A few years ago I led a seminar called “Marketing Techniques in the Classroom.” Coming from a marketing background, and having a natural knack for teaching, I couldn’t help but find parallels in the two fields, and how sales and marketing techniques are valid beyond just the realm of the cash register. Basically it all boils down to what I like to call “mind share.” Whether you are trying to sell an MP3 player or whether you are trying to teach English, what you are really doing is fighting with everything else in the world for a small portion of a person’s mind to give your message more thought and attention. So when you want to convince a student to dedicate a set amount of time to studying English, you are competing with his desire to play video games, hang out with friends, study Math, etc. You are fighting for his “mind share” just as all marketers are, except Marketers are spending billions of dollars to do so, whereas a teacher is not.
This concept of “mind share” is applicable to all areas of life. How do you get someone interested in what you want to get done? In my case, I wanted Walid from the Japanese Embassy in Abu Dhabi to get off his high horse, and help our family reunite in Japan. First you look at your “target audience,” dissect his thinking pattern, and try to find the foothold into his “mind share.” Not to generalize or stereotype, but I had a good idea of how to deal with Walid. As a bully, he was really a coward that just needed to be put in his place. And the only way to do that was if we showed him we knew some powerful people, and that we weren’t just some schlubs looking for a handout. But the problem was, we were some schlubs looking for a break if not necessarily a handout.
Lady luck was on our side though, for once. I had a dinner coming up at the Japanese NY Consulate General’s residence to bid farewell to all the area’s new JETs. I did some savvy marketing, impressed some important people with some research I did on international current affairs, and when that failed, I ran into Lady Luck herself. Though she had left the Consulate’s office just weeks prior to work in the corporate offices of Tiffany’s, she used to be the JET coordinator that handled Fred and Leila’s visa in Lebanon. Luckily she decided to come to the dinner, and when she asked about my family, I seized the opportunity and spilled my guts about the whole heart-rending drama that had been my life for the past two weeks. And Lady Luck swung into action. She talked to her former boss, she grabbed me by the arm and whisked me away to have an audience with the Consulate, who happened to remember me from an earlier conversation about international current affairs 😉 The night passed, and promises were made, but never had I imagined that it would happen so quickly. I went home and called Fred to tell him we had some support from the NY office, and instead of surprising him with my good news, he surprised me with the news that he had already had his and Leila’s passport stamped with their brand new visas to Japan! It turned out that the New York Consulate called the Abu Dhabi office immediately after the dinner, and the Abu Dhabi Ambassador immediately ordered Walid to stop giving Fred a hard time, and then Walid immediately called Fred to come pick up his visa!
Finally we were back on our intended path and we would meet as scheduled in Hokkaido, Japan! The rest of my time in New York was spent buying all sorts of toys and clothes for Leila’s new life in Japan with both her mother and father. And finally we could settle down into the safety and security of familyhood.
I had heard that it was hard for couples to re-connect after having been forced to live separate lives after deportation. I have read more than a couple stories of couples fighting to stay together, only to split up after their ordeal was over. But I was convinced that it wasn’t going to happen to us. We were special. We were different.
And yes, we were different. Everything was different. We lost something between us, and it took us a long time to get it back.