6 min read
“If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.” -Nora Roberts
John Ruskin, better known as Nardwuar, is one of the most well known interviewers on YouTube with nearly 1 million subscribers. He’s famous for his ability to land interviews with popular musicians from a variety of genres and for his ability to dig up obscure facts about musicians from their past and ask them hilarious questions regarding these facts.
In a TED Talk, Nardwuar shared his secret to landing interviews with musicians: he simply asks. Whether he has to contact friends, family, coworkers, or managers of the musicians, he asks as many people as it takes to get his foot in the door and land a 10 to 15 minute interview with the musician.
He shares that this is exactly how he landed interviews with Snoop Dogg, Kurt Cobain, Jay-Z, and several other popular artists when he was just starting out as an interviewer and journalist with no reputation. He didn’t have many connections. He was just relentless in his ability to ask for interviews.
We can all learn a valuable lesson from Nardwuar: often to get what you want in life, you simply need to ask.
The Power of Asking
Here are a few times in my life when I’ve experienced the benefits of asking.
My first internship
As an undergraduate student majoring in statistics with no real world work experience, I knew that I needed to land an internship before I graduated to improve my chances of landing a full time job. So, during my junior year I sent my resume out to several local companies. Unfortunately, I received no responses for months.
So, I decided to email one of my stats professors to ask if they knew of any internship opportunities. Long story short, they were able to submit my application to a local company and in less than one week I had a scheduled interview.
The interview went well and I went on to work as an intern at that exact company just a few months later.
If I had continued to send cold emails with my resume to local companies, I may not have landed an internship as quick as I did when I simply made the decision to ask one of my professors for help.
I’ve written in previous posts that I tutor students in statistics for $40-50 per hour. The way that I find these students is through posting ads on Craigslist or cold messaging strangers on Facebook.
Both of these scenarios require me to reach out to people and ask if they’re interested in tutoring services. Nine times out of ten, I either receive no response at all or a no. This doesn’t deter me, though, because I know that success count matters more than success rate.
Despite only landing a tutoring gig with one out of every ten people I ask, that’s all I need to be able to earn $40-50 per hour. One “yes” cancels out all of the “no’s.”
A little over a year ago my bank charged me close to $100 in fees for not having the minimum amount in my savings account for several months in a row. I didn’t realize that my balance needed to be above a certain threshold, so I was shocked when I got hit with these fees.
Fortunately, I had just read I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi and learned that most banks will happily refund you for fees or miscellaneous charges if you simply ask them to because they don’t want you to switch to a competitor if you’re unhappy with their service.
Me: “Hi, I’m calling to ask that these fees be removed from my account.”
Bank Teller: “Okay let me pull up your account….hmmm, I see. Yes, it looks like we can’t remove those charges unfortunately.”
Me: “Well I wasn’t aware that there was a minimum account balance and even though I should have paid closer attention, I didn’t realize that these fees were accruing so I’d like them to be removed.”
Bank Teller: “I understand sir, but unfortunately that’s not something we’re able to do.”
I asked to speak with the manager, who then came on the line and repeated what the bank teller had previously told me. I then said something along the lines of:
“If these fees can’t be removed then I’d like to go ahead and terminate my account.”
After a couple seconds of awkward silence the manager then said: “Oh, it looks like we are able to remove those fees after all. We’ll get that sorted out for you right away.”
A ten-minute phone call and my willingness to ask for a refund helped me keep an additional $100 in my pocket that day.
I work with a guy who knows more about computer programming than anyone I’ve met in my life. Whenever I run into problems or find myself stuck on a difficult piece of code and can’t seem to find the solution through Google, I shoot this guy a message. He’s always happy to help me out and I find that the more time I spend around him, the more I learn at a quicker pace.
By being willing to humble myself and ask for help from someone who has more knowledge and experience than myself, I’m able to boost my pace of learning and improve my skill set at a much quicker rate than if I had too much of an ego to ask for help.
Reader Responses: The Benefits of Asking
I sent out a tweet asking for people to provide examples of times when they benefited from asking for something:
The responses came pouring in:
I love how many diverse responses I received to this tweet. The benefits of asking apply to many domains – travel reimbursement, pay raises, promotions, reductions in bills, landing new clients, attending conferences for free, and the list goes on.
These examples all illustrate the same point: if you want something, you should just ask!
If you want something, then ask for it. Whether it’s a lower price on a car, a refund from a bank, a cheaper monthly rate on your bill phone, a promotion at work, more vacation time, or help from a coworker, you have to ask for what you want in order to get it.
If you ask for something and receive a “no” in response, then you’re in the same position you’re already in anyway. If, however, you receive a “yes” in response then you’ll likely be better off in some way.
Remember, it’s about success count, not success rate. The person who asks for ten things and only gets one is better off than the person who asks for nothing at all.
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