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Simple and effective, but according to Steve Jobs, most people never do it.

Steve Jobs may have left this earth, but Apple’s co-founder and tech genius continues to have a lasting impact that will transcend future generations. In an old video interview, Jobs shared a story that illustrates an uncommon trait found in the most successful people. Here’s an excerpt:

I called up Bill Hewlett [co-founder of Hewlett-Packard] when I was 12 years old. ‘Hi, I’m Steve Jobs. I’m 12 years old. I’m a student in high school. I want to build a frequency counter, and I was wondering if you have any spare parts I could have.’ He laughed, and he gave me the spare parts, and he gave me a job that summer at Hewlett-Packard… and I was in heaven.

Don’t feel bad if you missed the key to success in that story. It’s easy to miss. Luckily, Jobs spells it out in the video a bit later:

“Most people never pick up the phone and call. Most people never ask, and that’s what separates the people who do things from the people who just dream about them.”

Ask and it shall be given

Without that experience at HP, would Jobs have gone on to accomplish what he did? Perhaps — we’ll never know. But we know for sure that a single phone call greatly impacted his life. It taught one of the greatest entrepreneurs of this–or any generation–to be willing to ask for something he wanted.

The same can be said about workplaces where people fear asking for help. In so many businesses today, fear keeps people from being open to asking for what they want and seeking help from their peers and colleagues. According to social psychologist Heidi Grant, 75% to 90% of all help coworkers give to one another starts with making an ask.

The question is, does your environment foster the freedom and safety for employees to do this? Most people are willing to help, and according to research, 90% of giving in the workplace is in direct response to people asking for help. But the fact of the matter remains that most people don’t ask for what they need; it is not being reinforced by their managers and the executives above them. Therefore, unfortunately, most of the time, nothing happens.


The Giver-Requester

Sociologist Wayne Baker from the University of Michigan wrote a book called All You Have to Do Is Ask: How to Master the Most Important Skill for Success. In his research, Baker found that the “Giver-Requester” — people that help frequently and also ask for help frequently are the most well-regarded and also the most productive at work.

As managers and leaders, the key is to foster an environment to liberate people to be both givers and requesters — frequently asking for help among their peers and networks and being a giver of help to those in their circle of influence.


Being a giver-requester has many career benefits as well. Baker’s research found that they:

  • Are promoted more quickly and at a younger age
  • Are paid better
  • Are knowledgeable and trusted by their colleagues
  • Are known for having great reputations

When the most successful people want something, they’re willing to ask for it. If a 12-year-old Steve Jobs could do it, so can you.


Source: Inc.Africa

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