January is all about "the Art of Asking"

by Rayna van Aalst January 21, 2018

January is all about "the Art of Asking"

A few days ago I shared a story with my husband. Something I had done the day before and I was, and still am, incredibly proud of.

After doing the groceries, on my way to the car, I noticed that there is a corner in the supermarket, close to the exit, where old flowers were sold with 35-50% discount. The flowers still look good, but they would last only a few days.

I had a light bulb moment – the shop where I usually buy flowers for the Reina Organics photos, also has old flowers. Maybe they do the same thing.

That flower shop wasn’t on my route for the day so I couldn’t ask right away but I walked past another flower store I see often. I remembered the flowers in the supermarket so I thought I could ask there what they did with the old flowers and plants.

But I chickened out and I walked to the car instead.

I paid the parking fee, I sat in the car and I was about to drive away when I realized that I was already regretting not having asked at the flower shop.

I took a deep breath, got out of the car and walked back to the flower store. I marched straight to the woman behind the cash register and I asked her “What do you do with the old flowers and plants? Can I buy them with a discount from you? I have a company and I use flowers for our photos.”

It turned out that I was talking to the owner.

Long story short, she was polite and friendly, but her answer was “No”.

Walking back to my car, I felt sadness take over me – I looked stupid by asking, what did she think of me? There were probably other unfriendly things I was thinking to myself. At that moment though, when I became aware of what I felt, I knew that this was my opportunity to turn the story around – I wasn’t rejected, I wasn’t stupid. I asked and the answer was No. Time to move on.

And most of all, it wasn’t personal.

Reading this you can either relate to the story or you’re thinking “Come on, all this for some silly flowers?!”

If it’s the latter, I agree. Total waste of energy.

Now when I look back at this situation – 1) I’m super duper proud of myself for asking 2) I can’t believe how big the fear of rejection is even when it comes to something so small 3) It was just flowers, for crying out loud!

Each of us has an area in their life where asking is terrifying.

A while ago I met with the CEO of a huge international company. Her career will spin your head.

We talked about deeply personal things – being bullied at school, menstruation cups, contraception, sex and so on. When we touched on relationships, she barely whispered how she wished to marry her partner but she was too afraid to raise the subject.

I couldn't believe it. That unstoppable woman in front me, would go through anything and anyone in her life, who was regularly seen on TV, magazines, etc was afraid of talking about her deepest desire – marriage, to her partner with whom she had been living for a long time and had a child.

To me it was incredibly simple – they have a beautiful and strong relationship, of course he would agree to get married, if she asked him.

But it wasn’t my story to judge. Because my flower drama would probably make her laugh with tears.

It’s not about how big “the thing” is but rather how often we don’t ask because it’s something which truly matters to us.

I can assure you that if the flowers weren't for me but for someone else, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to walk in that shop and negotiate with the owner until she changes her mind, let alone ask. But it wasn’t for someone else, it was for me.

Marriage or the flower shop, we often don’t ask for what we want because we might hear the much-dreaded NO, we don’t want to be rejected.

But hey, the answer could be a Yes too.

Just like Wayne Gretzky said – you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

Or at the very least you miss the satisfaction of “I tried, it didn’t work out but at least I know and won’t regret never finding out”.

When I shared my flower story with my husband, he exclaimed “Just like the woman in the Art of Asking!”.

That’s when I knew that the monthly theme of January must be “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer.

“The Art of Asking” is not a typical book from the self-help section in the bookstore. There are no how-to’s on asking, or any other subject.

The book turned out to be a memoir and it made me feel deeply connected to the author, of whom I hadn’t even heard before reading the book. I opted for the audio version of and I’m glad I did because it’s narrated by Amanda herself, which only made the book more special to me.

I grew up believing that asking is a sign of weakness but thanks to Amanda I learned that to ask you need to dare to be vulnerable but it in no way makes you weak.

In the book Amanda also talks a lot about connection and truly seeing each other.

'When we really see each other, we want to help each other' - Amanda Palmer

Throughout January I will be sharing more inspiration from the Art of Asking. I also pledge to ask more. Not to ask for more but to practice asking for the things that truly matter to me.

And I start here and now with the following three things

Next week I will go to the flower shop

and ask them what they do with the old flowers and plants and whether I can buy them with a discount.

I will email Amanda Palmer

And I will ask her to sign three copies of “the Art of Asking” which I will gift to three of you who take part of the conversation. Leave a comment below with your biggest takeaway from this story. 

If you liked this article, please share it

It helps Reina Organics grow and I would appreciate your support.

The three winners will be announced in beginning of February and each of them will receive a copy (hopefully signed by the author) of the Art of Asking.

In the meantime, have a look at Amanda’s TED talk.

Rayna van Aalst
Rayna van Aalst