Life Lessons From the World's Greatest Negotiator

    Standing up for what you believe in, even in the face of challenges, can lead to positive change and protect others from similar mistreatment.

    enJuly 11, 2022

    About this Episode

    In 1981, Time magazine stated: “If you are ever in a crucial life-changing negotiation, the person you want on your side of the table is Herb Cohen.” Cohen was then known as the world’s best negotiator, and had worked with Fortune 500 companies, professional athletes, and US presidents, and also penned the bestselling book You Can Negotiate Anything.

    Fast forward to today, and his son, Rich Cohen, has written a memoir of his father’s life, and life philosophy, called The Adventures of Herbie Cohen: World’s Greatest Negotiator. Today on the show, Rich shares stories from Herbie’s life, from his colorful childhood on the streets of Brooklyn where he palled around in a gang with future famous figures like Larry King and Sandy Koufax, to coaching basketball in the Army, to becoming a sought-after strategist and dealmaker. Along the way, Rich shares the life lessons that grew out of those stories, including how power is perception, and why you need to care, but not that much.

    Resources Related to the Podcast

    Connect With Rich Cohen

    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Recognize the importance of negotiation skills and apply them to achieve desired outcomes in various situations.
    • Recognizing and leveraging our own power, no matter how small, can help us achieve our goals.
    • Dishonesty and deceit can have serious repercussions, reminding us to consider the potential impact of our actions, and the importance of honesty and integrity.
    • Projecting confidence and authority can greatly influence the outcome of negotiations, as understanding the other party's perspective and needs can lead to mutually beneficial outcomes.
    • Understanding the motives and goals of others is crucial in negotiations and relationships. Tailoring our approach and finding common ground can lead to meaningful connections and success.
    • Belief in oneself can lead to unexpected opportunities and success.
    • By gathering accurate information, designing strategies, and controlling the tempo, individuals can achieve success and victory in various aspects of life, including sports and warfare.
    • Being different can lead to advantages, whether in basketball or life. It's important to think outside the box, involve others in finding solutions, and settle disputes quickly to avoid costly conflicts.
    • Approaching life with a detached and game-like mindset allows for flexibility, adaptability, and increased effectiveness in navigating negotiations and achieving desired outcomes.
    • Stubbornly refusing to settle can lead to costly consequences, even if you ultimately win the battle, it may not be worth the price.
    • Standing up for what you believe in, even in the face of challenges, can lead to positive change and protect others from similar mistreatment.
    • Prioritize what truly matters, approach negotiations with detachment, find the balance between caring and causing stress, treat others with respect, and remember the importance of the "how" in relationships and decision-making.
    • The way we treat others and nurture relationships is what truly matters in life, as material possessions and achievements are temporary compared to the impact we have on people's lives.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    The Power of Negotiation: Applying Skills in Everyday Life

    Negotiating is a valuable skill that can be applied in various aspects of life. Herb Cohen, known as the world's best negotiator, created a career for himself by using the principles and ideas he gathered from his upbringing and experiences. He believed that power is based on perception and that if you think you have it, even if you don't, it can make a difference in negotiations. Cohen's successful book, "You Can Negotiate Anything," became a classic and is still widely read today. His approach aimed to demystify negotiation and show that it is something we engage in daily, whether with family, at work, or in other interactions. So, the key takeaway is to recognize the importance of negotiation skills and apply them to achieve desired outcomes in various situations.

    The Power of Perception

    Power is based on perception. Rich Cohen's father, as a nine-year-old school crossing guard, understood this concept intuitively. Despite being assigned to a post that didn't require much supervision, he recognized the power bestowed upon him and took advantage of it to create chaos. This incident demonstrated that if you believe you have power, you indeed do. Later in life, when his father promised to be on stage with Larry King at a Democratic Convention, he again exemplified the same principle. Despite skepticism from Larry, he managed to make it happen through sheer determination and a strong belief in his own influence. This story emphasizes the importance of recognizing our own power, even in seemingly insignificant situations, and leveraging it to achieve our goals.

    The Unintended Consequences of Dishonesty

    Sometimes our actions, even if done with good intentions, can have unintended consequences. In an attempt to have a fun day at Coney Island, Rich's father and his friends lied about their friend Mapo's death and raised money for a funeral wreath. However, when Mapo unexpectedly returns, the truth is revealed and chaos ensues. This story teaches us that dishonesty and deceit can lead to serious repercussions. It reminds us to consider the potential impact of our actions and the importance of honesty and integrity. While it may seem tempting to take shortcuts or tell lies in the moment, the long-term consequences can be far greater than any short-term benefit.

    The Importance of Perception in Negotiation

    Power in negotiation is based on perception. If you act like you know what you're doing, people will treat you accordingly. This is demonstrated through the story of Larry's father, who successfully navigates various situations by projecting confidence and authority. Larry's father teaches him the importance of understanding the player and their motivations in order to negotiate effectively. By considering the other person's perspective and needs, Larry's father is able to find mutually beneficial outcomes. Furthermore, the story highlights the concept that the majority of people can be easily influenced, emphasizing the significance of projecting confidence and knowledge. So, in negotiations, remember that how you present yourself and your abilities can greatly impact the outcome.

    Unlocking Success Through Understanding Others

    Understanding the motives and goals of others can be crucial in unlocking success in negotiations or relationships. Just like in the example of the principal and his career being his motivation, people have different "money" or motivations that drive their actions. It's not enough to assume that everyone values the same things or approaches situations in the same way. By taking the time to understand what motivates others, we can tailor our approach and find common ground that will move them. In the case of the social athletic club, they socialized through their shared love for sports, highlighting that the social component can be found in unexpected places. Overall, empathy and understanding are key to building meaningful connections with others.

    The Power of Perception and Confidence

    Sometimes, perception is everything. In the story, Larry and his friends confidently claim that they can get three scoops of ice cream for a dime at Carvel in New Haven. Despite the skepticism of others, they are determined to prove it true. This confidence and belief in themselves leads to a series of events that ultimately leads to their recognition by the Mayor and an unforgettable experience. The power of perception and confidence can shape how others see and perceive us, and it can open doors and create opportunities that may not have otherwise been available. It reminds us that sometimes, simply believing in ourselves can make all the difference in achieving success.

    The Power of Controlling Tempo in Basketball and Life

    Controlling the tempo is essential not only in basketball but also in various aspects of life, including negotiation and warfare strategy. The protagonist's grandfather demonstrated this principle through his successful basketball coaching career. He recognized the importance of gathering accurate information and designing strategies based on the truth about his team and the opponent. By controlling the clock and slowing down the game, he frustrates and ultimately defeats more talented and faster teams. This notion of controlling tempo resonates beyond basketball, as it aligns with the concept of controlling the battle in warfare strategy. Understanding the significance of time and information empowers individuals to navigate various situations effectively. Whether it is on the basketball court or in life, controlling the tempo can lead to success and victory.

    Embracing uniqueness and challenging norms in basketball and life.

    Being different and thinking outside the box can give you an advantage. In basketball, for example, wrong-footing the other team can throw them off rhythm and lead to their mistakes. This concept of being unique applies to life as well. It is important to challenge the norm and be open to new perspectives. In negotiation, the speaker's father believed in win-win situations and involving others in finding solutions. This way, people would be more invested in making the solution successful in the long-term. On the other hand, forcing someone to accept defeat only sows the seeds for future conflicts. The story also highlights the importance of settling disputes quickly and avoiding unnecessary battles that may end up costing more in the long run.

    Embracing Detachment and a Game-Like Mindset for Success

    Detachment and approaching life with a game-like mindset can lead to greater effectiveness and success. The story illustrates how the individual in question, despite being a lawyer, never practiced law and instead pursued a career in negotiation and training. By not getting fixated on a particular outcome and being open to change, he was able to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and achieve even greater results. This approach also helped him to remain emotionally detached and play loose and easy, which ultimately made him more effective in his professional endeavors. The lesson here is that by not caring too much and treating life as a game, one can navigate negotiations with greater skill and achieve better outcomes.

    The Costly Battle of a self-help author fighting for justice.

    Sometimes the people who write self-help books are the ones who need the most help themselves. Rich Cohen's father, despite his success as an author, was overly invested in battles he believed concerned principles or justice. When he was sued for plagiarism, he refused to give in and chose to fight back, spending years of time and more money than he ever made on the book. In the end, he won the lawsuit, but it was a pyrrhic victory as he had spent much more than it would have cost to settle. However, his mindset was to not give in to bullies, fearing that if he did, more would come after him in the future. In hindsight, this approach may not have been the best decision.

    The Power of Standing Up and Protecting Others from Injustice

    Standing up for what you believe in and protecting others from injustice is a powerful act. Rich's father's determination to fight against his son's creative writing teacher, even after Rich had moved on, shows the importance of not turning a blind eye to wrongdoing. Through his relentless pursuit of justice, he aimed to prevent future students from enduring the same mistreatment. Although some may view his actions as futile, he saw his efforts as a victory in a different light. By instilling doubt in the teacher's mind about encountering another "crazy" parent, he believed he had saved future students from being crushed by authority. This story serves as a reminder that even individual acts of defiance can have a lasting impact on the lives of others.

    Choosing Battles and Balancing Care

    Choosing your battles wisely is important. Sometimes, it's better to let go of small things and focus on what really matters. Negotiating for oneself can lead to trouble, so it's best to approach it with detachment, as if negotiating for someone else. Striking the balance between caring and not caring is crucial. It's important to care about others and their experiences, but not to the point of causing unnecessary stress. Treating people with dignity and respect is essential for creating a positive experience. The value lies not only in what is being offered but also in how it is delivered. Remembering small details about others can make a significant impact on relationships. It's about focusing on the how rather than just the what, whether it's in interactions with people or in making choices, such as buying a car.

    Approaching Life as a Game of Relationships and Kindness

    Life should be approached like a game, where relationships and how we treat others are what truly matter in the end. This perspective allows us to see that the challenges and problems we face are just temporary blips on the radar screen of eternity. It gives us the freedom to act and pursue what we want in life, knowing that nothing will ultimately matter except for our connections with others. While material possessions and achievements may seem important at the moment, they fade in significance when compared to the impact we have on people's lives. So, let us focus on fostering meaningful relationships and treating others with kindness and respect, as that is what truly counts.

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