The most wonderful thing about asking people for impossible things is that sometimes they say YES!
— Eli Trier
Several years ago, Steve Jobs of blessed memory was at the helm of affairs at Apple and he always asked for things, and what seemed “impossible” from his team of engineers.
According to Apple’s former CTO, Tevanian:
“He was the kind of person that could convince himself of things that weren’t necessarily true or necessarily easy, maybe easy is the better way to think of it. That always worked with him for designing products, where he could go to people and ask them to do something that they thought was impossible,”
..and also said:
“But he would keep asking and say: ‘You know, it’s impossible but I still want you to try’ — and because of his sheer will, they would actually make it happen, or make something like it happen.” — Avie Tevanian
You know, while growing up, I used to be afraid to ask for things that could benefit me greatly because I was too scared of rejection.
Maybe it was out of fear. Maybe it was because in the early stages of growth, my family couldn’t afford a lot of things. Maybe this lack of having things in abundance bounded my courage & limited my ask-ability. Maybe I cared too much about the opinions of others & was greatly afraid to be the villain in anyone’s story!
However, I have learned so much along the way of building my life, relationships and career that I have discovered an open secret. The most successful, influential & wealthy people in virtually all ramifications always asked for things consistently, and repeatedly even in the face of failure, insufficiencies and rejections.
Elon Musk asked for 100% electric-powered cars at prices affordable to the average consumer, which seemed “funny” and crazy to lots of folks at the time. Now, Tesla has delivered over 890,000 electric cars. Tesla delivered 367,500 cars in 2019, 50% more than in 2018 and more than triple the number sold in 2017. Elon has gone ahead to ask for more things like SpaceX, and hyperloop!
In the early days of Andela, the learning curriculum was bereft of PHP/Laravel. No one wanted it, the “cool” technologies were incorporated in the curriculum. I asked for PHP to be added, and delivered the complete curriculum. Guess what? The engineers that trained with me on this curriculum were later onboarded on clients project that lasted for the longest time. Made the company some good money & reputation (because the engineers consistently delivered with no problems).
I see this a lot in romantic, platonic relationships and groups of people (maybe in the community or clubs) bounded by a common goal. Someone summons the courage to ask for something, and the person on the other end replies with: “Oh, I thought you’d never ask!”
I see that young man hang around a beautiful lady, become friends & hope she becomes his partner without explicitly asking her out. He’s around her everyday just hoping things work out. With the rush of a wind, another young man comes around & without wasting time, asks for what the former was too scared to ask. And if the answer is YES!, it results in tears & resentment for the first young man.
There’s something we humans do a lot, including me(oh shit, I’m actually human). We size up people in our head, and assume a lot. Constant battles are happening in our brains, like Pinky & the Brain arguing, like Dexter & Didi with neural, doubt-infused, assumption-baked thoughts like: “She’s never going to talk to me, I’m not good enough”, “They are too big to respond to my request if I ask”, “What would they think of me, if I asked”, “I’ll play safe by sticking to asking for cookies”, “If I asked for help to solve these challenges, people will not rate me well enough as a programmer”, “I can’t handle being said NO to”
Take a 10 minutes introspection at your current state of life, especially your career & count how many things you have requested for to get you to where you are right now.
Now, in all of these things, filter them with the lens of asking for cookies (small things) or something really big and substantial? Have you been asking for cookies all your life? Are you asking enough? Is your journey filled with events & rewards that mostly fell on your laps?
Nothing can stop you from flourishing unless you stop asking. When you don’t ask, you are either seen as all-self-sufficient or someone that never wants to grow past their current roles or responsibilities even if you desire it innately.
Never insult the maker of your being by asking for biscuits & peanuts. You are a full grown being with the innate ability to operate from a realm of people throwing money, time & resources to accomplish whatever you want, if only you’d ask them!
Oh, I’ve also found out that majority of times, we like to operate from a space of safety, thus limiting our ability to ask. Have you studied babies? They ask boldly. “Give me this”, “I want this”, “Let’s buy this”, “I want more”
I’m reminded of Akintunde Sultan, who came on Twitter in 2019 to ask for 1m Naira (~2,777 $USD) to simply support 10 upcoming developers with free laptops.
Name cannot be blankI want to publicly fund raise 1m to support 10 upcoming developers to get a good laptop + free course.
1. We will be giving out the laptops not the money. Buying in bulk
2. All core i5 and hopefull 128gb SSD or 500gb HDD
You want one? Indicate and tag potential sponsor.12:08 PM - 20 Mar 2019
Guess what? 11 months later, he has raised money twice, 5000 pounds, and ~11,536 pounds respectively which ultimately has provided 22 developers in Nigeria with laptops, courses and opportunities to get jobs. Right now, he’s on the second cohort of #Laptops4Developers and he’s asking for more funding which will directly impact 50 upcoming developers in Nigeria. I love his sheer energy of not asking for cookies.
I’m reminded about how forloopNigeria became forloopAfrica with chapters scattered across ~8 countries & directly influencing lots of developers in Africa because I asked Ridwan (the founder of forloop); “Can we spread our wings? Why are we limited to Nigeria?” and before we could say Jack, all resources went into actually spreading our wings!
I’m reminded about how CEOs are always asking people(developers, engineers, PMs, execs) from other companies to join their team. (they really don’t care, they repeatedly ask until they get them to be on the team).
I’m reminded about how Samson Goddy, Ada Nduka Oyom, and Peace Ojemeh raised thousands of dollars, asked open source experts, and big companies across the world to throw in their time & resources to support the biggest open source festival Africa happening in Lagos (Africa’s unofficial tech capital). Just take a look a the speakers coming to Nigeria this month. They asked, and kept asking!
In my few years operating in leadership positions from different fronts, I have noticed that asking developers and people on my team, even extending to other teams for some “crazy” features/things actually stretches their ability to perform.
Humans are naturally inclined to remain in a position unless pushed by a force. Remember Newton’s third law of motion? Founders that have had to raise money know how asking for things stretches their ability to write better, email better, sell better, speak better, tell their story better, manage relationships, spot BS from afar of!
Furthermore, people that you request things from don’t even know what they are capable of until you ask them for something huge, very substantial or way out of their current abilities. When asked, either of the following can happen:
They go overboard to either impress you.
They deliver because they don’t want to be embarrassed.
They pull all strings to make it happen because they have a deep respect for you.
They say No, and refuse to move an inch.
As I conclude, I want to charge you to throw away that self-doubt, and faux humility. Wake up, and ask for big things.
As an employee, ask your boss for that promotion. You know you deserve it, but everyone is mute & you’re scared to ask.
As a founder, go ahead and ask for people (big or small investors) for the funds required to build & grow your company.
As a partner, ask your partner for what you really want, instead of expecting them to go on a wild goose chase to guess what makes you feel good & appreciated.
Ask that person you silently admire to take a look at your work.
Trying to develop your speaking skills? Ask to be a speaker on that technical conference.
Trying to widen your audience? Ask for your technical article to be featured on that popular newsletter and blog.
Trying to build up your software architecture skills? Ask to be in charge of that open source project?
In the process of negotiating your next salary and benefits?, ASK FOR MORE!!!
Ask to be on that team that works on Machine Learning & Data Engineering.
Ask for more responsibilities.
Ask, Ask, Ask and keep asking. Don’t stop asking!
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If your child asks you for bread, would any of you give him a stone? — Matthew 7:9
A new day, another opportunity to wear the cloak of courage, embody the mamba mentality, and transform your entire life.