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How To Ask For Help

Rebroadcast Publish Date: Feb. 5, 2020

Original Publish Date: Nov. 21, 2018

Every entrepreneurial success story has a strong visionary that’s able to recruit countless others to help them along the way. Being willing to ask for help isn’t only critical in the early days of building something. It can help you avoid mistakes at every level, filling any gaps in your knowledge, your network, your experience, and much more. Still, for many asking for help is not natural. It’s easy to feel like you’re inconveniencing someone while adding no value to them. Fortunately, this is mostly a false line of thinking.

We start this episode by discussing how to get over this initial feeling of self-doubt by first understanding that every successful person has gotten help from someone else to get to where they are, and by using negative visualization to realize that the worst that can happen if you ask for help is, well, absolutely nothing.

Next, we break down the most effective way to get others to help you, especially if you’re approaching important people. Start by using whatever you can to your advantage (your friends, classmates, colleagues, your expertise, etc.) and prove to others that you’re serious about what you’re trying to accomplish. Lastly, we suggest offering value whenever you can, giving examples from our past, and being as specific as possible when asking others to help you.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving we wanted to close this episode by thanking a few of the people that helped us in impactful ways this year, including Jordan Harbinger of The Jordan Harbinger Show, Sarah Green Carmichael of HBR, Georgie Mihaila of Goalcast, and Tanya Klitch of Forbes.com.

Show Notes

1:00 Today’s episode is about how to ask for help. And in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we want to thank a few of the people who have helped us along this journey this year of starting this podcast and creating content for you.

1:39 No one does it alone, but the process of asking for help is not natural for everyone.

2:00 The more you ask for help the more desensitized you will be with doing it, just like doing sales, or performing surgery. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

2:33 There are effective ways to ask for help and ineffective ways that make you come off as annoying.

2:50 Though keep in mind that asking for help and being annoying is better than not asking for help at all. Because at least then, one out of ten times you will get help.

3:17 Most of us feel like we’re imposing on someone busier than us. But people do want to help you.

How to get over the fear of asking for help:

3:50 Before you can ask for help, how do you get over the self doubt that prevents you from doing it?

4:11 First thing is to realize that everyone else has been there before. Someone else helped them along the way at some point.

4:35 Another thing you can do if you’re doubting yourself is help someone else that might need your expertise. Even as a student, you can start by helping another student, and this act alone will make you feel less bad about asking someone else for help.

5:01 Additionally, know that even successful people have to ask for help, and feel self doubt sometimes.

5:40 Also you should just get comfortable with the fact that it doesn’t completely go away, so you might as well look past it.

5:59 Another tactic is repetition. The more you ask for help, the easier it becomes. Just like repetition helps a surgeon improve, or someone in sales.

6:29 Someone asked Jared Freid on our podcast how to ask for help and offer value when you have nothing to offer. Well, when Jared had nothing, he offered to write for publications for free in exchange for them promoting his comedy. You always have something you can offer someone else.

6:50 You can offer introductions to someone that person may want to talk to. You may offer to do research on a topic they’re interested in.

7:20 Finally, weigh the risk and reward (negative visualization). Worst thing that can happen is someone doesn’t respond. The more likely scenario is that they will help you now or later. You might as well try.

7:56 When a student at NYU asks me for help, I never think, “oh what value can they offer me”? But there are a few things that people do think about when they’re evaluating whether to help someone.

8:20 Once you’re past the mental barrier of asking for help, how can you be more effective in asking for help?

How to be more effective in asking for help?

8:40 What can you use to get an edge? To get an advantage?

9:00 We’ve used the university alumni card as a way to stand out from others and get someone to respond. Do you have something in common with the person you’re reaching out to?

10:13 There was a time years ago when we got Gary Vaynerchuk to reply to an email, even though we had nothing of value to offer.

10:38 The email subject line was: You’re The Man! – stroking his ego a little bit, and also as a way to get attention.

10:51 Here’s what Vadim said in the email:

Just read the NY Times article about you. I’m not even a wine guy, but I’m an aspiring entrepreneur and find you very inspiring. (Seen some of your inspirational videos before)

Felt really compelled to email you when I found out that you’re from Belarus and came here when you were really young. I moved here with my family from Belarus when I was eight…”

11:16 The Belarus connection ended up working as a way to strike up a conversation with him.

11:50 Use this lesson to think about what you can use as an advantage to help the person engage with you.

12:00 There are other ways to get someone’s attention and get them to help you.

12:20 In our roles at universities we get lots of people asking us for help. But it’s the people that we can tell are serious that we end up wanting to help. If you’re super generic and just want advice, there’s little motivation to help you unless you show you’re serious and you’re going to do something with that advice.

12:51 One way to show you’re more serious, is if someone isn’t responding, follow up showing the progress you’ve been making.

13:17 In the initial outreach, let’s say you want advice on a business idea, well show that you’ve done something other than just have an idea. Maybe share your website, or talk about the team you’ve put together etc.

13:49 People want to help those who take initiative

14:28 Another thing to mention, is that you want to do the work for the person to help them help you. Be explicit about the one thing that you need from them.

14:49 Be specific about why they’re the person who can uniquely help you with this problem. People want to be sure that they can actually be helpful if they’re going to take the time out of their busy schedule.

15:57 To show how we’ve asked for help in the past, we’ll tell you a story of how, from a cold email, we were able to get free office space in NYC.

Subject: Quick Question

Hi Jeff,

I’m one of the founders of a startup here in NYC (Tascit), and my partner and I are looking for a few desks or an office for a couple months. I thought I’d reach out in case you or anyone you might know has some space.

We’ve been bootstrapping our business for about a year, and are not funded yet, but we can pay some amount that you’d be comfortable with in rent, and can offer some free sales training for your team while we’re there.

Let me know if you’d be interested in discussing.

17:00 In this email we showed that we were serious, we showed value, and we were direct about what we needed.
We think that’s why Jeff replied just a few days later.

17:40 Jeff’s reply:

Yes, here’s our address and my phone number. if you are looking for a deal where you don’t pay until/if you get funded, please send more info on the business… I am also an angel investor, so fine to work out something if it makes sense.

18:00 We ended up getting free office space for a year. If we weren’t up front about our situation and were very specific about what we needed, he would have never been able to reply in a specific way. As a busy person, we had to make it really easy for him to say yes or no.

19:00 Hopefully you can use some of these tips next time you’re hesitating to ask for help.

19:16 To close out the episode, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we wanted to say a few Thank Yous to all the people who helped us this year on the journey of starting this podcast.

19:48 We want to thank 4 people specifically.

19:50 The first people who saw our potential and believed in what we were doing is…

Georgia Mihaila, Director of Marketing at Goalcast who gave us a platform as contributing authors and a way to initially grow our audience for The Mentors.

20:20 When Vadim reached out to Georgie it was through a cold email. And her and her other senior editor, Anouare Abdou

20:39 Next we’d like to thank Tanya Klich, one of the editors at Forbes who had us join as contributing authors early on.

21:05 Another huge thank you to Jordan Harbinger, host of the Jordan Harbinger show. We met him at Podcast Movement, and asked him to do a shoutout for The Mentors on his show. He not only did that, but did a 30 second spot in the middle of one of his episodes. This helped us more than he likely even knows!

21:44 We also want to thank Sarah Green Carmichael, executive editor at Harvard Business Review, and host of the Ideacast podcast. You may have seen an article we wrote for HBR, and it wouldn’t be possible without Sarah’s help.

22:30 If we didn’t ask for any 4 of these people for help, we wouldn’t get many of the amazing opportunities we got this year.

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