I had a striking and sudden realization last year when I was in Australia talking to a good friend. The people who receive what they want in their lives don't have a secret hidden talent or good luck. They ask for what they want.
Asking is not the only thing you have to do (you certainly have to be a giver first and a do-er and follow through-er) but asking can make a huge difference in our lives. It became so clear to me as I replayed in my mind all times that I had seen people voice what they want and then get it -- from romantic relationships to career opportunities to advice, even access to events or help from strangers.
Asking makes us vulnerable, I understand. But if we don't ask the answer is always no. People who get what they want are afraid to ask just like the rest of us but the difference is, they ask anyway. And they contribute a lot, too. Such is the awesome law of reciprocity. But so often we are happy to give but feel uncomfortable or guilty about getting.
Reflecting on this, I created a list of 31 things that I have asked for with positive results by age 31:
1. My now-husband to take my phone number during the concert we met at.
2. Considerable salary increases when my work performance is strong.
3. A hug from Jake Gyllenhal in a downtown New York City restaurant.
4. Discounts -- from bananas at a street vendor (when I am 50 cents short) to international flights to cable packages.
5. A little kindness from a woman who I saw being rude to a yoga studio assistant.
6. Forgiveness -- many times. This has been perhaps the most important request of my life.
7. The table I want in a restaurant. Everyone pays the same, so I like typically request a window table or cosy corner spot.
8. Publication of my work from some of the most prestigious online publishers.
9. Millions of dollars throughout my corporate advertising sales career.
10. Coffee with someone I want to meet (taking initiative in new friendships is an important skill when you move around the world).
11. More reliability from a guy I used to date (he never was and it was short-lived -- better to know sooner, darlings).
12. Media interviews with Bethenny Frankel, Arianna Huffington, Kris Jenner, Kelly Osbourne and Sara Blakely.
13. To purchase something that is not for sale (a friend's jacket, a mirror in an outdoor market).
14. A job in New York City with no network, no local experience, a pending work visa and an incomplete college degree (I received two awesome offers and accepted the highest paying).
15. What I need from my husband on a regular basis (I love quality down time together).
16. A seat on the subway when someone is taking up unnecessary space.
17. Positive feedback when I need it.
18. Free samples from retail stores when I buy something.
19. Referrals for the vision board events I lead.
20. Favors from friends (from dog-sitting to their help in setting up a party to a ride to the airport).
21. Clarity on expectations from managers (ambiguity in the workplace is rampant.)
22. Permission to dig deeper on an emotional issue if I can sense a friend needs to talk about something.
23. Asking people to lighten up in a "crisis" -- such as an internet power outage at the office. Where did the fun go?
24. Free late checkouts at any hotel -- 90 percent of the time this works.
25. Honesty from others about my work -- even when it hurts!
26. Punctuality (since when is it okay to be so late)?
27. If I may go first in a group presentation setting -- to get my nerves out of the way.
28. Reduced prices in exchange for loyalty and/or sincere online reviews (dry cleaners, movers, spas).
29. Asking myself, "What the hell am I doing? This needs to change!" This question has arisen when my life needs a course correct. Wrong relationship, wrong job, too much partying. You have to get real with yourself every so often.
30. Asking how I can help -- from a friend going through a breakup to a mum with a stroller who can't fit into a bathroom stall in Bloomingdales.
31. A divorce from my first husband. But that's another topic!
It's important to note that as long as this list is -- I could write an equally long list of rejection (longer, even). But that is the thing. Without asking for what you want you have no list -- apart from a mental list of regrets. Pay attention to anyone you really admire -- they will have had plenty of failures behind them. But they still did something. They took risks. They identified what they wanted and asked for it. No business success, no engagement story, no change in this world took place without someone asking for something first. And it all begins with you. So ask yourself, what do you really, really want?
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