Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ask! Ask! Ask!

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The Abraham-Hicks book, Ask and It is Given, inspired me to write today's post. One of the greatest things we can do for ourselves is to ask for something we want. The trouble is those who were our early influencers while we were young (i.e. parents, teachers, siblings, friends, caregivers and/or authority figures) may have admonished us with a withering look that signaled that it was not okay to ask for help. (Photo credit: Amber Waves).

If you asked for help in school, you were probably called a "brown noser" or maybe a "teacher's pet." Perhaps you've heard someone say to you, "Quit bothering me and do what you're told," "I don't want to hear about it," "I don't have time for this right now," or "You're so selfish, all you ever think about is yourself!"

After a lifetime of hearing those comments, we're programmed to think we can't ask for help or pose a question without appearing stupid. We become fearful of being met with one of those looks-that-could-kill. We learn very quickly that it's not okay to ask stupid questions or appearing to ask for a handout.

So what happens later in life? We subconsciously hold ourselves back, afraid to ask, hoping someone will read our minds and reach out to us first.

Well, no one ever said it was easy to ask for what you want but the rewards are immeasurable if you just take that chance. No one has ever succeeded on their own - it's impossible to. Not if you want to take yourself to the next level.

Several months ago, I hired a designer to completely overhaul my speaking website. When she was done, I realized there was something missing. I needed something that would boost my creditability as a professional speaker. After all, I charge thousands of dollars to give a speech. If you were in a position to hire me to give a motivational talk, wouldn't you at least want the reassurance that your investment would be well worth spent? I know I would.

What was needed was a couple of video testimonials from those who were considered heavyweights within their fields who were not only well respected and well known but also heard me speak. After all, how could they say I was a good speaker with a good story if they hadn't been at one of my speeches?

So I got to thinking who I could ask for help in that area. A couple of names immediately came to mind. They were Howard Putnam, former CEO of Southwest Airlines who is in great demand as a business speaker and author of critically acclaimed "Winds of Turbulence" and Mark Sanborn, another popular business speaker, blogger and national best-selling author of "The Fred Factor."

Now, before I go any further, I want to relate to you some of my earlier experiences with asking for help. Yours truly has been accused numerous times as a youngster of being a "brown noser." Due to my disability, I often had to ask others to repeat themselves if I didn't understand what was being said, especially in the classroom or in social situations, only to receive a dramatic rolling of the eyes and a heavy sigh. After years of putting up with reactions like that, I eventually stopped asking because it used to be my perception that people just didn't want to be bothered.

Boy, did I pay a heavy price for that attitude!

Little did I know that people, by nature, are generous and don't mind being asked for assistance if given the opportunity. It certainly helps if you believe in yourself and demonstrate that you are someone with potential. People like to be associated with those who they perceive as winners. Even if you have a couple of flaws, they still want to help you because your likeability factor is pretty high on the scale. If you're an authentic person, others can't help but wanted to be affiliated with you. Whether or not they get anything in return (other than the satisfaction of helping a "deserving person"), they're more than likely willing to lend you a hand.

When those two people came to mind, because of years of programming, I almost held back and didn't ask. Thoughts like "They're too busy," "Don't bother them because this would be too much trouble" immediately bombarded my mind. Fortunately, I had done enough reprogramming of the mind by that point to stop those thoughts from turning into an avalanche.

So I went ahead and boldly asked if they would be willing to do a short video testimony for my website. What helped was that I remained detached from the results. The worst that could happen was a polite, "Perhaps sometime in the future" or an outright "Thanks for thinking of me but my current schedule does not allow me the luxury of doing so, perhaps I could recommend someone else."

Imagine my pleasant surprise when both of them replied favorably! With today's technology, they were able to do it by using a simple video camera within the comfort of their homes, download it into a video file and send me an email attachment. That was all there was to it! You can see their video testimonials here.

Until I do a survey of clients who have hired me since those videos were uploaded, I won't know if I was commissioned to speak solely on the basis of those video testimonials, but I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that if I hadn't asked for their help, I might not have gotten some of those engagements! So I want to publicly thank Howard and Mark for the time and effort they took to do a video for me.

Is it easy to ask for help? Heck, no! Especially if you are asking someone whose visibility, popularity or earnings power far exceed those of your own but you won't know until you ask.

What's more, if there's anything I've learned from asking, it's that many of these successful people did not get to where they are today if they didn't receive help somewhere along the line. So they really do want to help you, especially if they see you have potential. Everyone wants to be associated with a winner. Believe in yourself first and then go ask for help. Otherwise why should they believe in your potential if you don't think you have any yourself?

Henry Ford once said, "If you think you can do it, you can. If you think you can't do it, then you won't. Either way, you're right!" Wow!

Food for thought: There's nothing wrong with asking for help. If you don't ask, you won't get. People can't read your mind - so why not go ahead and give it a shot? The worst they can say is "No." How bad can that be?
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8 Comments:

Blogger Clubbs said...

Stephen, glad to read of your success! It is tough to ask for help when it's needed, but absolutely necessary. Happy that you shared your experience with us.

Have a great day!

Bob
Every, Every Minute

5:17 PM  
Blogger Stephen J. Hopson said...

Bob:

Wow, your comment was the fastest response I've ever gotten from a reader becuase I just posted this article a half-hour ago!

Thanks for telling me you enjoyed reading this. By the way, I checked out your blog and I think you really have something going for you over there! Your smiling photo really makes you shine.

I'm glad you enjoyed reading of my success in asking.

Stephen

5:20 PM  
Blogger Nita said...

Awww... what a CUTE and ADORABLE puppy!!!! Though I have a doggie but who is 9-1/2 years old, I am now craving for another puppy! Tsk tsk....

Nice article, btw, Stephen.

Nita

10:31 AM  
Blogger Stephen J. Hopson said...

Nita:

Isn't the puppy cute? I actually found it this morning at someone else's blog so this photo was just added this morning. So it's perfect timing that you read this article just after I inserted it!

As always, it's great hearing from you and I appreciate the time you have taken to comment at many of my articles.

Stephen

10:37 AM  
Blogger peggy.speaks said...

Wow!! Loved your article because you are addressing a near-epidemic in our country - the inability to ask for help.

In fact, I've written a book on the subject I want to share with you. It's called Help Is Not a Four-Letter Word: Why Doing It All Is Doing You In published by McGraw Hill. I started having panic attacks and wanted to learn why.
This book is what I learned about why we don't ask for help, how it affects us and what we do about it!!
I also offer a free weekly tip on asking for help on my website - www.helpisnotafourletterword.com
Thanks again for an excellent article!
Peggy Collins
www.helpisnotafourletterword.com
peggy.speaks@yahoo.com

7:42 AM  
Blogger Stephen J. Hopson said...

Peggy:

How exciting you've written a book about the power of asking for help!

Thanks for stopping by. I will check out your site right away and see what you're all about. Looking forward to it.

Stephen

7:47 AM  
Blogger isabella mori said...

thanks for stopping by on my blog the other. i thought i'd visit here, too :)

interesting post, and i'm looking forward to checking out more of peggy's work, too.

i have an ambivalent relationship with asking for help, too. but whatever it is, the times when it does work are so powerful, it's worth overcoming the fear of going for it.

6:03 PM  
Blogger Stephen J. Hopson said...

Isabella:

Nice to have you stop by here. Asking is not the easiest thing in the world but it pays off great dividends that would not have happened had you not asked.

Thanks for stopping by!

Stephen

6:35 PM  

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