Let’s take a menial example. The last slice of cake. You know, that awkward time, where everyone is waiting for the other person to jump. You’re all wondering if it’s okay to pick it up and shove it in your gob. Some time passes, and the cake is still there. Then someone finally drops in “Does anyone else want the last slice?”. Bingo, we have a winner. This is the person who’ll get the last piece. They were polite about it too, offering it up (although they might even be reaching in to pick it up as they say it).
So what if that person was you. What if you made sure, you were the person asking the question, “May I…?”.
Ask and you shall receive. It’s an age old adage; to get what you want, you must ask for the damn thing.
I use to do the classic thing of figuring out what I wanted, before sitting there, quietly, waiting for someone else to read my mind and offer it to me. In 2018 I realised just how far you can get by asking for what you want.
The problem is simple. People can’t help you if they don’t know what you need help with.
From my own experience, being that person is great. The benefits of saying fuck it and posing the question far outweigh the cons of a potential no. Heck, a “no” isn’t bad at all, for as long as you’re asking with integrity.
Questions lead to new opportunities
This is exactly how I ended up starting my own business at the tale end of last year.
Going back to February ’18, when I went for drinks with my friend Cassius. We discussed all sorts of topics, but one stuck out more than the others. While discussing work, we briefly joked about how great it would be to work together some day. Fast forward to today, we’re now co-founders of a start-up, Alicornite.
The important thing here is how I turned what I perceived to be a passing comment, a joke, about how we’d love to work together into that exact thing.
When I began looking for new opportunities in August ’18, I could have taken the typical route. Job applications, interviews, the boring stuff. Instead, I remembered this conversation and decided to follow up on it. I posed the question again to Cass, “What if we were to work together?”. Turns out the joke was a lot more serious than I had originally thought. Turns out it wasn’t a joke at all. And here we are, in our fifth month of business, imminently about to release our application, Byozo.
The key part here is, I asked a question where anything other than yes would have been uncomfortable.
With Byozo, we believe that change comes incrementally. By picking something achievable and building from there. New York Times best seller Tim Ferris and SumoMe Founder Noah Kagan have both figured this out. They have their own versions of an experiment which demonstrates how daunting asking is, but also how rewarding it can be. It’s called the coffee challenge.
To do the coffee challenge, next time you’re buying your flatwhite, ask the cashier if you can have 10% discount, or better yet, for free. See what happens. The success rate is much better than you might assume.
What’s great about this challenge (full disclouse: I’ve yet to do it), is that it’s low stakes, but demonstrates the benefits in a clear way. Worst case scenario is that you get a funny look and a no. Best case, you get a discount or even free coffee for no work at all. Talk about return on investment.
I have a similar example of my own. I moved in with a buddy of mine, and wanted to add them to my Amazon Household. Turns out theres a very arbitary rule, where if you had been apart of one within the last 180 days, you can’t be apart of another one. The error on Amazon’s website wasn’t explicit about this either. I popped open the support chat and explained the situation. I was expecting to hear “rules are rules”. To my surprise and delight, they reset the counter and added him to my household. A small win, but a win nonetheless.
Intruiged by the simple negotiation practise of, “Can I have this thing?”, I wanted to see how I could apply it to more parts of my life. I stumbled across an article, Haggle on the high street. Turns out, haggling and bartering are very much alive. According to Jenny & Martin, you can go into an awful lot of highstreet shops, ask for discount and come up trumps. What’s more, some businesses even have it built into their policy to discount when asked. A revelation.
What I’ve come to learn is that a lot of our limitations are self imposed. We invent our own reality based on assumptions. The likelihood is, this reality is far worse that the world we’re living in. Challenge those assumptions. Ask for what you’ve not had the courage to ask for and you will be surprised.
I’d like to note that I realise this is cliché. It’s all easy to say and if you’re anything like me, it’s much harder to do. I still haven’t made use of my new knowledge of haggling. I’ve not done the coffee challenge. But I am doing my best; I’ve started asking for a lot more. I’ve started asking for things I wouldn’t have thought about even six months ago. So do try, ask for that small thing you’ve been thinking about.
The worst you can get is a no, and even then, it’s not that bad.