Friday, January 2, 2009

Survival Skill #2 Ask for Stuff

Another survival skill that you can use to get things you need is simply to ask. Kids and panhandlers are good at this because they have very limited resources, so they ask and ask and ask. If someone says "no" they will ask someone else. If there is no one else around, they will come back and ask the same person a number of times until they get what they need. This is a basic survival skill.
If you have no money, the common currency in most countries, then you have to rely on what you do have--the guts to simply ask for what you want. It seems like the higher up in society we become, the more "beneath us" it is to ask for things from others. If we don't have money to purchase what we want, we will charge it, save for it, find it on sale, or put it on layaway, but how many people would think to ask for it--for free?
The most recent example I've seen of this skill in action was on a recent Asian variety show. Part of the show is a daily beauty contest with young women who are interviewed by the host of the show. A couple of weeks before Christmas, the host asked each girl, in addition to the contest question, what they wanted for Christmas. All of the girls gave the politically correct answer--world peace, time with family, etc--except one. She stated that she wanted an iPod. After talking with her some more, the host again asked what she wanted for Christmas, again she said she really wanted an iPod. A couple of days later it was mentioned that the host gave her a new iPod. Now I'm sure the dozens of other girls who participated in the contest would really like an iPod too, but no one asked, and as a result no one got an iPod except the girl who asked for one.
So the bottom line is to develop the skill of asking for what you want. Here's some tips:
  • If you see something you can use (a broken down car, apples hanging on an apple tree, a raise) then tactfully ask for it. For example, if your neighbor has apple trees, ask if you can have some. Even offer to pick a basket for the owner as a way to "pay" for your apples. Usually the neighbor will just tell you to take what you want.
  • Be known as a person who always has a good home for unwanted things. One of my clients seems to redecorate their office seasonally instead of out of necessity. As soon as I see things start to move, I let it be known that if there is anything they want to get rid of I would be happy to take it off of their hands. Over the years, I have been able to update my office and the homes of friends with all of the stuff they would have otherwise thrown out.
  • Be very gracious and thankful when you do receive things from people. Drop them by some homemade cookies or something from your business; this will make them remember to call you the next time they have stuff to give away.
  • Don't be discouraged if someone tells you no. Just try again.
  • Make each transaction a win-win situation. Years ago an elderly neighbor passed away and her only relatives had to come from the other side of the country to take care of her home and belongings. I met the relatives at the neighbor's funeral then introduced myself to them afterwards and stopped by to check on them over the week that they were working on cleaning out the house. While they were getting ready to sell the entire contents of the home to someone who would resell the items, they mentioned that if there was anything I wanted I was welcome to it. I mentioned how nice a bookcase and some other pieces of furniture were and they were more than happy to have me take the things--at least some of their aunt's things would be well cared for. Out of the blue I decided to look up the bookcase on eBay a week ago because it was rather unique and was shocked to find out that the same brand and style of bookcase was listed for $1600!
  • Don't be stuck on one certain item; be open to serendipity. My brother in law is an expert at this. He came to visit one time. borrowed the truck and left the house in the morning, then returned in the evening with a salmon (he had stopped by the docks, chatted with a fisherman, admired his catch, and the fisherman gave him a fish), a desk (it was sitting outside on a porch and the owner was working outside, when my brother in law spied the desk he simply asked if he could have it--the guy didn't want it anymore and was going to donate it but hadn't had time), two mp3 players (a store had them on clearance so he asked the department manager if he could buy one and get the other free--and the manager said yes), and an arm load of fast food (he had stopped by a restaurant that was getting ready to close and ordered a burger then asked if he could have any of the leftover food that was going to get thrown away and again was told yes). He has done this sort of thing for decades; he has a laid back way of interacting with people and the wherewithal to ask for the things he would like to have. Cool.

Take this survival skill and give it a try. See what happens if you just ask for what you want. In hard times, this skill will definitely be quite useful.


  1. You mean like the 50-some inch High Def TV our friends were taking to the dump because it kept shutting off? And we put in a $20 part and a couple hours of soldering (learning curve on those little circuit boards was fairly slow) and now have a great TV? :) Yeah, we're known among our friends as "frugal" but I just don't care!