I was hungry.
In a little grocery store near the conference I was at, I found cottage cheese and lemonade.
I got to the checkout just before a tall man buying a can of Coke. I put a divider between my food and his soda. As I took out my wallet, I saw a yellow sign taped to the cash register: “$10 minimum for credit cards.”
I had cash. I also had other plans for that cash. My conference had a little book of big ideas for sale and payment was cash-only. But I was hungry and I’d read the yellow sign. I paid with cash.
While the cashier bagged my food, the tall man behind me pointed at the “$10 minimum” sign and asked, “Is that true?”
The cashier shook his head and said, “We try to be accommodating.” The man paid for his can of soda with a credit card.
The only difference between me and that man is that he asked and I didn’t. He kept his cash and I lost mine and the little book of big ideas.
There are larger things I haven’t asked for. But all my unasks – big or small – have the same motivation: fear. Fear of looking demanding or needy, of rejection, of being bruised if I don’t get what I hope for.
But fear’s a cheap motivation to live on.
It might hurt if we get rebuffed, but it won’t destroy us. What can destroy us is living a life without asking, a life where our fears surpass our hopes. Because an ask is just hope with a question mark.
Each day, we have unlimited chances to ask – to pay with a card, to get advice, a better seat, a discount, a raise, a date.
There will be plenty of no’s. But as author Sara Laschever and Professor Linda Babcock put it, “If you never hear no, you’re not asking enough.”
I ate my cottage cheese and I drank my lemonade. I went back to the conference and I asked to buy the little book of big ideas with a credit card. They said no, but that I could buy it with a card at the bookstore around the corner.