“The doors will be opened to those who are bold enough to knock.”
Life isn’t complicated. But we wouldn’t be humans if we didn’t make it difficult. It ends up being difficult because often times, we allow our emotions to control us. We give in to fear, embarrassment, and jealousy, which cloud our reasoning and yield inaction. We find it easier to lurk in the shadows and complain than risk being the fool and stepping into the light.
Don’t get me wrong, emotions are useful, but only when we understand how they impact our lives. It’s our responsibility to harness our emotions (both the good and bad ones) to get what we want out of life.
Those who know me would agree that I tend to get my way. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why. This has led to conversations about assertiveness, manipulation, luck, and even divine providence.
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I don’t claim to have any superpowers, but more often than not I find myself in good situations because of great people. Until recently, I had never given it much thought. Maybe it was naive, but I just thought that was how the world worked.
As I’m apt to do, I started analyzing everything. I had three recurring beliefs that shaped how I view the world, other people, and has guided me to one simple principle that is the key to getting what I want out of life.
People are generally good.
When you believe the best in people, it’s easy to approach them. Most people will be helpful when given the opportunity (assuming you’re not being an asshole). It has been proven to me time and time again over the years. It’s why I rarely have an issue asking a stranger for help.
You get what you put out.
If you’re an asshole, you’re going to get treated like an asshole (crazy how that works). People feed off each other. When you’re negative all the time, you’ll get met with negativity. Being conscious of your attitude will go along way in getting you where you want to go. When people like you, they’re a lot more likely to help when you ask. As the phrase goes, “Don’t wait for people to be friendly, show them how.”
Take the first step
Most people enjoy doing stuff, but hate getting started. It’s why the first person to suggest a place to eat usually gets their choice of restaurant. If you are willing to take the first step, most people appreciate it and will gladly come with. When I shared the itinerary for the trip to SE Asia, I told everyone that they were free to do whatever they wanted but this was my plan. They ended up following my plan to the T.
But none of the above make a difference if you aren’t willing to
Ask for the thing you want
You have to get over being afraid to hear the word “no.” You have to get over feeling ashamed or embarrassed. Don’t feel self-conscious because you’re voicing what you want. The people who never ask will never get their way. It may sound unfair, but no one can read minds, so life tends to reward the people who say want they want.
Last year I was out in California visiting a client with my boss, Adam, and coworker, Drew. We spent the day at the client’s office reviewing their website, discussing SEO strategies and ways to increase sales. At the end of the day, they presented us with three identical green backpacks. I had spent six hours looking at their website and had seen they also had a grey backpack (which I liked more based on the photos). Before leaving I asked Kaitlyn if I could swap the green backpack out for the grey one.
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She said, “not a problem, I just have to go and grab it.” She returned five minutes later with the grey backpack. Turns out it was bigger, nicer, and honestly a better product. The rest of the trip Drew and Adam laughed at me because I couldn’t accept the free backpack I was given. Two years later, we all still use our backpacks, and I’m the one laughing because my backpack is better.
I give 0 fucks about how asking a question is going to make me look. It’s how you learn. It’s how you take steps toward what you want. How was Kaitlyn to know I preferred the grey backpack if I didn’t tell her? What’s the worst that could happen? She might say no? Which means, I’d be in the exact same spot I was before. What did I have to lose?
At the end of the day, it’s better to ask twice than lose your way once. This mindset has gotten me to where I am today. When you want something and are willing to make other people aware of it, the universe finds a way to help you achieve it.
I have a friend who hasn’t been loving his job the past few months. The other day, I was speaking with him on the phone and he made the comment, “They’re never going to let me paint. I think if I could paint I’d like the job more.” So I responded, “Have you asked? Do they know you want to learn to paint?” He said, “Well, no.”
How would his company know he wants to learn to paint if he’s never told them? I told him if it’s something he wants to do he needs to tell his manager. He needs to take some kind of action or else he has no right to complain. He spoke with his manager the next day. Two weeks later, he was painting.
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My friend’s situation isn’t unique to just him. Learning to ask is a skill that has taken me years to develop, and even now I sometimes mess up. When I graduated from Creighton, I told myself I was going to get my first job on my own. I wasn’t going to ask anyone for help. I didn’t need to. I was proud and had a chip on my shoulder.
I was an idiot.
Because of my unwillingness to tell people what I wanted and ask people (who had connections) for help, I ended up at a job I hated for over a year. I thought things would just happen for me. I didn’t yet realize that I had to make things happen for myself, and oftentimes means asking for the thing you want.
Regardless of what some people may believe, in life, you’re going to need help to get where you want to go.
Two things to keep in mind. People won’t help you if you’re an asshole, and people can’t help you if you haven’t communicated what it is you want.
If I could give one piece of life advice, it’s this: Don’t be afraid to tell the world what you want. Don’t let the worry of someone saying “no” keep you from asking. Understand the only shame is in never making the attempt.
When you understand that, magic happens, and before you know it you’re on your way.