See possibility, Seize opportunity

Seize OpportunityMany years ago, when my team and I were running a music festival with a group of music students, one of the second year students told me she wanted to ask Renee Geyer to run the singing workshop. She also told me that the rest of the class had laughed at her suggestion. How could she possibly get Renee Geyer to come? I asked her if she had indeed asked Renee Geyer. “No” was the reply. Me, “Then how do you know she won’t come”? I added, “if you ask and she says “no” are you worse off than you are now?” The end result was that Renee Geyer came and gave the workshop, and mentored the student for 12 months.

Back in January I had an opportunity to invest in a startup. I decided to invest in myself instead and booked a trip to an innovation conference – in Boston! After falling in love with NYC a few years ago, I was determined to visit there again, so I chose to land at JFK and see if I could magic up a few meetings.

I aimed high – Simon Sinek, Arianna Huffington – got the picture? I decided to take my own advice – “don’t ask, don’t get”… The final result was a meeting with the wonderful Larry McCullough – author, musician, arts champion and one of the founding team members of South By South West which is a huge annual gathering of innovative minds in Austin Texas. I was also asked to blog for Arianna Huffington, though I am sure that is of more benefit to the Huffington Post than to me. What I most looked forward to was a meeting with Kim Simpson, Simon Sinek’s right hand, and was actually in the room and was part of the ‘Start with Why’ movement creation. I had enjoyed a 45 minute Skype meeting with her and was looking forward to ‘chewing the workplace culture fat’ with her. We had a meeting in NYC – Friday 16th May – 10am at Starbucks on Fifth Avenue.

I prepped my presentation folder (it was a meeting with a real purpose) and everything was looking good…but it didn’t feel good. In the pit of my stomach I felt something would happen and it would fall through – and that’s the truth.

And the email did come – Kim had been called back to a family matter in her hometown and wouldn’t be able to meet with me. ‘Disappointed’ doesn’t quite cut it. Everything Simon Sinek teaches resonates so deeply with me. His words are more effective than mine, but I have been extolling the philosophy since I began facilitating at a tertiary institution 15 years ago. I don’t think I have one client that I don’t direct to the “Start With Why” Ted Talk. More recently, his “Leaders Eat Last” book has had a strong impact. I have worked under both great and abominable leaders and can’t begin to describe the difference it makes to productivity outcomes. I can only hope my colleagues and teams have thought me a good leader – at least some of the time.

I desperately hoped Kim didn’t receive bad news. And I desperately hoped I wasn’t being fobbed off…only time will tell. And I wonder if it was my gut instinct letting me know something would happen and the meeting would be called off, or if I actually put it out there, that I didn’t believe it would happen, so therefore it didn’t.

But ‘asking’ also allowed me to secure three more important opportunities. Dr Terese Amabile is a researcher of ‘motivation’, both intrinsic and extrinsic, and while I couldn’t meet up with her in Boston, I have a half hour telephone interview scheduled with her in June. And re the innovation conference next week, Dr Peter Keon has agreed that I can use his workshop as part of my PhD research.

So for all my efforts, I am a Skype meeting, one face-to-face meeting, one phone interview and permitted to include an international workshop in my research, better off than I was before. Had I not asked, nothing would have happened.

So I can confirm my mantra – “Don’t ask, don’t get” and recommend you give it a go. Always ask with gratitude for any response. And make sure your motives are honest and authentic. Finally, be careful what you ask for because you are likely to get it.

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