If you want something, ask for it

That advice sounds pretty obvious. If you want something, ask for it.

But I’m amazed at how often that either doesn’t occur to people, or they’re simply too afraid to do it.

Fortunately, I had an excellent mentor, Pamela Alexander, who taught me this and many other important business and life lessons.

When I was 18 (pre-Internet), I got on a plane for San Francisco the day after Brookfield East High School graduation. My brother, who was working at Monster Cable, helped me get a job as an intern in their marketing department.

Pamela was the office manager, and we became fast friends. I was drawn to her unextinguishable optimism and her willingness to pursue any opportunity or idea that presented itself.

One day, on my way to work, I had seen a poster at a bus shelter for a Disney movie that I had really wanted to see. It was a really cool poster, and I really wanted it. I mentioned this to Pam, who said, “So call Disney and ask them for a copy,” like it was obvious and she was surprised I hadn’t already done so.

Call Disney? Me? They’re Disney, and I’m just an 18 year old kid. I wasn’t even sure how to go about it.

So Pamela told me to call the operator and ask for Disney’s film marketing department, which I did. I then called and asked if I could speak to someone about the film. I held for a little bit, and then a voice came on and asked how she could help.

I explained that I was seeking a bus shelter poster for the film (I’m afraid I forget what the movie was), and asked if there was any way she could help me. “Of course,” she said. She told me what PR agency in San Francisco handles that account and gave me the name of a person there who would be able to assist.

After we hung up, I called the number and spoke to a very helpful intern who was more than happy to send me a copy of the poster. And there it was, as easy as that. (Again, important to note this was pre-Internet, when such things weren’t as easy to come by, and companies weren’t hanging out in social sites waiting to help out anyone who otherwise might complain about them.)

I couldn’t believe it. Shocked, I asked Pamela why she thought it would work. She explained to me that people really like helping other people. It makes them feel good. And in the grand scale, this was an easy one.

Like with most everything, Pam said this like it was obvious. But I realized this was how she’s been living her entire life – just assuming everything is possible, and when she gets stuck, someone along the way will help her out.

It’s a lesson that has stuck with me ever since, and I’ve modeled my approach to nearly everything this same way. And I have to say, I can’t argue with the results. It has worked nearly every time.

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