Don’t be afraid to Ask

It is more blessed to give than to receive

Before I start to write about this topic, I’m going to assume that you are a good natured, helpful, and considerate person who is not trying to suck out the life blood out of everyone around him. If you think my assumption is incorrect, go back to the post where I talk about how Integrity, Sincerity and Optimism are the first three cores of FD Networking (out of six).

In order to level up in the game of life, you need to always be prepared to help others. When you are aiming to become powerful, you are not just yourself, but the group of people you have influence over. When that’s the case, peoples’ business is your business, and you benefit if these business are going well. You should always take others’ welfare to heart and strive to make the group better as a whole.

But sometimes you need help

I’ve always been the type that tries to help everyone and has a hard time saying no. My Cofounder, who is also my Classmate and Pledge Bro said that at UCLA, “Everyone knew [me] as the young entrepreneur who … would go out of his way to help you out“. It’s such a given that after awhile, when someone says, “Hey, can you do something for me?” I just immediately respond, “Yes. What is it?” (this usually surprises people a little) because I know that I’ll probably say yes at the end anyway, so might as well make it seem cooler than being persuaded at the end(another principle that I will touch on in later posts). I mean, common, if he says something ridiculous like ,”I need you to kill someone for me”, I’m sure no one’s going to pin me to my word if I then say, “Actually I’m really sorry, but that’s a little over the line.”

And up to a few weeks ago, I’m always the one connecting people to others, giving people tips and ideas, and occasionally fill in for some chore-like work. That made me happy. But as my company is getting into a stage where I need to raise money and get lots and lots of expert advice to stay on the right track, I realized I needed help. I realize I can’t do this by myself and I need others to connect me as a trusted source to potential investors and industry expert. Now that became difficult.

Getting past the emotional barrier of asking for help

To be honest,  I’m not used to asking for help. In many ways, it’s so much easier to offer help than to ask for help. One part of it is that I didn’t want to inconvenience other people. Everyone’s busy and I shouldn’t burden them with my problem. On the other hand, they might say no and make things awkward, even hurting the friendship. But I think the biggest problem of all (and I believe it’s the same for a lot of people) is pride.

Pride is the enemy of Power.

When you ask for help, you are humbling yourself and putting yourself at the mercy of others. You are no longer the person who has the answer, who has the solution, who understands. You are the person who has a question, who has a problem, who is looking to be understood. And taking that position is definitely not as fun.

It’s even worse when you have done nothing for this person. If you have done him a favor in the past, it’s pretty straightforward. But how do you approach an acquaintance and ask for help?

A man with pride has the power of one, but a man without pride has the power of many

The past two weeks has been amazing. I have received so much help from so many amazing people that I knew very little beforehand that I really started to see how beautiful this world can be. Some of these people are casual friends with me, some of them I met through the internet, some of them I bumped to at an event, and most of them I rarely speak to, but they all took a lot of initiative, went out of their ways and connected me to other great people as well as unbiased advice. Of course, I got some rejections too, but even that wasn’t as bad as anticipated.

I want to thank all the great people who has taken initiative to help me in more ways than I asked for: Jessica Mah from Indinero, Noah Kagen from GetGambit, Chris McCann from Startup Digest, Ray Wu at Fund Mojo, eCommerce Guru Jason BillingsleyTracy Lee from LiveUmbrella, Hiten Shah from KISS Metrics, Dan Martel from Flowtown, Cina.org President Vicki Young, and Genevieve Kayat from Enthalpi Advisory. They all get my highest recommendations.

And again this is just in the past couple of weeks. I still am on a long journey that needs a lot more help from a lot more people, and I’m excited to see what great people I’ll connect to in the future.

Greater than Zero is greater than Zero

When asking for help, some people wonder, “why bother? The chances of this successful person helping me is so low it’s just not worth the effort.”

However, the reality is that the worse that can happen is that they say no, which is also the default result if you don’t ask. If you don’t ask, your chances of getting the help you need is zero. If you do ask, you have a small chance of getting the help you need. That should really be a no brainer, AS LONG as you appear sincere and do hope to help them too in whatever endeavors you can.

Sometimes asking when you know you will get rejected can be strategical too. If you ask someone a favor and was rejected not because of how much they like you but their inability to help at that level, often times they will be more prone to saying yes the next time you ask something that’s more manageable to them. You’ll never know if you don’t ask.

Your friends are there for you

If you have lived your life as a decent person, chances are you have tons of friends who are willing to help you out when you need it. They just don’t know when you need help and what kind of help you need. Sometimes after the fact they even get upset at you for not telling them about what you need earlier since they could have saved you from misfortune. Therefore, asking for help is not like being rude, invasive, or pushy, it’s about letting people know what you need and giving them an opportunity to help you.

If you have true friends, they’ll be seizing those opportunities whenever they get a chance.

What about you?

Have you ever had a situation where you had to lower your pride and ask for peoples’ help? How did that go? Would love to hear you share about your experience on the comments section below, even if it completely bashes what I say.

13 thoughts on “Don’t be afraid to Ask”

  1. I believe that to whom who always give and help others rather than to take and take, a blessing may always come to them. The importance of helping others is a principle that can be found in every sphere of society, in one form or another.

  2. Haha, we aren’t planning to put any in production atm since it’s fun but not really ROI 😛 Maybe when we’re making more money and can afford doing fun stuff again as a startup 😀

  3. Hi, YuKai

    In Asia, “afraid to ask” is blended into our culture. pro-active is seen as trouble making, how sad is our culture. Sidetrack, I had been following the “living a startup live” video and find it truely entertaining, is “season 2” coming out any soon?

    1. That is true. Being proactive in Asia is more impolite than other places. However, even in Chinese, there’s this saying, “The dog that barks gets the bone.” Again, if you don’t ask, your chance of getting what you want is 0. If you ask nice and politely, at least you have a small chance of getting it.

      1. I agree with your point. Yu Kai, you still haven’t answer the second part of the comment. Are we going to see any video on the startup life (season2)?

  4. I think its easier to ask for help when you look up to someone. However, I can remember a time when I asked for help from one of my peers when I was stuck on a problem. At first I didn’t want to ask, but as we worked the problem out everything became fine.

    If you’re really stuck on something you should never be afraid to ask.

    1. Hey Tony. Thanks for the comment!

      I agree that if you are stuck, you have no choice but to ask for help. The tricky thing is that most things you feel like you might still be able to handle it by yourself.

      Some people have a hard time asking for help when they only have a 30% chance of solving it themselves. When it comes to a startup, the success rate is about 10% so asking is actually a skill of an entrepreneur.

  5. Asking can be one of the greatest yet most seldom used tools in an entrepreneur’s utility belt (if that even makes sense). For example asking got me some incredible advice for you and made me answer some questions that I couldn’t think of my self.

    Many opportunities have been lost at the hands of pride and fear of rejection. I can remember many times where “faith” in having everything fall into place created a loss of opportunity because asking wouldn’t have been proper. Well if you don’t ask you can be 98% sure they will never know or never bring up what you want to ask them. So as you said…approaching everything with sincerity, conviction and with an open heart will make asking a huge tool for an entrepreneur.

    Thanks for the article Yu-Kai!

    1. Thanks for the response Brenton. We still need to hang out some time.

      I always respect the people who come to people and ask for help, especially semi-strangers. What makes a person take initiative to go so someone, try to set up a call, and talk about their problems? It’s difficult and requires a lot of courage, but ultimately I think that’s what community is about – people helping people and making our lives more meaningful.

  6. Awesome post Yu-kai. You really are a good friend and I have always been dependable. Although it may seem ‘bad’ that people automatically ‘know’ you will help them, I think that it is a great quality to have. There are so few that can honestly be labeled as “sincere,” but you are one of them 🙂

    1. Thanks for the kind words Joe. You are definitely one of the most trustworthy and respectable people I know too. Keep it up! 🙂

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