Everything is renegotiable: 5 steps to get started

American Pickers is one of my favorite TV shows. I don’t really have “a show,” but if I did, it would be American Pickers — for so many reasons.

The show goes like this: Two dudes drive around the United States. Mostly in rural and forgotten communities.  They find homes and land with lots of storage sheds, barns and outbuildings full of stuff. Like chock full of stuff.  And then, with permission of the owner and with flashlights in hand, they PICK through those sheds, barns and outbuildings to find treasures from the past.

They find things they like or are curious about: old bicycles, lanterns, toys, car parts and ceramics. When they see something that catches their eye, they lift it up, turn it over and, if they find something they’d like to buy from the owner, they negotiate. But that conversation doesn’t always start with a dollar offer.

It starts with finding out if the owner is even willing to sell it.

Then they take stock of whether it’s something they really want.

Then there’s a little banter about the item. Then, FINALLY, after it’s clear the item is a saleable and negotiable item, the negotiations begin.

And, as they move through the pile, the barn or shed, everything they’ve negotiated is up for renegotiation. It’s a conversation, always. And when the picking is over, they’ve found something they love at a price that works for everyone or they’ve found nothing at all, but had a great time and are grateful to their host for letting them pick through their treasures.

We can do the same. We can be pickers in our own businesses, ventures and lives.

Right now, in the middle of the COVID19 outbreak, everything is negotiable and re-negotiable. We can look at our businesses, the way we work, our products and projects and promises, our partnerships, our strategies, our workflows — everything! — and lift it up, see if we’d like to negotiate or if we’d like to just leave it be.

All of it. Even the things we never really saw as negotiable. The things we think are fixed but are actually not.

If you’d like to put a flashlight in your hand and pick through your reality to see what’s negotiable or re-negotiable, here’s how:


Look around and ask, “is this up for negotiation?”

In this step, you’re just surveying the land and letting everything show itself to you. You’re not judging or making a big deal of it.

You’re looking at anything and everything.

You’re not making any decisions beyond YES or NO.

You're just asking the question and listening for your answer. Make a list. You might be surprised what’s on it.


Take a look at each thing that made it onto the list:

“Yes, I want to renegotiate the way I work with my assistant.”

“Yes, I want to renegotiate my marketing strategy.”

“Yes, I want to renegotiate my lease.”

“Yes, I want to renegotiate where my desk is in my office. “

“Yes, I want to renegotiate my partnership.”

And WHAT is it that you want from each of these re-negotiations? What are you looking to achieve? Better balance? Better cash flow? Better quality? Less stress? More impact? A nicer view?


Sometimes you’ll negotiate with yourself, but often you’ll be negotiating with someone else. Like the two guys on American Pickers (my show that isn’t really my show), you’ve got to find out from the other party if it’s even negotiable, re-negotiable or if it’s totally off the table. If it’s on, go to step 4.


The best negotiations start with an agreement to negotiate. So agree to play before you start playing. Like seriously, take a beat.


When you negotiate with empathy, you negotiate with dignity.

While you have to hold onto your own goals, needs and wants in a negotiation, you’re going to do a whole lot better and the experience is going to be so much more positive if you come to the negotiation with empathy. That doesn’t mean say yes when you mean no. It means you come to the table understanding the other’s needs and goals and respect them in the process. It means you can say no with compassion, respect and clarity.

So go on, take that inventory and see if you can be your very own American Picker.

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