The Biggest Success Secret: Be Bold and Ask

The Biggest Success Secret: Be Bold and Ask

My father simply could not be embarrassed when it came to fulfilling his family's needs. Here's an illustration.

Asking Turns Generosity into a Shared Gift

I remember when I was a young boy, Dad and I were driving down the road to our home when he spotted a broken Big Wheel tricycle in someone's trash. He stopped the car, picked it up and knocked on the door of the home where the discarded toy sat, waiting to be picked up.

"I spotted this Big Wheel in your trash," he told the woman who answered the door. "Do you mind if I take it? I think I can fix it. It would make me feel wonderful to give my son something like this."

What guts! Can you imagine such a proud, working-class guy approaching that woman and, essentially, admitting he was so poor that he'd like to have her garbage? Oh, but that's not the half of it. Imagine how that woman felt, having been given an opportunity to give such a gift to another person. It surely made her day.

"Of course," she gushed, explaining that her children were grown and years had passed since the toy had been used. "You're welcome to the bicycle I have, too. It's nice enough that I just couldn't throw it away..."

So we drove on. I had a "new" Big Wheel to ride and a bike to grow into. She had a smile and a fluttering heart that only benevolence breeds. And Dad had taught me that there is genius, even kindness, in being bold.

The Big Lesson: Ask for What You Want

Every time I start to set limits to what I can and can't do or fear starts to creep into my thinking, I remember that Big Wheel tricycle. I remind myself how people with a low tolerance for risk, whose behavior is guided by fear, have a low propensity for success. The memories of those days have stuck with me.

My father taught me that to get what you want, sometimes you must be willing to go out and ask for it. The worst anyone can say is no. If they choose not to give their time or their help, it's their loss. Surprisingly, though, you'll run into people like that woman who answered the door when my father knocked. Then, your challenge is to graciously accept the generosity that you're offered.

There are times when I can make a big difference in another person's life. I can open a door or place a call or set up an internship -- one of those simple acts by which destinies are altered. But too often, the offer is refused.

The recipient will say, "Sorry, but I can't accept the favor because I'm not sure I'll ever be able to repay you," or "I'd rather not be obligated to anyone, so I'll have to pass." Sometimes, they'll insist right then and there that they return the favor somehow. To me, nothing is as infuriating as encountering such blindness about how things work.

People insist on trying to beat the world by themselves, which means they continue to struggle. Next time you're tempted by that misguided fantasy of success through John Wayne-style individualism, I hope you'll remember the first secret I shared with you: You can't get there alone. We're all in this together.

A Closing Word

In this article series, I've offered you some of the secrets to building relationships that I've learned along my journey. I hope you will use them to achieve your goals and put more joy in your life. If you want to share a story of how you've been successful doing that, please write to me. I'd be thrilled to hear it.

Get more tips in Keith Ferrazzi's Never Eat Alone and by subscribing to Keith's free tip of the week.