Ask For It

( Originally Published 1950 )

IS IT GOOD? Is it just? Are you prepared for it? Then —ask for it! Adopt the positive attitude, and ask for what you want from life.

Simple as it may seem, there is a positive quality of magic in this proposal. But be very careful what you ask for, since in all probability you will get it. Midas asked for the golden touch and turned his beloved daughter into a golden image. On reflection, you will realize that you have asked for most of your triumphs and, through the very request, motivated their achievement.

Ask for it. But test it first. Is it good? Is it just? Are you equipped to have and hold and develop what you desire for good purposes?

Many of the richest rewards of life, material as well as spiritual, are never acquired simply because they aren't asked for. . It is because this principle is so simple that it is so frequently not even recognized, not put into daily practice. Yet it is a fundamental principle of life.

Babies know it. They get what they want by bellowing and no fooling. The trouble is that, with the mounting years, skepticism and other elements of negativism are born in us because of occasional defeats and frustrations.

Jane Froman, the singing star of Columbia Broadcasting System, never lost the positive approach of her childhood. She recalls an incident of student days at the University of Missouri. Regulations prohibited her from going to St. Louis to hear the opera. She couldn't leave the campus except to visit parents or friends who were approved by the school authorities. She had no friends in St. Louis. So Jane Froman went straight to her dean and asked for what she wanted. The dean firmly informed her that he wouldn't change the university regulations to suit her convenience. Then, warmed by the intensity of her request, the dean smiled and invited her to be the guest of himself and his wife at the opera. She had asked for it.

Perhaps that was just a lucky exception that could have happened to anyone? Perhaps, but Jane Froman doesn't rest content with exceptions. She has learned the secret of the positive way of life. She asks for what she wants. Jane was badly broken in body and spirit in a plane crash near Lisbon, Portugal, during the war. She yearned to return home, but transportation wasn't available. All doors seemed closed to her. Then she wrote a simple letter to President Roosevelt, explained her predicament, and asked for transportation home. She barely had time to pack to take advantage of the reservation the President made available to her.

Oh, well, that was just a lucky exception! Perhaps, but how do you account for this? After returning home and undergoing a series of operations that patched her together, she asked for an automobile. She was told she was zany, that thousands had been waiting for cars and were paying many hundreds of dollars over list prices. Jane simply looked up the name of the president of the automobile company that made the kind of car she wanted. She wrote to him, a stranger, and asked for a car. What answer did she get? Just a question. What color did she prefer?

Jane Froman knows that you get many good things by asking for them. More consistently than many she has the positive attitude that wins. If she had a negative or passive attitude, she wouldn't have gone to the opera, come home quickly for the hospitalization she needed, got the car she wanted. She didn't moan, "I can't," which as often as not means "I'm so negative in outlook I won't even bother to try."

All of us occasionally have got what we simply asked for. Sometimes we ask for too much, ask for things that do not meet the test, and refusal makes us skeptical. Obviously we can't have everything we ask for. We can have our fair share of the good things of life, however, if we apply the suggested test and adopt the positive attitude as Jane Froman and most effectual people have always done.

Oscar Odd McIntyre, the famous columnist, learned the value of asking for what he wanted early in his career. He had come to New York, unknown, but destined for fame. His old father was proud of him and wrote one day, assuming that his son knew the noted Irvin S. Cobb. Odd's father urged that he ask Cobb to stop in to see him if ever he were traveling in Missouri.

Odd didn't want to disappoint his father, but he had never met Cobb and didn't know anyone who could introduce them. Also he didn't want to admit to his father that he was unacquainted with the famous humorist. So he simply wrote a letter to Cobb and explained the situation. "Mr. Cobb," he wrote, "if Plattsburg, Missouri, is on your itinerary for your lecture tour, won't you make an old man very happy by being my father's guest while you are there?"

It is amazing how many people in high and low walks of life will go out of their way to grant even somewhat unreasonable requests. Irvin Cobb was-touched by Odd McIntyre's plea. He shifted his plans so that he could stop in Plattsburg. He was the guest of the elder McIntyre and with a perfectly straight face told stories of his life in New York with Odd and their friends. The elder McIntyre was the envy of Plattsburg, and Odd had a fine build-up. The story doesn't end there, however. As an outgrowth of Odd's request he later met Cobb, and they became fast friends.

Sometimes we defeat ourselves by asking for too little. When Andrew Carnegie sold his steel mills to the J. P. Morgan interests, he asked for $400,000,000. He got his figure, which was higher than Morgan representatives had offered in this deal that resulted in the formation of the great United States Steel Corporation. Later the little old Scotsman was visiting with Morgan on a transatlantic voyage and said, "I've often regretted that I didn't ask you for a hundred million more." Morgan nodded and said, "If you had asked for it, you would have got it."

There is a charming, white-thatched Manhattan editor named Perry Williams who didn't ask for quite enough and, because of that, very probably side-stepped fame. When he was in his early twenties, Perry wrote a libretto. It was good and many years later was produced in Minneapolis. But long before that Perry took the positive step of sending the libretto to the world-famous Victor Herbert. If Herbert were interested, that might mean fame and fortune. Word came back that the noted composer was very much impressed and would be more than glad to write the music. He would stop in Minneapolis on tour in a few weeks, and they would complete arrangements.

Perry Williams began living in the clouds. He counted the days until the great Herbert would be in Minneapolis. Then the composer's plans were suddenly changed. His tour was stopped. "Well, what did you do then?" I asked the man who had opened the door to fame by simply asking for it. "Nothing," said Perry Williams. "I was disappointed. But I didn't want to press Victor Herbert."

"Couldn't you have hopped to New York to talk it over?" I asked. "After all, he said he was impressed and would be glad to write the music." Perry smiled ruefully, "I could have done just that. But I didn't. I've often wondered. . . ."

His positive attitude had opened the door to fame and left it ajar waiting for him. His negative attitude involving a youthful shyness had slammed shut the door. Perry Williams has had a fine career as a chamber-of-commerce director, writer, and editor, but at twenty-three he hadn't learned the value of a consistently positive attitude in the attainment of desires and he wasn't fully aware of the super four-wheel braking power of the negative attitude.

An impecunious young bookbinder named Michael Faraday once dreamed of studying science. But this was in England in a day when only the great and wise and wealthy had the facilities for such study. So Faraday wrote a letter to Sir Humphry Davy, one of the country's most outstanding scientists. He asked Sir Humphry for suggestions that would help him attain his desire. The simple request brought an invitation to an interview. The interview prompted Sir Humphry to let Faraday work with him as an assistant, and within a few years Faraday had won fame in the field of electricity. The world has long been indebted to Faraday for his direct asking for what he wanted.

Little things of daily life as well as careers are dependent on simple, direct requests. We are perfectly justified in assuming that a fair share of all that is good of big and little things belongs to us for the asking. We fail to collect because we don't adopt the positive attitude or we are careless or we are shy and afraid of a little rebuff. Lester F. Miles, lecturer, author, and management consultant, relates an amusing instance of dodging a direct request.

"About an hour after the train pulled out of Grand Central Station," says Miles, "I folded the newspaper I had been reading and placed it on my lap.

"The man in the chair across the aisle glanced with obvious interest at the headlines. My first thought was to offer it to him (I had noticed that he didn't have anything to read ). However, I thought I'd play the game out and see if he would ask me for it.

"To make it more interesting, I looked at my watch and made a note of the time. For the next thirty minutes my companion stole glances at the paper. Several times he was about to lean_ across the aisle and say something but apparently decided not to do it. I could almost see the wheels going round in his head as he thought up one approach after another.

"Forty minutes after he had first looked at my paper, he spoke. 'I beg your pardon, sir, but are you reading that paper?'

"When a man will take forty minutes to make up his mind to ask a simple question, you can readily understand why so many people fail to ask for the more important things which are essential to their happiness.

"People seem to shudder at the thought of hearing 'No' as an answer. Any number of rationalizations may be employed, such as 'He will think I'm a cheap skate because I didn't buy my own paper' or 'I'd rather do without than have to ask anyone for anything.' These and similar thoughts are merely devices to cover up the fact that we are afraid to hear the word 'No.' "

We all tend to become careless of what is obvious. We acquire fine tools of life and lay them aside and forget to use them at the proper time. The author became careless of the obvious magic of the positive request some years ago and almost missed the jack pot. He was tired of originating and building publishing properties for others. He had long nursed a publishing brain child. He subjected his wife to a verbal barrage about it and concluded that it needed financing. He said he thought he knew a man who would aid in financing the venture—but

Now, any man with enough sense to pound sand in a rathole knows that an intelligent wife has a dismaying way of leaping mental gaps and crystallizing a thought in a few words. My wife, perhaps weary of a mere male's beating around a bush, simply said, "Why don't you ask him?" There you have it again . .. ask for it! A columnist once reported of this transaction that a half-hour was involved. Actually in five minutes the wealthy publisher Wilfred Funk had agreed to help back a test of the venture; and in a few months the magazine, Your Life, was published successfully.

The same magic of the direct request can even stop through trains. F. W. Lovejoy, a vice-president of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, proved that. One night not long ago he had finished a business visit in Altoona and had gone to the station to continue a trip to Chicago. Let him tell the story:

Sadly the elderly station agent shook his head and said, "You have just missed the 7 o'clock; the next train is at Flabbergasted, I asked him, "Do you mean to say that in a city the size of Altoona there are no trains from 7 P.M. until 2 A.M.?"

The little agent nodded. "And the 2 o'clock train doesn't stop here. Don't know why. Just never has in all my seventeen years."

"Do you mean to say that in seventeen years you have never learned why there are so few trains or why the 2 o'clock doesn't stop?" I asked him querulously.

The agent just nodded, saying, "Don't know, they never have."

At this point I said, "Come, I'm willing to gamble. You call and see if you can stop that train."

With some trepidation, he made a call to his superiors. In a flash he turned and said, "I don't know how it's possible, but the 2 o'clock is going to stop."

Promptly at 2 A.M. I was on hand when the train screeched to a halt. When I started to get on, a conductor yelled, "You can't get on . .. we don't pick up passengers at Altoona."

Finally he agreed to ensuffer me, after I had pointed out that I was not only the sole passenger waiting, but I was the only reason the train had stopped.

A few moments later we were rolling out of the yards. Suddenly, the conductor turned to me and said, "Do you know, in all my twenty-seven years on this train, that is the only time it stopped in Altoona—and you are its first passenger. . . . For your colossal nerve, I'm going to see that you have the best damn accommodations on this train!"

Perhaps Mr. Lovejoy would not always be so successful having trains stopped, but one wonders how many negative-minded folk unnecessarily lost a night in Altoona because they didn't ask for what they wanted.

Those with the negative attitude aren't always willing to apply the suggested test accurately. Many times in a long experience as an executive I have had requests for raises in pay. The requests could not always be granted, but each time the request brought clarification. A year or so ago a clerk asked for a raise. She agreed that she was being paid as much as other clerks and more than many, but she wanted more money. She hadn't applied the test properly. She wasn't prepared for it. I told her that if she would learn shorthand she could have a job as a stenographer at more pay, and selected a night course for her. She decided she didn't want to do anything about earning more money. She just wanted it. I have seen others take positive action after such an interview and increase their incomes many times.

Obviously one doesn't always get what he asks for immediately. I remember one of the most intelligent young reporters I ever encountered while I was a city editor. His name was Nat Finney. He did two reporters' work almost any day. He asked for a raise. I was stuck with a budget and told him so. Now, Nat had met the test. He was ready for the raise, but he was blocked by a budget. But Nat was a positive-minded young man. He changed jobs and soon was earning more than the editor in chief of the paper that had a budget. The paper later reemployed him at several times his former salary. In later years he won a coveted Pulitzer prize in journalism.

We have seen that it is possible to cross wartime seas, to establish businesses, to stop trains, by the magic of the positive attitude. Until these chapters have clarified the incontrovertible proof of the value of the positive askfor-it attitude as opposed to the negative approach, you have nothing to lose and a world to gain if you accept the realistic faith of a little girl on a Woodward streetcar as reported by the Detroit News.

A smartly dressed mama with her little four-year-old girl entered the car. Mama noticed that the child had lost her purse and berated her loudly, to the embarrassment of the other passengers. Tearfully, the child blurted, "But mama, you always tell me to pray to God when I lose something. He will return it to me." Mama was silenced. Folk in the car choked up. At that moment the trolley stopped at a red light. An automobile, horn blaring, pulled alongside. The driver handed a little red purse to the motorman. "See, mommy?" beamed the child with no great surprise. "God did it again!"

Is it good?

Are you ready for it?

Then ask for it!

This program can change your own life from one of fear and failure, hesitation and doubt, suppression and prohibition, indecision, inhibition, and loneliness, to a life of victorious achievement, success in love, with friends, hope, appreciation, and an inspiring, growing faith and inner peace—with increased material rewards as a bonus.

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