We all have our own experiences, world views, principles, priorities, dislikes, and moral ideas. Each of us has unique talents, loves different things, and likes or dislikes doing something. Sometimes we do it better, sometimes worse.
This complexity can make us feel unique and special, which may cause some to feel good or bad. Perhaps it makes us feel especially valuable or even elevated to others. But maybe we also feel like we don’t belong anywhere, precisely because we are so different. We feel like outsiders who don’t fit the norm, which can be agonizing.
But the more we open up and the more people we get to know, the more we realize that we are not alone with our idiosyncrasies. We learn that there is no reason to feel shame or haughtiness about being the person we are.
We understand that the world and life are full of connections. People with the same interests do not find each other by chance. They are attracted to each other. They read the same books, attend the same events, comment on the same YouTube videos, and follow each other on social networks.
Perhaps this realization helps us accept who we are and find the courage to put this into the world so we can learn from each other and meet like-minded people.
This is the German and Italian version of the saying “there’s no harm in asking.” Sometimes it is helpful to remind ourselves when we need advice and help.
At the beginning of my studies in communication design, I was supposed to lecture about a Korean designer. When researching, I faced a problem because I could hardly find any information: only a simple homepage, no interview, and only a few reports.
The whole week I searched desperately for information. Finally, I had to explain to my professor that the presentation would be relatively short. He said, “have you asked him?”.
The scales fell from my eyes. Why didn’t I think of it myself? The possibility was so close? What prevented me from simply writing to the designer directly and asking for an interview? Was it the thought of not wanting to bother, of being a nuisance? Was it awe? Or perhaps the shame of revealing myself as an inexperienced student in front of a renowned designer? I can’t put my finger on the reason, but eventually, I wrote a short email asking for a few questions to be answered.
The presentation was a success. My fellow students were amazed that I had written directly to the designer. So I was not alone with my initial concerns.
Therefore: It costs nothing to ask. There is nothing wrong with approaching people directly when we have concerns or need advice. We may not get an answer, but we don’t take that personally. However, if we do get one, it is most likely to be positive.
With this attitude, four years later, I contacted countless designers in Australia and Southeast Asia for a meeting and an interview for my thesis. As many as 90% replied, and about 70% were looking forward to our meeting. The result was dozens of inspiring and warm conversations that have stuck with me.
PS: there are very few cases where asking actually did “cost” me something. More about that in another post.