say or do is going to get some of the people you run into to stop whatever is driving their behavior.

So don’t try.

Recognize what you’re dealing with as early as you can, and then avoid it as much as possible. There are plenty of rational people to do business with.  Work with them.  Your life, and your business, will be a whole lot better.

And if you have no choice but to deal with someone who might be a little unstable, well, then, don’t fight with ’em.  Agree with them on everything they rant about . . . and you’ll find it easier to get what you want.

For information on how you can help with NYC’s homeless and mentally ill, click here.


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  • Kristi R-C says:

    Never bother to have a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent.

  • David Merrick Jr says:

    The Post may be a fun read, but its also a conservative rag which usually appeals to a blue collar population, as does the other tabloid, the Daily News.

    What about that suggests a Broadway audience?

    • Rich Mc says:

      Though I disagree with you that the NY Post is purchased predominantly by “working class” Conservatives, it certainly has a predominantly Conservative readership. This suggests that Broadway is indeed foolish for not advertising within its pages, as Conservative readers attend Broadway too, and are a growing demographic. Failing to reach out to a a growing slice of the theater-attending market is abjectly stupid business.

    • Lewis R. says:

      You could not be more right! I’ve totally given up on Post and Daily News; who really needs them when there are both AMny and Metro out there FOR FREE!

  • Scott Wilkinson says:

    this is good advice, Ken. None of us , when we discuss an issue like this are talking about the mentally ill or a protester with a legitimate beef ( expressed peacefully and respectfully) . This kind of behavior, assuming a person is NOT mentally ill, is both irrational and stupid, and It assumes we are stupid as well to entertain it as a legitimate point of view. Taken a bit further, because we live in a democratic society, where people have a right to speak ( and an equal responsibility to be informed, civilized and peaceful) , it is not a morally neutral event to be irrational and stupid, because it effects all of us. Part of our problem is we have confused compassion with indulging irrationality and stupidity. This kind of behavior should be an embarrassment, and we have banished this kind of embarrassment from our vocabulary.
    My grandmother always use to say, “You can educate ignorance, you can make sober drunkenness, but stupidity lasts forever”

  • Marshall says:

    That’s not Stuttering John from the Howard Stern show, is it?!? 🙂

  • Dare I say it: I read The New York Post a lot!
    And I’m a theater person.
    Even I noticed that the particular issue you refer to was PACKED with more sensational stuff
    than I had ever seen in one issue. It was almost as if the staff had made a bet with someone
    that they could turn out their most sensational issue ever.
    The article about the high school that was trying to graduate more kids by making it
    easy for them to get “extra credit” courses showed not only the cynicism and corruption of
    school administration, but also the innate cleverness of the kids who are denied a real
    education. They call this bogus attempt to fake their education Easy Pass.

    • Rich Mc says:

      Good for you MJS and I agree entirely! Keep viewing the NY Post if you want the real story on NYC events! The MSM passes this stuff by.

  • Mark, the retired NYC public high school assistant principal says:

    A few issues-
    1-Yes., some schools are finding ways for immature students (this may be a redundant term) to make up for their lazy, irresponsible, undisciplined ways…they get to make up for undone work/excessive absence to class, by attending extra classes, and getting some papers written. There are also, and have been for decades, night classes and summer classes to make up failed courses. Sure we want decent standards, but must remember these are children who cannot be treated like hardened law-breakers or adults in general….I used to tell parents that just because their kid has hair under his arms, does not make him an adult; parents need to monitor their child’s work, stay in touch with teachers, and “just say no” when the kid is not doing what he should: take away his/her cell phone for a while…..hit ’em where it hurts. Schools have the kid only 5-6 hours a day; you can only do so much when the home component is ineffective for the other 18 hours, plus the 24 hour weekends. TOUGH LOVE.

    NEXT: Homeless are all over, in what I think must be record numbers here in our city this summer. With a Democratic mayor and governor, you’d think someone would do something…but those two politicos are too busy playing “Who’s the Boss?” to concentrate on helping these in need of support, most of whom are mentally ill. Cuomo is a autocrat who operates like a crime-boss. DeBlasio is a loser who keeps forgetting he must kiss the ring to get anything of the items he wants. He appears to be in way over his head. As much as I dislike Bloomberg & Rudy, he makes them look like geniuses.

    FINALLY Cell phones in the theater- OUT OF CONTROL. At a last Wednesday’s performance at Lincoln Center’s Newhouse, cells rang twice in Act 1, and 4 extended times in Act 2. I go to the theater as many as 5 times a week……and this has been happening more an more. It kills the mood, and it is a horror for audience and actors alike. I felt so bad that Pattie Lupone and cast had to forge thru (pros that they are!) and speak over the noise….I demand that all NYC theaters agree to JAM CELLPHONE SIGNALS WHILE THE PLAY IS ON! If they ALL do it, the plague will be over, once and for all. Print that fact on the tickets so no creepy patrons can sue and say they had no previous warning! Come on Shubert and others, SHOW SOME CAJONES!

  • jan says:

    As Barbra Streisand said to Robert Redford in “The Way We Were”, I LOVE the way you write!
    Thank you, Ken, for caring and sharing…

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