Without any effort, you can think of opportunities you have missed because you were too cautious to ask for what you wanted. We have all done that. So let’s look at the cases of two people and an institution who overcame their fear of rejection and requested what they wanted.

Gus Whalen was a very prominent businessman in northeast Georgia, and a civic leader as well. For many years, he had admired actor, radio/TV star, and humanitarian Art Linkletter. Instinctively, he knew they would have a stimulating conversation if Gus ever got lucky enough to meet Art.

However, Gus decided that depending on luck alone was as productive as hoping to win the lottery without buying a ticket. So he took action. He called Art Linkletter, told him how much he admired him, and asked if there would be any opportunities for them to meet.

Linkletter responded warmly and enthusiastically, inviting Gus to fly to Los Angeles within a few days. Gus did that, and enjoyed an inspiring and memorable full afternoon visit with his longtime idol.

Then think about beloved actor Jimmy Stewart. He donated his film memorabilia to Brigham Young University in Utah. “Oh,” you might react, “I didn’t know he was a Mormon.” He wasn’t. “Then,” you surmise, “he was a Brigham Young alumnus.” A reasonable guess, but Stewart never took a course there.

Well, what could have prompted him to give his treasured mementos to that university? There is a simple answer: Brigham Young asked him. That explains why UCLA and other Hollywood area colleges and universities missed out on a fantastic gift.

A third example happened with me. As a kid, I watched famed golfer Byron Nelson play an exhibition round near my Mississippi hometown. Decades later, I was part of the gallery in a practice round at The Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia, following Arnold Palmer. Standing by the twelfth tee, I noticed Byron Nelson close by.

This was an opportunity that would be unlikely to come my way again. Yet how would he respond? Would he consider me an intruder?

Putting those thoughts aside, I introduced myself. I asked: "OK if we chat for couple of minutes?" To my delight, we talked very cordially for at least ten minutes. Nelson recalled shots he had hit in winning the tournament, and told about competing against Ben Hogan. Because I asked, I spent time with one of golf’s superlative players and an athlete renowned as a gentleman.

There’s a sequel. Years afterward, I wrote Nelson a thank you letter, reminding him of that conversation at Augusta. In two weeks, Byron Nelson answered me with a personal message on a note card. He was 92 years old, and his penmanship was excellent, just as his golf swing had once been.

Applying the power of asking to our careers, what might you gain by:

--asking for your company’s support while you earn another degree
--asking for a higher salary
--asking a prospect to buy your product or service
--asking for a testimonial from a prominent client
--asking for a referral

Of course you can list other possibilities where having the initiative to ask would improve your professional life dramatically—and even your personal life.

NOTE: Ask confidently, not apologetically. Ask politely. Ask with a smile. With this approach, you will enjoy amazing results—just as Gus Whalen, Brigham Young University, and I experienced.

Author's Bio: 

Bill Lampton, Ph.D.—the “Biz Communication Guy”--taught communication at the University of Georgia. Then he spent twenty-two years in management positions at the vice presidential level. Since 1997, he has been a valued business communication consultant, keynote speaker, and Speech Coach. His clients--including Gillette, Duracell, Procter and Gamble, and Ritz-Carlton Cancun—strengthen their management, teamwork, sales, customer service, presentations, and profits. His new book: "25 Ways to Control Your Stage Fright—and Become a Highly Confident Speaker!" Call him: 678-316-4300