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Senior Correspondent

Twenty-four people are sitting in a high-level coaching session.

They are assigned a task: that of breaking into groups of six and, within two hours, seeing how much money they can raise. The rules of the game include not being able to leave the hotel where the session is being held and not using any of their own money.

Two hours passed. What then unfolded was fascinating.

The first group got up and reported that they had selected a child from the Make-A-Wish Foundation and contacted the venues of everything that made up his wish. They got the hotels and relevant companies to commit to freebies. Then they went to their email, Facebook and other social media and got their friends and fans to commit to donating directly to the Make-A-Wish site. All told, they raised over $4,000 in cash and kind.

The second group got up and announced that they could never even agree on a concept. Instead, the exercise turned into a personal development session with all sorts of tears, breakthroughs and a-has. But no money.

The other two groups reported differing levels of success, landing somewhere between those two extremes.

Then the session leader revealed the purpose of the exercise: “to test your ability to ask.”

To ask. Sounds so simple.

But think about it. How difficult is it for you to ask someone to pay you money they owe you? Whether for services already rendered or money they borrowed.

How hard is it to ask for help when you need it? Or how hard is it to ask someone for a favor?

Are we worried about being indebted to others? Or being a burden? Are we afraid we will be showing our weakness or vulnerability — our soft underbelly — if we don’t present an exterior of steel?

Think about how far our civilization has come. For example, what ever happened to neighbor-helping-neighbor, as in the old days? Do you remember hearing about the famous barn-raisings, where an entire community came together and built a barn for a family? Of course no chits were ever exchanged because they all knew that one day someone else would have a need, they would ask and the same community would meet the need with grace.

What are we so afraid of?

Are we afraid the person will say no to our request for help? Well, that could happen. But is it the end of the world? There may be a perfectly logical reason why they’d have to say no in that specific instance that is no reflection whatsoever on our worth, ability or intelligence.

Are we afraid the person will think we’re only after their money if we ask them to look at our business venture or opportunity? Well, that too could happen. However, to not ask could mean we prevent them from accessing or getting involved with something that could bring them tremendous value … all because we were afraid.

What’s even more important is that by not asking, we may be denying someone else the possibility of feeling really good about themselves.  fter all, think about how good we usually feel when we can do something to help others.

Like the old barn-raisings, we’re not meant to go through life doing everything alone. But I admit that I have trouble asking for help and don’t know how I would have handled the exercise.

So here’s what I intend to do next time I hesitate asking someone for something: I will acknowledge that I am creating my own fear. I’ll figure out how I’m scaring myself. I’ll recognize that I’m adding layers of unnecessary negative ‘what ifs’ to what may be a perfectly positive interaction. I won’t give in to the fear, but will be willing to feel it … and then take the action anyway.

What about you? What would you have done had you been in one of the four groups?  ould you be willing to ask?

Let me know in the comments section below if you’ve ever even thought about this topic. I know I hadn’t.

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