My Comfort Zone. I’m Outside of It.

Day 12 | $24,666 paid | $66,051 till freedom

Pedi-cabbing and I have a funny relationship. I used to be the guy who would tailgate pedi-cabs with my car on my way to the bar, wishing they would go faster than 10 mph and not take up the entire lane so I could park my car and start partying. Coming out of the club at the end of the night with my buddies, I’d look at them sitting on their bikes, waiting for somebody to pay them money to give them a ride. They seemed so subservient. It’s embarrassing and more than a little awkward for me to admit this, but for the sake of maintaining the transparency that I have tried to establish in this blog, I will: I judged them. While I was having a blast with my friends, spending money freely on drinks, they were out there working for $10 fares, doing very, very difficult servant-like manual labor.

Besides the tailgating, I’ve had direct interaction with pedi-cabbies on only two other occassions. Once, when I was 22, I was getting a ride in a trailer with two of my friends and the pedi-cab driver was not moving at what I considered a sufficient rate of speed. So I got out of the trailer while it was moving, got behind it, and pushed it. I thought I was helping him out, but now that I’m on the other side, I realize that I wasn’t. The other interaction occured about four months ago, when I bet my friends who had hailed a pedi-cab that I would beat them from Ranch to Qua, a half-mile away, by running. I had already gotten a drink at the bar by the time they walked in.

And now I’m pedi-cabbing on the weekends to pay off my Harvard loans. Ah, the irony.

Tonight was the mandatory training ride, and I was towing a pedi-cab trailer while following a pedi-cab driver whom we’ll call Joel. Out of all the employees at the company, he’s been there the longest–a year. Apparently retention is horrible like that at all the pedi-cab places because the job is so taxing and people burn out so quickly. There is supposedly money to be made, but most people can’t phsyically keep up with it for long.

We went past a pretty hot nightspot called Roial, and Joel pointed at it and told me, “Lots of clientele at this place with lots of money. You’ll make good tips if you can pick up people here.” I wanted to tell him, “Yeah, that place is sweet, I go there every weekend,” but it didn’t seem apropos.  Then he followed up with, “Another good spot is the W. Lots of money, lots of high-end clientele.” I could have said, “Yeah, my buddy was in town three weekends ago and he had a suite there and invited me over for a pool party.” Again, I just felt that that reply would have seemed out of place, so I held back.

It turns out you have to hustle in this line of business to make any money. Joel’s version of hustling was yelling out loudly, “Pedi-cab! Pedi-cab!” Then he’d make this weird whistling noise with his lips, let out some whoops, and repeat the entire process. I was embarrassed for him, and embarrassed to be seen with him. I wanted to tell him, “Shh! Somebody might hear you! Keep it down!” But apparently that’s what you have to do to be successful. I had heard from a couple pedi-cab drivers that you have to hustle to make money, but when I saw it in action, when I saw what Joel was doing, I almost turned around and rode back to my car, figuring that I could sell my bike at a $200 loss and find something better to do.

I’m beginning to think that I might not be cut out for this after all. After training was over, Joel encouraged me to go out and try to find people to give rides to. I declined, and went home, using the excuse of a 7 AM meeting tomorrow to bail out.  Truth be told, I was terrified of riding that pedi-cab by myself and approaching random people for rides. What if they don’t like me? What if they reject me? On my way back to the rental place, I passed a lot of people walking along the sidewalk, but I couldn’t bring myself to do what Joel had done so well–ask them how they were doing. According to Joel, it was that simple. He told me not to ask people if they want a ride because as he explained it, “All the pedi-cabbies are asking people if they want a ride. Be different. Set yourself apart. Asking them how they’re doing gets a conversation going, it leads to their tellling you what they’re up to, at which point you can offer a ride. These people are so used to being asked for rides that they automatically say no when they hear you ask. So don’t ask them if they want a ride. Ask them how they’re doing.”

On my way back to the rental place, I was faced with numerous opportunities to ask people how they were doing, but I couldn’t do it. I was way too shy. I would look at them, the words would be on the tip of my tongue, I’d open my mouth to utter the words, but then I would suddenly freeze up. A part of me was shy, but a part of me also knew that if I were walking down the street, I wouldn’t want to be asked how I was doing by some random dude on a bike.

Or would I? I don’t know…thinking about it now, it seems kind of innocuous. Maybe Joel’s on to something.

It’s funny, but when I drink downtown, I have no problem making a ton of new friends when I’m out. Maybe I’ll bring some liquid courage in that flask and pedi-cab drunk…

I worked at a pizzeria right before I took the job bagging groceries when I was 14 years old, and part of my job was to take orders over the phone. I was so shy, though, that whenever the phone rang, I would run away from it and find something better to do–even if it was just scraping pans–letting somebody else take the call. I would watch them take the call, and I’d even listen in with another phone to get pointers. Everybody made it look easy, but just the thought of talking to a stranger killed me.

One day, we were working a skeleton crew and there weren’t enough people to do all the jobs, let alone do my phone job for me, too. If the phone rang and I didn’t pick it up, we would lose a sale. The first time the phone rang, I was nowhere to be found and the supervisor yelled at me when he eventually found me.  

I was basically out of my comfort zone. After I took my first four or five phone calls that day, I got into a groove, and I actually got good at it–my orders were always accurate, and I became really good at pricing orders on the fly so the customer wouldn’t have to wait a long time for their total charge. And then a funny thing happened–I started enjoying it. I started to like interacting with the  customers, and then I started looking forward to the phone ringing.

With this pedi-cab gig, I  just have to get out of my comfort zone. I have to take that plunge. I have to  get used to talking to random people walking down the street. I have to stop thinking that I’m below everybody as a pedi-cabbie. I have a service to perform, and I know that I can perform the service well. I just have to get over myself and get out of my comfort zone. I have to believe in myself.

I think the real secret here is that I just have to chill out with this thing and have fun. I’m putting a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to get out there and absolutely kill it and pull down $200+ a night, but nobody is going to want to get a ride from me if I’m super serious and super intense. I’m realizing that a huge part of pedi-cabbing is being approachable, and potential riders want an easy-going pedi-cab driver who’s laid back and just looking to have fun. Fun first, money follows. I have to stop thinking of customers as fares, and start thinking in terms of just helping people get to where they’re going. I think that’s where Joel’s whole “How are you doing?” tactic originates from. Did I mention that he’s actually a genius? I have to find a way to take my focus off of the money, even though that is the single reason I’m doing this. Actually, if I remember one of my first posts correctly, the other benefits were health and that it takes me out of the bars where I waste money. I’ll focus on those.

In my day job, I don’t interact with customers, but in my future job–if I get the promotion (more to come on that in a bit), then I’ll interact with customers, albeit business-to-business, since I’ll be in a strategic alliance/joint venture position. That’s a special skill set–the ability to interact and sell ideas and things and services and interact well with customers. It’s more difficult, in my opinion, than working with internal business partners and trying to influence them. It’s funny, but I know I’m going to do well at this new job because we’ll all be professionals talking about tech, something I’m very familar with. But for some reason, something about pedi-cabbing is shaking my confidence. It’s very bizarre.

Tonight was free–there was no trailer rental fee. When I show up tomorrow at 9 PM, I’ll pay $35 to rent a trailer, so I’ll start in the red. My goal is to take home $150 tomorrow night, net of the rental. Can I do it? Will I force myself to pick up that phone when it rings? First things first–I have to put the financial target out of my mind and just have fun.

Roommate Status
The potential roommate visited today with her uncle. She was cool and we got along well. It’s crazy–she got her MBA from a great school and has a ton of debt to pay down, so that’s why she’s going the room rental route. I was happy to see that she was driving a car that probably cost around $5k. I’m a fan of this girl already–she knows what it takes t pay down debt. I’ll be even more impressed if she gets a second job and doesn’t spend all of her money downtown. I’ll definitely recommend both actions to her.

She told me her uncle thinks she should should live in a gated apartment complex for the sake of her safety, but she doesn’t think she can afford it. When her uncle was out of earshot, she told me that she’s going to look at other apartment complexes, but it will be just to placate him and she plans on signing with me. I will hear back from her on Tuesday wether it’s a go or no-go, and if it’s a go, she’ll move in on Friday. I hope she comes through. I want this room rented. Based on the numerous responses to the ad, however, I don’t think I’ll have much of a problem with that if she falls through. It would just be nice to rent it to her since she seems cool and is planning on staying at least six months.

Promotion Status
The hiring manager assured me today that I will get an offer letter either tomorrow or Monday, so the hiring freeze will not affect the hiring decision. I was thrilled to hear that.

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17 Comments

Filed under Increase Revenue

17 responses to “My Comfort Zone. I’m Outside of It.

  1. I

    I love your blog and following you on your new adventure. You’re a great writer and I hope you keep up with this blog throughout the 10 months and make regular updates because it’s fascinating. Good luck with everything!

  2. Nancy

    Big fan of the blog and what you’re trying to do! There’s something that I hope you learn through this experience: going to a brand name school, wearing brand name clothes, and spending a lot of money out does not make a person better than anyone else. There aren’t tiers of people who are above or below you, and those tiers would definitely not be formed by how much money you waste on a night out, or on a degree, or a polo shirt. That kind of thinking is generated by people who want to sell you crap (They tell you that you must go to this school to get this job and wear these clothes to get this promotion and live in this zip code to get XYZ…). I’ve seen a lot of people waste their lives buying into this, and it’s just really sad and pathetic. You seem smart, so you should be able to see through it. Think for yourself!

  3. Brandy

    I get scared in situations like that as well. Trying to sell someone a service or product. It is so scary! Something that helps me is to make a game of it. For example, I am going to ask 200 people tonight how they are doing, if I get to 200, then I have won. By not focusing on the money but just the first step it helps take of the pressure. Also, maybe this just works because I am a girl, but sometimes I don’t even have to talk, I just smile and they will talk to me. 🙂

  4. A

    you mentioned that you had a 3 bedroom house, is there a reason you don’t to acquire another roommate, you may not have to do the pedi-cabbing or other wkend job as much!

  5. I’ve been reading you blog since the first post and i really dig all the details you’re providing on your journey. I just switched from tech to a completely different industry my self (construction). so i know how you feel when it comes to being uncomfortable talking to people when only the environment has been the difference. I found that being honest is the best course of action, letting them know why you do what you do and making sure to have fun with it. After you start off that conversation like ‘Joel’ said work in your why, “Got to pay off those harvard loans somehow.” If i was chatting with you, out having a good time, i would much rather support your cause than someone who just says, “Pedi-Cab, Pedi-Cab here.” The learning opportunity in selling your self and building rapport with new people rapidly, i believe, far outweighs the monetary benefits long term. The ability to sell yourself will unlock any door thats stands in your way in any career path you are in down the road.

  6. Wow. Your journey to getting out of debt is inspirational to say the least.

  7. Hey man, way to put yourself out there. I’m in Austin too, would be fun to snag a ride with you, how do we find you?

  8. Sunny

    Seeing that so many people in Austin have found your site and support your cause, perhaps you can mark your pedicab with a little flag or something. This way your readers can support you, either through a ride or cheering you on. 🙂

  9. Jane

    Found your blog via Budgetsaresexy and was pleasantly surprised to find a fellow Umich alum.

    I too have aggressively paid off my own postgraduate debt (Oxford – woo!) in a low cost of living city. Through reading your journey I catch glimpses into HBS and the lessons you’ve learned from your time there. And you know, it’s encouraging to see what you’ve learned and how you’ve applied it to your specific life circumstances. I’m just starting out in my engineering career and the themes/philosophies/lessons learned I’ve read here (including this post) translate well to my current situation.

    Your account forces the reader to rise to that Umich/HBS level of hard work and creativity – something definitely worthy of the leaders and the best.

    Gripping story. Thanks for the perspective. Thanks for the inspiration. Cheers!

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