Story: That Unreasonable Demand Might Not Be So Unreasonable

For the weekly videos, I now tell a story. I’ve realized that for me, and I think for many people, a story is what holds my attention and makes a point most powerfully.

This week’s story: That unreasonable demand might not be so unreasonable.


Can’t see the video? Click here.

As I explain in the video, I read this story about Van Halen in Chip and Dan Heath’s fascinating book, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, which I highly recommend.

How about you? Have you ever shook your head over someone’s unreasonable demand, only to discover that there was a very sound reason for it?

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  • Karl Staib

    I love that Van Halen story. It shows how we can make sure everything is in place. When interviewing a potential client I don’t make them jump through many hoops, but if I had a few more hoops I could see how dedicated they are to growing their business. Thanks Gretchen! I can’t wait to see you speak at WDS.

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks! so excited for World Domination Summit. I’ve wanted to go for years and at last am going.

  • Mike Hubbard

    The story about Van Halen has been verified:

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! Great to know. It’s SUCH an excellent story.

  • peninith

    There’s no ‘unreasonable demand’ out there (unfortunately) that adults WEAR life jackets while on boats or around the water. Some states do have life jacket laws covering kids. In my job as a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Public Affairs Officer, I became aware of many deaths each recreation season as people — mostly grown men — fell out of boats for one reason or another and drowned. A few beers, a teetering stance on the edge of the boat, an unzipped fly on the corpse? A dad drowning in front of his life-jacket clad children, his pregnant wife watching from the shoreline? I so many times WISHED to my soul that there was a real demand for grown ups to wear life jackets when they got in a boat. This was a life or death detail that no one thought mattered at all, until it was too late.

    • Alissa Ripley

      Yes! That brings me to seatbelts, we lost a young nephew in a car accident, who grew up in an unpopulated area where they were seen as ‘optional’. I always demanded everyone buckle up before I’d start the car. Senseless tragedies, because of not unreasonable demands.

      • Penelope Schmitt

        Yes! I always demand my passengers fasten their seatbelts before leaving the driveway. Seatbelts were not part of our lives when I was a child. My parents barely averted the same kind of tragedy when my younger brother opened the car door while we were in motion. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss.

  • Michelle

    Thought provoking!

  • Jeanne

    I just love your stories. Keep them up. It’s so much easier and better to watch than to read, like in a blog. As humans, we all love stories. All the great teachers and spiritual leaders use them. Intonation, facial expression and body language add so much. And you’re so adorable with a great wardrobe 😉

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks so much!

  • Gillie

    What a brilliant story both to illustrate the reasonableness of apparently unreasonable demands and also to show how it is the simplest things upon which the most complex often depend. Trying to see all of the big picture is not necessarily the best option. Thank you.

  • Jenn Gonsalves

    Wow! I’d heard about the M&Ms before, but never the reason behind it – brilliant! Thanks for sharing – looking forward to hearing more of your stories and insights at WDS!!

  • JenP

    I love stories, what a great idea! The problem with this story is that someone had to read the clause requiring the M&Ms in the first place, or else there would probably not be a bowl of M&Ms at all. If I were reading the contract and got to the M&M section, I likely would have been a bit put off by the unreasonableness of the demand itself and not bothered with taking out the brown M&Ms, making a choice to not focus on the obviously indulgent request. So if Van Halen walks into the room and sees a bowl of M&Ms including the brown ones, they would have to conclude that someone was diligent enough to catch that M&Ms were required, but not dumb enough to waste time pulling out the brown ones. If they arrive and no M&Ms are to be found, then yes, they would have an indication that corners have been cut and all details need to be checked. Just my two cents.

    • gretchenrubin

      I think you are a Questioner! But that’s a whole different post.

  • Veronika

    Great story, thank you!