The Hard Ask

(image via

(image via

Tip O'Neil, the legendary speaker of the house from Massachusetts, served from 1952-1987 in the US Congress. What is less well known is he lost his first campaign. As a senior at Boston College he ran for the Cambridge City Council and was defeated by only 150 votes. Afterwards he was talking with a neighbor, and he inquired, "Did you vote for me?"

"No" she responded.

"Why not?" the incredulous O'Neil asked. "How could you not support me?"

"Because" she quietly stated. "You never asked."

A powerful lesson for O'Neil, he never lost another election for 35 years.

The poet Rumi says, "You must ask for what you truly want." All great coaches basically offer the same advice. First, be crystal clear about your needs and the more specific the better. Consider the lesson of the woman who kept praying for a life companion who would love and adore her, be there no matter what, and she would do the same. She came home one day to find a dog on her porch!

Step two, as simple as it sounds, ask! So much in our lives goes unstated, with assumptions that either the other should know or we don’t deserve what we want. It is not anyone else’s business to take care of your needs. That is your job. If you are not willing to do it, then it’s true…you do get what you ask for. This is a lesson I've learned from my wife, who plans exactly what she wants every year for her birthday. I on the other hand, spent years in birthday disappointment until she gave me the hard facts. "If you want your birthday to be special, then design it the way you want. Don't expect me to do it for you!" I've had some great parties since.

Today, consider something you really want, and make the request. If it is fair, and appropriate, you might be surprised. You certainly won't be any worse than if you had never asked in the first place. Nothing is the same as nothing. It also allows another the opportunity to support your dream. In the end, that is a good deal for all.