My first mentor, W. Clement Stone, the author of “The Success System That Never Fails,” taught me many things, but one of the most important being able to ask for what you want.
He would repeatedly remind me, “If there is something to gain by asking and nothing to lose by asking, by all means ask.” This one principle has reaped great rewards in my life, and it can do the same for you.
That’s why today, I want to discuss the importance of asking for what you want in order to reach your full potential.
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How to Ask For What You Want
Unfortunately, many of us are not great at asking for what we want. For any number of reasons stemming from childhood conditioning to traumatic rejections later in life, we have become afraid of the word “no.”
To be successful, you have to be willing to ask and keep asking for what you want until you get a “yes.”
Rejection is just part of the journey to finally getting to a “yes.” And it only takes one “yes” to radically change your life forever.
When Mark Victor Hansen and I finished the first “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book, we flew to New York with our literary agent Jeff Herman.
We met with about 20 publishers over the course of three days, and none of them were interested in publishing our book.
“Collections of short stories don’t sell,” we were told.
“The title doesn’t work.”
“The stories are too Pollyanna—too nicey-nice.”
Later we submitted the manuscript by mail to 20 more publishers. They also rejected us! At that point, our agent gave us the book back and said he couldn’t sell it.
Of course we were disappointed, but we never got discouraged. When the world said “no,” we said “next!”
We continued to reach out to publishers on our own. We also asked every member of our speaking and training audiences to fill out a “Commitment to Buy” form we created, indicating how many copies they would commit to buy when the book was finally published.
Eventually, we had promises to buy more than 20,000 books!
Armed with copies of these forms and a backpack full of spiral-bound copies of our best 30 stories, we headed off to the American Booksellers Convention in Anaheim, California, where we walked the floor of the exhibit hall for two days talking to one publisher after another about publishing our book.
Again, we heard “no, no, no!” And hour after hour, booth after endless booth, we said “next! next! next!”
At the end of the second very long day, a small publisher from Deerfield Beach, Florida, agreed to read the manuscript when they got back home.
Later that week they read it, loved it, and decided to publish it.
After more than 140 rejections, the book was finally published and went on to sell more than 10 million copies in 47 languages, launched a series of more than 300 books that has gone on to sell more than 500 million books worldwide, and created a brand now worth more than $100 million!
Those hundreds of “nexts” have really paid off!
I love this quote from Barbara Kingsolver, the author of The Poisonwood Bible.
“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve just addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work and it has just come back stamped ‘not at this address.’ Just keep looking for the right address.”
In order to be successful, you have to ask for what you want, and reject rejection.
Rejection doesn’t mean “no!” It simply means “not yet.”
It took us almost two years to get our book published and another 14 months before it got on the New York Times bestseller list. But once it did, it stayed in the number-one position for more than three years!
Don’t get discouraged when you get rejected. Just keep asking for what you want!
You have to accept that you may get a lot of “no’s” on the way to a “yes.”
Colonel Harlan Sanders Example
Have you ever gone to a KFC restaurant?
When Colonel Harlan Sanders left his home armed only with a pressure cooker and his special recipe for cooking Southern fried chicken he received more than 300 rejections, but he eventually found someone who believed in his dream.
Today, because of his unwillingness to let the “no’s” discourage him, there are now 5,200 KFC restaurants in the United States and more than 15,000 worldwide!
Remember, if one person tells you “no,” ask someone else. Remember this phrase:
“SWSWSWSW.” It stands for Some will. Some won’t. So what! Someone’s waiting!
Some people are out there waiting to be asked—waiting to say “yes.” Along the way, you’ll definitely get some “no’s.” So what—just keep taking action and making requests.
Sylvia Collins Example
Several years ago, Sylvia Collins flew all the way from Australia to Santa Barbara, California to take one of my week-long “Breakthrough to Success” seminars, where she learned about the power of asking for what she wants.
A year later, I received this letter from her:
“I have taken a detour in my career path, and I’m now selling new developments on the Gold Coast with a company called Gold Coast Property. I work with a team of guys mostly in their 20s.
The skills I have acquired through your seminars have helped me to perform and be an active part of a winning team! I must tell you how having self-esteem and not being afraid to ask has impacted this office!
At a recent staff meeting, we were asked what we would like to do for our once-a-month team-building day. I asked Michael, the managing director, ‘What target would we have to reach for you to take us to an island for a week?’
Everyone around the table just went silent and looked at me; obviously it was out of everyone’s comfort zone to ask such a thing. Michael looked around and then looked at me and said, ‘Well, if you reach…(and then he set a financial target), I’ll take the whole team (10 of us) to the Great Barrier Reef!’
Well, the next month we reached the target and off we went to Lady Elliott Island for four days—airfares, accommodations, food and activities all paid for by the company.
We had the most amazing four days—we snorkeled together, had bonfires on the beach, played tricks on each other, and had so much fun!
Afterwards, Michael gave us another target and said he would take us to Fiji if we reached it, and we reached that target in December! Even though the company is paying for these trips, Michael is miles ahead from the enormous level of increased sales!”
As Sylvia’s letter so clearly illustrates, sometimes all you have to do is break out of your comfort zone and ask for what you want.
Now, here’s your homework to complete after watching this video. Make a list of three things you could ask for that would help you achieve one of your major goals. Then commit to a time when you will ask them.
If you found this blog helpful, make sure you like it and share it with a friend who may need it.
And for some additional resources on how to ask for what you want others, visit my website at jackcanfield.com. Thank you for reading! And remember, nothing will change for the better until you do.