Asking matters. We all do it. We could argue that we all need to do more of it. Here are 3 principles that might help –
i) Optimizing for quality works better than quantity in the long run. It is always tempting to send that mass email or send bulk LinkedIn invites with that generic message. There’s a reason they need to be sent in bulk – they rarely work in the short term. And, sadly, they backfire in the long term. Instead, over-invest in demonstrating your research and thoughtfulness. As Seth wisely put it – “Don’t personalize, be personal.” While choosing volume may seem less risky, letting quality dip in any interaction is the riskiest thing we do in the long run.
ii) Avoid planting trees the day you need your fruits. “Hi, I don’t know you. Nice to meet you though. And, can you please do me a big favor?” If relationships are like trees, most folks ask seeds for fruits before they touch the ground.
One way to proceed is to think ahead and build the kinds of relationships that you think you might need (some do this artfully). My bias would be to just let curiosity, great intentions and care be your guide. Meet or e-meet folks whose work and voice inspires you. Over time, a few of these will turn into relationships. And, when it comes time to ask for fruits, you’ll have plenty of options.
iii) Get into the habit of granting favors yourself. For every favor you ask, help at least 5 people who seek favors from you. Do it so often that you don’t even think about doing them. Karma. It matters.
As a bonus, you’ll also learn to appreciate great asks and get better at asking yourself. And, that’ll take you right back to principle 1. :-)