John was a young man, about 21-years-old, living in Chicago. He always wanted to be a chef. So, well-meaning people told him he should follow the traditional way to become a chef: attend one of the culinary schools.

But, he did not have the money for such a school. Thus, after considerable thought, he decided the best way to learn to be a chef was to actually work for a good chef, to get on-the-job training. And he knew the chef he wanted to learn from: Chef Paul.

These same well-meaning people told John he should go in the restaurant’s front door and ask to talk to the chef. But, John knew better. He knew the staff would not take him to the kitchen, let alone talk to the chef.

Like most restaurants, John knew Chef Paul was in the kitchen, located in the rear. He also knew most restaurants had a back door for the kitchen staff to receive food, supplies, and provide access to the garbage.

So, John went down the alley, found the back door, and knocked. When Chef Paul answered, John explained he wanted to be a chef, and that he wanted to learn from him. Being a bit annoyed, Chef Paul told John to go away, saying he had no interest in him.

John was not deterred. He returned the next day, went to the same door, and knocked again. Chef Paul answered once more. Before he could speak, John repeated he wanted to learn from him because he was the best. Chef Paul, still annoyed, once again waved him away saying he was not interested.

On the third day, John went to the same back door and knocked once more. Chef Paul answered the door again. But, before he could talk, John told him he really wanted to learn from him. That he would work for free, and if the chef thought he had merit, then, and only then, would the chef pay him whatever he thought John was worth.

Impressed by John’s persistence, Chef Paul decided to give John a try. Chef Paul told him he could start the next day.

Fast forward several years. John is now the executive chef of this famous Chicago restaurant.

Here are the three things I think John did. Agree?

First, John was creative. He knew he would have a better chance of getting the job by talking directly with the chef. So, John went to the back door where he knew he would find the chef. He got to the one person who could hire him.

Second, John was persistent. He didn’t just go in one time and then leave when he was rejected. Rather, he went back two more times. John knew what he wanted and he did not quit until he got it.

Third, John gave the chef an easy choice. By offering to work for free, he made the chef’s choice very easy. Plus, John gave the chef a way to evaluate his talents over a longer period of time. He put the chef’s needs first.