It’s a simple question that I find to be the catalyst for most solutions. I find myself asking the question to people in an unapologetic (and sometimes condescending) tone. “Jet, I didn’t get that thing that I wanted!” I often reply, “did you ask?” To elaborate, “Did you ask the decision-maker involved if you could have that specific thing?” Living in California, for the past eight years, I’ve had my fill of listening to people “ask the Universe” for what they want. More on that later.
Here are just a few examples of ideal times to ask for what you want:
Do you want your lover to be more affectionate? Did you ask? Were you specific? Did you leave nothing to their imagination/decrypting ability by conversation’s end?
Do you want to create art with/for a specific group of people? Did you ask? Were you specific? Are you resilient enough to not take it personally if said group doesn’t want to create any art with you?
Do you want to get stronger at an exercise after a fitness class humbled you? Did you ask the coach for homework (or any other help)? Most group exercise coaches work with many people 1-on-1. Most of us love our job and are excited to help those that want/ask for the help.
A word on expectations. You can’t have disappointment with equal parts expectation and assumption. My mother and I have had the conversation about conflicting expectations. I was sitting in front of her eating some food. She had a fork at the ready looking for an opportunity to reach in and help herself to some of my vittles. Hanger level notwithstanding, I was irritated at her attempts. I snapped at her that I found it rude to expect something be owed to you due to proximity. She responded with a laissez-faire, “well I think it’s rude to eat in front of someone and not offer them some.” Not sure if I should cite the generation gap or my mother’s southern upbringing for that difference in opinion. I truly believe that no one owes me anything. Thusly, no one owes you anything either. (It’s worth mentioning the fact that the world owes you nada. If I’m going to write about asking for what you want, I would be remiss not to point out that no one owes you shit. Not a damn thing.) When others find themselves wronged that I have not met their unspoken expectations, I just remind them that asking helps me to fulfill their needs. How does the story go? Partner A gets upset with Partner B since B didn’t know what A wanted as an anniversary gift. In that story, not only did A not ask, but A feels that they shouldn’t have to ask. B should just know! Can you say, “PROBLEMATIC”? *insert my horrid Mr. Rogers accent* “I know that you cay-an.”
I used to work for a company that was constantly ranked highly in Fortune 500’s best places to work (or WTF ever). Funny, not many of my colleagues agreed. During one of my reviews, I was asked, “How will you make sure that this restaurant meets the expectations of the guest?” I tried to get some clarity on the question, “don’t you mean exceeds the expectations of the guest?” They stood firm in their statement. I tried to explain that a restaurant can exceed or fail to meet expectations because we don’t know what the guest’s expectations are before they walk in. Therefore, we can only over or under perform. We can’t hit a target that’s hidden (read: unbeknownst expectation) unless it’s by accident (or if the restaurant were staffed by ninjas-it wasn’t).
I believe in asking for what I want and I’m willing to ask for the things that will make me happy. Does that make me selfish? No. Expecting the Universe to give me everything that I want just because I sit around and wish for it is selfish. Getting angry at people, lovers, partners for not meeting my expectations (hint: mind reading only happens in folklore, it’s not a real thing) is selfish. Say this out loud: “It’s all about me and everyone knows what I want without me saying a word. I will get all of what’s owed to me based on the merit of my awesomeness.” Did that feel really silly? Good. Recently, I asked for something I’ve always wanted. I’ve helped to plan surprise parties for a few people and they’re a staple of the American sitcoms that influenced my youth. I’ve always wanted one, so I asked for it. I asked 200+ of my friends to plan a surprise party between August 4th and 21st (my actual birthday). I called it the “Not-So-Surprise Party”. I gave them over a month to plan the party. There were a few close calls when I thought I was being duped into a party. But, each one was imagined not actual. By the time my birthday passed, I was all pouty-mouthed and butt hurt because there was no party. “You lousy, no good, rat soup eatin’ muthafuckas!”, I wanted to scream. But, I took some time to check myself and cool down for one simple reason.
The act of asking is not a magic wand for receiving. The next time you don’t get something for which you’ve asked, say this out loud: “Hey, at least I asked!” (“It can’t hurt to ask” is also acceptable as a preliminary pep talk.) Sometimes you won’t get what you ask for and you must be cool with it. If you find yourself back at the drawing board to ask for what you want a second time, the following details are worth examining. How did you ask? (Were you kind, clear, concise?) Who did you ask? (Did you ask someone that was capable of making it happen? You shouldn’t ask a store clerk to change Pottery Barn’s corporate policy.) Why did you ask? (If you asked for something that creates inconvenience for others, they may just not want to build you a scale model of the Eiffel tower-even if they are capable.) Where did you ask? (Did you ask for a day off in front of several colleagues? Perhaps the senior colleague wants that day off and is pissed because you didn’t cover their shift last week.) When did you ask? (Did you ask for a raise after the CFO dropped some news about being over budget?) After examining the how/who/why/where/when of your asking, you may just have to accept not getting the thing and suck it up. It’s true, you won’t get everything you seek. (It’s worth mentioning that asking should not be an ultimatum. Never hold the “or else” knife to someone’s throat when you ask for anything. Even if you get that dinner you requested the wine may be poisoned.)
Many of you may be familiar with the book and video “The Secret” that swelled in popularity circa 2007. Well, for any of you that paid attention to the gap in the story, you noticed that the action step was missing. Vision boards are a fun art project and they make it so easy to ask the Universe for what you want via a cut and paste ransom note made up of magazine clippings. If you ever took the time to make a vision board, you should never make fun of anyone that owned a pet rock, troll doll, or beanie baby. FTR, I made three of them shits. I made three goddamned Vision Boards. They’ve all found their way to the shredder by now. Hey, at least I asked. I destroyed them when I realized that staring at magazine cut outs as if I were planning a bank heist won’t actually create anything. I needed to take action and I can do that without staring at pictures pasted to multi-colored poster board. In the event of an action plan, I still have to ask. “Self, are you ready to take the necessary steps to become awesome? You are? Let’s do this.” I’m glad that I asked.
Ask for what you want. If you’re tired of litter on the streets, ask how you can help clean up. If you want to choke your lover as you enter her from behind, ask for her consent. If you want to be a burlesque performer ask about schools that teach the art of striptease. If you want to correct your client’s form without disrespect, ask for consent before touching them. Be smart about how/who/why/where/when you ask. Express gratitude when you do get it. Be cool with not getting it. Take action to make it happen (read: earn it) if it’s not given to you. Let’s not forget, be patient. The person(s) you asked may be excited to give you whatever you wanted… in due time. Remember that Surprise Party that I wanted? Well, my friends surprised the shit out of me when I walked into a friend’s house and was showered with confetti and love on August 29th. Since my birthday had already passed, I put the request out of my head.
To those friends that had any and everything to do with my surprise birthday party, I love you all so much. That party put some pep in my step and I’ve been feeling good ever since you all nearly gave me a heart attack. Seriously, my friends are amazing, loving/lovable humans that I wouldn’t trade for anything. These are the people I want to grow old with. Even if I move to another country, I hope that we’ll always stay close. Growing up with bullies and friends that turned out to be dishonorable I wanted a group of people that I could consider my chosen family. Hey, I’m glad I asked. I’m grateful for my chosen family and the serendipity that brought us together.