Over the past week, my mind has been impressed with one lesson over and over again.
If you want something, just ask somebody for it. The worst thing that can happen is that they say no.
My first experience with this came when I spoke to my buddy this week. He has a situation where he works with an ISP to provide wireless internet in a public location. The bill was a bit heavy so he just went up and asked the company rep a question: “Would you compensate me if I put up a sign out front stating that we offer free wireless internet, provided by your company?”. The sign would effectively advertise for them in a prominent public location. What do you think the rep said? He said, “I’m sure we can work something out”. Now it appears that the aforementioned “something” will amount to a reduction of nearly all of the internet bill. Just because he asked.
The thought struck again when I read this passage from an interesting book:
“What do you do when you want a raise at work, Richard?” “I never got a raise at work.” “Why is that?” “They just didn’t give them out, except for the annual cost of living increase.” “How do you know they didn’t give any out?” “I don’t know, I guess ‘cause I never got one.” “Did you ever go into your boss’ office and come right out and ASK for one?” “No…” “What about your bank account. Have you ever asked your bank to reverse a service charge, or overdraft fee?” “No, I haven’t. I didn’t know you could.”* “You’ll get what you ask for out of life, Richard. Have the courage to ask. Have** the guts to go after what you want. The worst that can happen is you’ll hear ‘no.’ The best that can happen is you’ll get what you want.”* I’m also reminded of my personal finance teacher, who gets a good deal every time he goes shoe shopping by asking these questions to the store personnel:
“Are there any coupons, or savings opportunities that would save me money on this? Are there any deals I would find on newspapers or online? Are there any special sales coming up? (I’ve been around long enough to know that you probably have a pile of coupons under that counter.)” Without fail, he walks out of the store with a deal he wouldn’t have gotten, had he failed to ask.
Asking is simple, but it’s actually something that’s a bit difficult for me. Earlier this week I needed a truck to move something. It was surprising to me how difficult it was for me to work up the tenacity to ask people for the use of their truck (as if that was a super tenacious activity). Of course, once I got the courage to start asking people, I didn’t have to make too many calls before I got an enthusiastic “Sure!”. I don’t know whether it’s my desire to be independent, self-reliant, or if it’s just a matter of pride, but I always hesitate to ask other people when there is something I want.
Perhaps it stems from a relic of my childhood. As a young kid, I had the impression that all adults always know what they are doing. I believed that everything teachers taught and everything that was printed in a newspaper was true. I believed companies didn’t make mistakes. I (the child) was always the one being corrected. Now I see parents correcting their children and I realized that often times the child isn’t being bad… the parent is being impatient! The parents need to be scolded! It’s funny how the older I get, the more I realize that most people are just winging it. Most parents are just winging it. Most companies are just winging it. Heaven knows that in nearly every college course I take, I feel like I’m just winging it. Fueled by their opinions, people in high positions make big decisions with no more certainty than a child does when he decides what toy to play with.
This is interesting. If nobody is perfect and most people are just winging it, then there’s no reason you cannot ask them for something. You are no less of a person than they and what’s important to you is no less important than what’s important to them. (as a side note, Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” discusses sociological findings that children who are taught to talk back, negotiate, and question adults is positions of authority, develop a what he calls “practical intelligence”, or, in other words, an ability to just ask for things. To be able to do so, uninhibited, often results in a sense of ‘entitlement’ that he finds to be correlated with success in today’s world.)
And why not ask? People love helping. It makes them feel important. It brings purpose to their lives. In this way, asking for something mutually benefits both parties. Imagine how great of a place the world would be if everybody just helped each other instead of trying to do everything on their own. So much less time and energy would be wasted. So many more great relationships would form. We would all be happier.
Do you want a ride to the airport? Just ask.
Do you want to be reconsidered once you’ve been cut from the team? Just ask.
Do you want more points on your English paper, more onions on your burger, more time before your due date. Just ask already.
I’m finding that the more you do it, the easier it gets, so don’t be too surprised if I call you up and ask for something in the near future. It’s kind of fun.