Steve Jobs Shares a Secret for Success: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

In 1994—the year Apple co-founder Steve Jobs filmed an inter­view with The Sil­i­con Val­ley His­tor­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion in which he encour­aged peo­ple to go for what they want by enlist­ing oth­ers’ assistance—there was no social media, no Kick­starter, no GoFundMe, no Patre­on…  email was just becom­ing a thing.

Back then, ask­ing for help meant engag­ing in a face-to-face or voice-to-voice real time inter­ac­tion, some­thing many peo­ple find intim­i­dat­ing.

Not so young Jobs, an elec­tron­ics nut who relat­ed more eas­i­ly to the adult engi­neers in his Sil­i­con Val­ley neigh­bor­hood than to kids his own age.

As he recounts above, his desire to build a fre­quen­cy counter spurred him to cold call Bill Hewlett (of Hewlett-Packard), to see if he’d give him some of the nec­es­sary parts.

(In light of the recent col­lege admis­sions scan­dal, let us rec­og­nize the 12-year-old Jobs not only had the gump­tion to make that call, he also appears to have had no parental assis­tance look­ing up Hewlett’s num­ber in the Palo Alto White Pages.)

Hewlett agreed to the young go-getter’s request for parts. Jobs’ chutz­pah also earned him a sum­mer job on a Hewlett Packard assem­bly line, putting screws into fre­quen­cy coun­ters. (“I was in heav­en,” Jobs said of this entry lev­el posi­tion.)

Per­haps the biggest les­son for those in need of help is to ask bold­ly.

Ask like it’s 1994.

No, ask like it’s 1968, and you’re a self-starter like Steve Jobs hell­bent on procur­ing those spe­cial­ty parts to build your fre­quen­cy counter.

(Let’s fur­ther pre­tend that lying around wait­ing for Mom to order you a DIY fre­quen­cy counter kit on Ama­zon is not an option…)

Need an extra push?

Psy­chol­o­gist Adam Grant’s best­selling Give and Take makes an effec­tive case for human inter­ac­tion as the path­way to suc­cess, whether you’re the kid plac­ing the call, or the big wig with the pow­er to grant the wish.

Social psy­chol­o­gist Hei­di Grant’s book, Rein­force­ments: How to Get Peo­ple to Help You, explains how to ask with­out snivel­ing, self-aggran­diz­ing, or putting the per­son on the receiv­ing end in an awk­ward posi­tion.

And that shy vio­let Aman­da Fuck­ing Palmer, author of The Art of Ask­ing and no stranger to the punk rock barter econ­o­my, details how her “nin­ja mas­ter-lev­el fan con­nec­tion” has result­ed in her every request being met—from hous­ing and meals to prac­tice pianos and a neti pot hand deliv­ered by an Aus­tralian nurse.

Just don’t for­get to say “please” and, even­tu­al­ly, “thank you.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Steve Jobs on Life: “Stay Hun­gry, Stay Fool­ish”

A Young Steve Jobs Teach­es a Class at MIT (1992)

Steve Jobs Nar­rates the First “Think Dif­fer­ent” Ad (Nev­er Aired)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in New York City this May for the next install­ment of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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