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Unlocking Your Future: The Power of Asking


Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you required something that someone else could provide, but you didn’t receive it simply because you didn’t ask? The answer is likely ‘yes’ for most of us.

At some point or another, we may have hesitated to express our desires or needs and, as a result, missed out on obtaining them. In the words of Oprah Winfrey, “You get in life what you dare to ask for,” which implies that if you don’t ask, you simply don’t receive. Whether it’s asking a question, asking for help, or for an opportunity, we need to develop the skill of asking, for therein lies the keys to some of the breakthroughs we hope for.

“When it comes to asking for things that you actually need, the first thing is to just ask. People are much more likely to say yes than you think.” — Professor Vanessa Bohns, Cornell University.

In this article, I will enlighten you on how to unlock the power of asking so you can get more out of life. I will explore the various reasons why we fail to ask for the things we need, highlight the importance of asking, and finally, show you practical ways of effectively asking for what you want so that you can get your desired results.

I will begin with the story of Chris Gardner, a man whose journey to exponential success started with intentionally asking for something he wanted.

Chris Gardner’s Courage to Ask

Chris was born in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and from an early age, faced the harsh realities of life. He grew up with an absent father and a struggling mother, making it difficult for him to access some of the basic things that would have made life more comfortable.

Frequently, whenever he approached his mother with requests for things he desired, her response would be a disappointing “no” due to financial constraints.

As a result, from a young age, he started holding back from asking for what he wanted, knowing that he would often receive a negative answer.

Life progressed, and as a young adult, Chris joined the U.S. Navy and later embarked on a journey to pursue a medical career. His life took a drastic turn when he decided to leave his medical training and pursue a career in finance. Unfortunately, the decision didn’t immediately lead to success, and he struggled to make ends meet, selling medical equipment — a portable bone density scanner.

Chris now had a young son, and his son’s mother had abandoned them because she wanted to be free from her responsibilities. He began facing numerous challenges in trying to provide for himself and his son and even went homeless, but he kept striving for a change in his life as much as he could.

On a fateful day, while attempting to sell his bone scanner, Chris spotted a well-dressed man seated in a red Ferrari. Intrigued, he approached the man named Bob Bridges, intending to ask two questions: “What do you do?” and “How do you do it?”. However, he hesitated due to the mindset of refraining from asking for anything, which he developed as a child.

Picture of Chris Gardener who learned the power of asking questionsYet, considering his circumstances, he pondered, “The worst that could happen is he won’t answer my question, which leaves me in the same position I’m in now. So, why not ask?” Gathering his courage, he decided to go ahead and pose his questions to Bridges.

At that time, Bridges was one of the most successful stockbrokers in California, and he graciously responded to Chris’ inquiries. Their initial exchange sparked a deeper conversation, fueling Chris’ interest and igniting a strong desire to pursue a stock brokerage career.

With Bob’s help, he approached Dean Witter Reynolds, a prestigious brokerage firm, and humbly requested an unpaid internship. Fortunately, he got the internship, even though he knew little about the job. But Chris didn’t back down; he believed his eagerness to learn and willingness to ask questions could outweigh his lack of qualifications. His genuine appeal impressed the firm’s executives, who decided to take a chance on him.

Throughout the internship, Chris never hesitated to ask for guidance. He sought out mentors, absorbed knowledge like a sponge, and proved that the power of asking could lead to astounding growth. His colleagues admired his tenacity, and doors that once seemed closed were now ajar with possibilities.

“The power of asking is the ability to receive. It’s in the asking that we set forces in motion.” — Michael Beckwith

As his internship concluded, the firm recognized his potential and offered him a full-time position as a stockbroker. Now as a full-time employee, he remained committed to self-improvement, and his relentless pursuit of knowledge set him apart in the finance industry.

As years passed, Chris’s hard work bore fruit. He became a successful stockbroker and eventually founded his brokerage firm, Gardner Rich & Co. His inspiring journey from homelessness to triumph drew attention, and his life story was immortalized in the best-selling memoir, “The Pursuit of Happyness.”

After achieving personal and financial success, Chris has devoted much of his time to philanthropy and motivational speaking. He continues to inspire people around the globe with his story, encouraging them to believe in their potential, and work towards their aspirations, emphasizing the significance of intentionally reaching out and seeking help when in need.

Why Do We Need To Ask?

Seeking answers and assistance, in any shape or form, lies at the core of our coexistence in this world. No individual is an isolated entity, and relying solely on oneself for everything is impractical. Throughout life, we naturally find ourselves asking for things from others, whether seeking directions in an unfamiliar place, acquiring information on a topic we lack knowledge of, or requesting a favor, such as someone lending a helping hand to lift a heavy object.

Requesting assistance is a routine aspect of life that allows us to live fully and advance. A 2018 white paper on generosity highlights its role as an inherent, biologically ingrained trait crucial for human evolution. Nevertheless, even with these facts in mind, we may encounter unnecessary hardships and fail to achieve certain life goals if we fail to be intentional about asking for the things we require.

Consider this scenario: you visit a restaurant to buy some food but realize you left your wallet at home. In such a situation, many individuals would choose to go hungry rather than ask someone at the restaurant for assistance with payment. However, research conducted at the Department of Psychology at Stanford University reveals that most of us are willing to help someone in such a predicament if we can.

Similarly, recent studies conducted by Professor Vanessa Bohns from Cornell University reveal a heartening truth: people are more willing to offer help than we realize. She says, “The takeaway is that people are often much more willing to help us than we think — and that we have a certain degree of influence.”

Asking for help is a natural part of being human, and there’s no shame in that! When we ask for assistance, we allow others to contribute positively and demonstrate vulnerability, which can deepen relationships and foster trust. Asking for help should not be viewed as a sign of weakness; instead, it is a display of courage and self-awareness. Embracing asking empowers us to take charge of our lives and guide ourselves toward our desired path.

Given the significance of asking, why do we sometimes hesitate or hold back from doing so?

Why Do We Fail To Ask?

Several underlying reasons could lead a person to choose silence and refrain from asking for the help they require from others. These reasons include:

  • Ignorance

If one is unaware that someone could provide the help they need, they may hesitate to approach them with a request. This lack of knowledge is an instance of ignorance, and although it is not their fault, it will still have consequences. To address this, one must proactively seek information by asking questions, enabling them to acquire valuable knowledge.

  • Fear of Rejection

Many people often hesitate to seek help because they fear rejection. They endure unpleasant situations instead of taking action to improve their circumstances. The fear of potential disappointment after raising their hopes prevents them from reaching out, leading them to suffer in silence.

  • Lack of confidence

Individuals with low self-esteem and low self-confidence often refrain from asking for what they want, believing they don’t deserve those things. Their self-doubt prevents them from mustering the courage to seek help when needed.

  • Erroneous belief

Certain individuals may develop the misconception that asking for help is inappropriate, possibly influenced by childhood conditioning or past rejections. This mindset leads them to avoid seeking assistance and causes them to keep their needs and inner struggles to themselves. They believe that if they can’t achieve something on their own, no one else can help them attain it.

  • Pride

Another significant reason people avoid seeking help is pride. This characteristic makes individuals see themselves as overly self-sufficient, believing they don’t need assistance from others. They have inflated egos and would rather endure hunger than accept even a simple gesture of assistance, like a slice of bread.

Overcoming these barriers requires a shift in mindset, promoting a culture of curiosity and openness to questioning. Encouraging a safe and supportive environment where questions are welcomed can help individuals feel more comfortable asking and foster a culture of continuous learning and growth.

Six Ways to Strategically & Effectively Master the Power of Asking

Asking is indeed a skill that anyone can cultivate with practice and intention. Just like any other skill, becoming proficient at asking requires learning, refining techniques, and gaining experience. Here are six ways in which you can ask for the things you need and want:

  • Ask Clearly

It’s crucial to be clear and precise about what you want. If you fail to do so, you won’t effectively communicate your needs. Remember, people can’t read your mind, so only assume that they’ll understand everything with clear communication. Make sure you know exactly what you want and express it as clearly as possible.

  • Ask with Confidence

Don’t hesitate or appear uncertain when asking for what you need. Unclear requests may give the impression that you need to be more sure of your needs, resulting in not being taken seriously or receiving a favorable response. Asking confidently doesn’t mean being commanding or demanding; it means striking a balance and maintaining a moderate approach to increase the likelihood of positive outcomes. Be clear, be assertive, and believe in the value of your needs.

  • Ask Creatively

Unleash your creativity in making requests. Embrace genuine curiosity and openness to new perspectives. This empowers you to seek knowledge by asking insightful questions. For instance, if you need help fixing a household appliance and know your neighbor’s expertise, consider showing your gratitude. Instead of a straightforward free-fix request, offer a gesture like fruits, a drink, or a thoughtful gift. Then, politely ask for assistance. This approach cultivates a willingness to help, fostering a lasting bond for future needs.

  • Ask Realistically

Remember that you’re not dealing with a magical genie where anything can be granted instantly. When you ask for something, you’re interacting with real people who have their limitations. Be mindful of others when making requests and show respect for their time and boundaries. Keep your request concise and avoid being overly demanding with phrases like “You have to help me” or “You help me, and I’ll help you in the future.” Instead, allow the person you’re asking to willingly offer the help they are capable of giving without pressure or obligation.

  • Ask Sincerely

When you genuinely need help, people are highly likely to respond positively. To receive assistance, be open and vulnerable, asking sincerely from the heart. Most individuals can recognize genuine needs and are eager to help to the best of their abilities. Moreover, seeking feedback from mentors, peers, or experts on the quality and effectiveness of your questions can offer valuable insights for improvement. Embrace sincerity, seek guidance, and watch your connections and knowledge grow exponentially!

  • Ask Consistently

Be unwavering in your asking, maintain consistency, and embrace persistence. Regularly asking questions and reflecting on their impact refines your questioning skills. Don’t be discouraged by initial rejections; in sales, for example, persistence is key. Keep asking until you achieve your goals and desired results. However, remain gracious and thankful, regardless of the response. Avoid pestering or pressuring others. Always ask politely, follow up appropriately, and express gratitude when your request is fulfilled. With tenacity and gratitude, you’ll open doors to endless possibilities!

By consciously practicing and refining the art of asking, you can become a skilled questioner who can extract valuable information, foster meaningful conversations, and drive personal and professional growth. The more you hone your questioning abilities, the better you become at navigating the complexities of communication and understanding the world around you.

Handling rejection

The truth is, you won’t always receive a positive response when you ask for something. However, this should encourage you to make repeated requests. When faced with rejection, it’s crucial not to take it personally and let it demoralize you. Instead, learn to manage your emotions effectively, as I discussed in episode 316. Use emotional regulation techniques to nurture positive feelings and reduce the impact of negative ones.

Handling rejection when it comes to asking questions can be challenging, but it’s an essential skill to develop for personal and professional growth. Here are some strategies to effectively deal with rejection:

  1. Stay Calm and Composed: When facing rejection, take a deep breath and remain composed. Avoid reacting emotionally, as it might escalate the situation and hinder your ability to learn from the experience.
  2. Don’t Take It Personally: Remember that rejection of a question does not define your worth. Separating your self-esteem from rejection helps you maintain a positive outlook.
  3. Refocus on the Intent: Remind yourself of the genuine intent behind asking the question, which is to seek information, understanding, or feedback. Reiterate the value of your curiosity and desire to learn.
  4. Learn from the Experience: Reflect on the situation and consider whether any factors contributed to the rejection. Assess if there are areas where you can improve your questioning skills.
  5. Seek Feedback: If appropriate and comfortable, ask for feedback from the person who rejected your question. Constructive criticism can provide valuable, actionable insights for future interactions.
  6. Embrace Failure as a Learning Opportunity: See rejection as an opportunity for growth and improvement. Every rejection can be a stepping stone toward becoming a better questioner.
  7. Reframe Rejection as Redirection: See it as a sign to find more suitable avenues for your questions. Use it as an opportunity to explore better sources or approaches. Rejection can be a stepping stone to uncover new possibilities and refine your path. Stay resilient, adapt, and make every setback a stepping stone toward success!

Rejection doesn’t necessarily mean “no,” but rather “not yet.” Don’t let a “no” dissuade you; keep asking. If one person says no, don’t lose hope; there are many others you can approach. Stay persistent and intentional about seeking what you want until you get a positive response. Embracing rejection is an opportunity for improvement and maintaining a growth mindset will empower you to become a more effective questioner in the long run.

The Power of Asking: Propel Your Journey Forward!

As the famous businessman and philanthropist W. Clement Stone said, “If there is something to gain and nothing to lose by asking, by all means, ask.” His point is clear: you can’t just wait around hoping that what you need and want will magically come to you. Instead, like Chris Gardner, you must be proactive and intentional about asking for what you want.

Whether you’re seeking help, posing questions, or requesting opportunities, effective asking sets powerful forces in motion and opens the doors to unlimited possibilities. Don’t let fear or hesitation hold you back.

Every single day holds countless opportunities to ask for what you truly desire. Don’t let these moments slip by; instead, embrace them with courage and confidence. Today, take that bold step and make your requests known, for you never know how profoundly an intentional act of asking can propel you forward. Seize the art of asking, and watch as it shapes your path to a brighter future.



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