The Power of Asking

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When I was younger I had this strange notion that certain things in life were unattainable. Maybe it had to do with being from a small town of less than 4000 in Nova Scotia, Canada. Or maybe it was because I grew up in the 80s and the internet only came into my life when I was 18 years old, so in my mind the world was much larger and less accessible. Whatever the reason, I had developed an unconscious insecurity in seeking larger-than-life dreams. I had already faced enough barriers with normal sized dreams such as graduating high school, or going to university; anything bigger just felt greedy.

Sitting in my classes during my first year of university the world of what a “famous artist” looked like was somewhat painted for me, and the curious mind of a developing artist, woman, and leader took on the question, “How” as if it were the bridge to everything I wanted, and in some ways, it was.

I had already achieved my biggest goal in life, which was being accepted to art school, so really I had nothing to lose when it came to asking every question possible. What I didn’t understand at the time was that this curiosity and ability to move out of my comfort zone in order to find out what I needed to know–to get where I wanted to go, was not as common as I thought.

Many people struggle with asking for help for various reasons. They may fear rejection, they might be stubborn and feel they don’t need help, or they don’t feel they are worthy of help. These are just a few examples.

Recently one of my best friends chuckled with me over the phone when I revealed two of the interviews I had secured for my podcast and blog. “How the hell do you do that?” she asked. “Honestly,” I answered, “I just ask.”

It reminds me of the common scenario of two people driving together and getting lost. One person is too stubborn to ask for help for fear it would cloud their image of strength and independence.  Eventually they may find their way to the destination, with the word “eventually” being key here. The other person feels comfortable asking for directions with the understanding that a local in the community might have more knowledge of how to get to the sought after location. By simply asking, they reached their destination in the time frame they had intended or faster. Which one are you, person A or person B?

I am definitely person B and proud of it. Acknowledging you don’t know something creates greater ease in the process of learning and the outcome often surpasses your expectations.

Another example that comes to my mind was a few years ago when I decided that I wanted to leave the photography and video world in order to purse my passion of working in social development. I had no idea how to do this. As an entrepreneur for ten years with an undergraduate degree in fine arts, I had a different set of skills that enabled me to align myself with community organizations. I sat down one day and looked at all the leaders I admired in positions that I could see myself enjoying. With my questions in hand I called each one of them and asked, “How do I do what you do?”

They were so honoured and impressed that I would call and ask them that every one of them provided large amounts of information leading me in the right direction. I found out that there was a Master’s in Business Administration program two hours from where I lived, with a specialization in Community Social Development. Perfect.

Entering that program helped in shaping my experience and prepared me for the current work I do with Youth and Community Social Development. The truth was at the time, I never thought I would even be eligible with a fine arts degree to enter an MBA program. It’s amazing what can happen in your life by simply asking.

Here are five tips around the process of asking I often give people when they are trying to find the best way to fulfill their goals. They are simple but amazingly affective.

  • Have courage! I know it may seem scary to ask for what you want but just like anything in life, the outcomes are often more amazing than you ever thought possible. So take a deep breath and then a leap of faith and watch the magic unfold.
  • You deserve it! Why do so many of us think we don’t deserve success? Was it something a family member said? Maybe a bully in high school? Did you grow up in a place where people told you that if you believe you deserve it you are egotistical? For this point on I want you to acknowledge the awful experience you had, thank it for whatever purpose it played in bringing you to where you were, forgive, then let it go. Look in the mirror and see that amazing person staring back? That person deserves success and don’t you forget it!
  • Let go of rejection! I often joke that I have a degree in taking constructive criticism. It has prepared me for the worst and now I don’t take rejection personally. If I am rejected by someone I just pick up my boot straps and soldier on, because I know that someone will hear my idea and understand my vision; I just need to be patient for the right person. Think of all of the movie stars and musicians who faced rejection daily. The difference between them and everyone else who tried is that they did not fear rejections. So learn to have your work tossed to the side, but be prepared to go pick up the work, dust it off and move forward. Sooner or later success will find you.
  • Persistence! This is a big one! Being persistent requires patience, and sometimes that is difficult to harness. You may try to get in touch with someone that can really help you with your end goal, but they do not respond. Don’t give up! Persistence definitely pays off and shows the other party that you are serious about your inquiry.
  • Enjoy the rewards! By asking for what you want enables opportunities to open up that you might not have even known existed. Enjoy the journey and the final outcome of your goal obtained!

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