Today marks eight years since Steve Jobs passed away, but that doesn't mean the tech genius has stopped having an impact -- far from it. In an old video interview Jobs tells a story and illustrates a trait of the most successful people that's far from common:

"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."

Did you notice the key to success? If you don't know what you're looking for, it's easy to miss. Luckily, Jobs spells it out in the video:

"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."

Be willing to ask for what you want

Would you have called Bill Hewlett? Without that experience at HP, would Jobs had gone on to accomplish what he did? Perhaps -- we'll never know. But we know for sure that a single phone call made a big impact on his life.

Far beyond simply landing him a summer job on an assembly line, it taught him to be willing to ask for something he wanted. He went on to say, "I've never found anyone who said no or hung up the phone when I called. I just asked. And when people ask me, I try to be responsive, to pay that debt of gratitude back."

People spend a lot of time and money setting themselves up to achieve their goals. They get expensive educations at the best schools and strive to make the best grades. They spend time networking with the most influential people and work hard to be deserving of big promotions. These things aren't bad, but they're far less effective without the key ingredient.

When the most successful people want something, they're willing to ask for it.

What if they say no?

I'm not denying that luck plays a major role in success, and the fact that Jobs got through to Hewlett was no guarantee. In fact, it's probably safe to call his attempt a long shot. But he took it.

"You've got to act, and you've got to be willing to fail... If you're afraid of failing, you won't get very far."

That fear of failing is what keeps most people from asking, but it doesn't have to. Change your mindset, and don't ask expecting a yes -- expect a no, thank the person for his or her time, and move on to the next.

It takes a lot of no's to get to a yes, so embrace them. Every no puts you one step closer.

If a 12-year-old can do it, so can you.

Published on: Oct 5, 2019
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