How many times have you used that very line, psyching up a friend before sending her into the field of battle, whether the battlefield be the boss’ office over a raise or a promotion or just a couple of days off, or the next cube over, daytime home of The Guy, the one she wants to get to know a little bit better–preferably in a setting with more favorable lighting? Dishing it out is one thing, but how often do we take that advice ourselves?
I bring this up because, this weekend, an Undecided reader shot me a link to a story entitled “Get What You Want: How to Make the Big Ask,” and the piece in question made me think. In it, the author Andrea Buchanan recounts an epic ask from her own life: minding her own business at LAX, en route to San Francisco for a party celebrating the publication of her first book, Buchanan spotted NYT columnist Maureen Dowd–a pretty serious Boldface-Name Sighting to begin with, made more so because Dowd happens to be one of Buchanan’s personal heroes. She wanted to tell Dowd how much she admired her–she wanted to invite her to the book party… And she did. (Via handwritten note. But still, points for balls ovaries!) And lo: Dowd not only came to the party, she left the party a couple of copies of Buchanan’s book heavier… and invited Buchanan to lunch! Talk about a risk that paid off. Here’s what Buchanan has to say about it:
I shudder to think of what an awesome connection I would have missed making had I not worked up the nerve to approach Maureen. But all too often, fear gets in the way of bravery. Think about it: When was the last time you asked for something with big risks and potentially big consequences?
…Here are a few things I’ve learned about asking: The minute you’re afraid to ask for something is when you should do it. It’s nice to offer something in return, even if it’s just a compliment or a kind gesture. It also helps to take a few deep breaths and imagine the worst possible outcome. Usually, it’s simply getting a no, which is not exactly life threatening.
Now, I confess, I’m a bit of a daredevil. I’ve been known to park in red zones, jump out of planes, try my friend’s homemade kimchee. And perhaps I’m a rarity among my gender in that way–a monster story in last week’s New York Magazine suggested that testosterone and risk-taking are pretty clearly linked… and that the whole Wall Street meltdown may have been avoided had Lehman Brothers been Lehman Sisters. I don’t know about all that, but I do know that, putting ourselves out there, identifying what we want and asking for it is, indeed, a risk. But maybe there’s a little bit of a lesson to be learned from the adrenaline junkies of the world, articulated oh-so-well by that vintage Nike ad campaign: maybe all that’s standing between ourselves and the objects or opportunities of our desire is a simple decision to Just Do It. Just ask.
What’s the worst that could happen?