Wednesday, November 19, 2008

You Don't Get What You Don't Ask For

I have learned over the years that asking for what you want is a sure-fire way of getting it. Not asking for what you want and expecting to get it anyway is a bit like riding a stationary bike; your wheels are going to spin frantically but you aren't going to get anywhere.

In order to get what you want you have to know what it is that you are seeking in the first place. In my old customer service days, I would get countless calls from irate customers who were pissed off that something unjust happened to them, yet when I asked them what I could do to make them feel better they had no idea! I would hear a lot of "ums" and "uhs" while they struggled to articulate a proper settlement. More often than not, people just wanted to vent their frustration and I was the unfortunate ear on the other end of the phone. I often wondered why someone would waste the time to call and complain and hang up without getting anything in return. I was willing to offer compensation of some sort if I just knew what it was the caller was looking for.

I was working in a dead-end job and ready to switch careers into a higher-paying field when my husband asked me what I was looking for in a new job. Honestly, I wanted a higher salary and that was about it. I was ready and able to change fields but my primary motivator was money. My husband suggested a pay range he thought I should ask for based on industry standards and my experience. I thought he was crazy and under no circumstances could I command that kind of salary. I was new to the field for one thing and unsure of my worth for another. However, he was pretty confident that I could do it and I wanted desperately to believe him. He very patiently pointed out over several conversations that I would never know unless I tried. To make a long story short I took a deep breath, put on my best brave face, summoned some buried self-confidence, went into a new job interview and negotiated a suitable salary. I asked for what I wanted and I received it. It works! I have negotiated job salaries, promotions and other extras ever since with that very simple concept in mind. You are not going to get what you don't ask for.

The same concept applies to all areas of life. Keep in mind that what you are asking for needs to make sense, of course, and just because you ask for a million dollars to drop in your lap doesn't necessarily mean you are going to get a million dollars. You must show your value to a company if you are asking for a raise. Just asking for the raise isn't going to help you if you have no evidence of your worth. If you want your spouse, significant other or friend to help you or understand your position, state it clearly instead of assuming that person should instinctively know what you want. If you are calling the customer service department with a complaint, your suggested compensation must be within reasonable limits. But, do ask. It's amazing what people are willing to help you with when they are aware of and understand your requests.

Of course you might ask for things that don't come to fruition. That's OK, too. At least you asked and now you know. Without asking and learning the inevitable outcome you might still be spinning your wheels on an endless ride to nowhere.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I Believe Therefore I Am

Kids are the ultimate pretenders. They can use their vivid imaginations to conjure up all sorts of superheroes, villains, animals or cartoon characters and they truly believe what they have conjured up is real. All it takes is the mere act of vocalizing the wish for it to be true. My sons can simply say "I am a lion" or "I am Davy Crockett" and it becomes fact. No bells or whistles, no pomp and circumstance, just a simple belief and a statement as such makes it true.

As adults we tend to take things a bit more seriously. We know after a few shattered dreams and unrealized goals that it takes more than mere wishful thinking to make something come true. As we age and become more proficient at amassing failures (whether real of perceived) we leave behind a little of the naiveté of our youth and transform from unapologetic dreamers to cynical bubble-bursters. Our belief systems become altered because they are constantly challenged and as a result we play it safe. I know I typically abide by the rule, "better safe than sorry" but what child do you know that would ever place those kinds of limits on himself? The belief that they are indestructible and can be or do whatever they want to be or do is what we should constantly be reminding ourselves of not trying to bury with idealized notions of what it is to be an adult.

Watch a child at play and learn a lesson or two. Give yourself the ability to use your imagination, dream big, make mistakes and learn from them. Don't we teach our kids to never stop believing they can accomplish any task that they put their minds to? The tasks will take time, energy and effort. It may even take even more time, energy and effort than originally thought but anything is achievable if the belief exists. No obstacles, barriers or naysayers can take away your desires or your dreams without your consent.

It sounds simple, yes, but the bottom line is if you don't believe in yourself, who will?

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