Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

How to Influence People: The Most Overlooked Secret

Bonus: I learned how to earn influence by being a great guest at the blogs of influential people. Here are two free videos and a downloadable eBook showing you how to do that.

Anyone can be a leader. Sounds easy, right? It’s not. True leadership is rare, because most people aren’t willing to do the one thing they need to grow their influence.

The most overlooked secret to influencing people

Photo credit: Flickr (Creative Commons)

What do the world’s best leaders know that the rest of us don’t? How do you become an influencer without feeling like a sleazy salesman? How do you connect with important people and get your reputation to spread?

People sometimes ask me how I’ve been able to do interviews with in-demand “celebrities” like Steven Pressfield and Chris Brogan. They wonder how to get guest posts published on Copyblogger or Zen Habits, some of the most popular blogs on the web.

These people are the same ones who ask about getting a NY Times best-selling author to endorse your book or want to know what it takes to interview the CEO of a major company. They want to know the answer to a simple question that confounds most of us. And for years, I didn’t understand it myself. It’s this: Why can’t I get more influence?

The answer may surprise you.

The secret to gaining influence

Some people don’t want you to know this. It’s a secret long held by the social elite, what builds dynasties and topples kingdoms. It’s the explanation for how even the humblest of beginnings can lead to the strongest successes.

This is important for you to hear, and it could be the answer to getting your book published or launching a successful business. It might even mean landing that connection that changes everything.

The secret to how to connect with influential people is simple: Ask them. Why do so many people neglect this practice? Why overlook something so obvious?

First, let’s set the record straight: I’m nobody special. I’m not a charismatic leader or persuasive speaker. I do not possess any innate gifts for winning people over.

A chubby misfit in high school, I learned to play guitar and to avoid getting beat up (sometimes). In other words, I’m no Dale Carnegie. Far from an “outlier,” I’m often unsure of myself and struggle with confidence issues.

Why share this? Because if I can do it, you can do it. And if you believe me and you’re ready for some practical tips on how to do it, click here for two bonus videos and a downloadable eBook where I lay it out step-by-step for you.

The new leadership

Bill Gates used to publish his email address. An important leader and CEO, he still made himself available to his followers. When I heard about this, I decided to email an author I had always admired and see what might happen. I asked his advice, and a day later, he responded. I was in awe.

A year later, that same author, a guy named Seth Godin, emailed me, offering to do an interview for my blog about his next book. When the book launched, he linked to me and sent more traffic than my little blog had ever seen.

After this experience, I had a thought that changed everything: If uber-blogger Seth Godin is this accessible, who else is? If someone so influential and unreachable (in my mind) was just an email away, what would stop me from contacting anyone I wanted to meet?

That’s just what I did.

What followed was a chain of events that included one audacious pursuit after another. I discovered there were others like Seth who were making themselves available to “average Joes” like me.

This is the new leadership: accessibility. There are people out there, waiting to connect with those bold enough to ask.

You are your own worst enemy

Not too long ago, I saw a friend get a guest post published on a popular blogging site, a popular blog about making money online. I was amazed, even a little jealous.

Although I had gotten into the habit of making big asks, this was one platform that was still “off limits” to me. Maybe some day, I thought. So I sent my friend a message, asking him how he got his piece published.

Do you know what his secret was? You guessed it. He asked.

He sent an email with an idea, they approved it, and then they published it. In fact, this was the second time he had done this. So I did the same — and it worked like a charm.

We doubt ourselves, thinking we don’t have what it takes. We give in to fear and sabotage ourselves before we even begin. We are our own worst enemy.

Recently, I encouraged a friend to email a leader he admired. He wouldn’t do it. He had already made up his mind. This person was just too busy to respond. After I all but forced my friend to do it, the person emailed him back immediately.

My friend couldn’t believe it, because he had already said “no” for him. Turns out, most people are this accessible. We just have to believe they want to hear from us.

How to win a friend

“Winning friends” was a phrase popularized by Dale Carnegie, and it’s one that bothers me. It sounds self-serving. Friendships aren’t won; they’re made, organically and honestly.

But it wasn’t until I started reading Carnegie’s secrets in How to Win Friends and Influence People that I finally let my guard down. Here are a few of his methods:

  • Show genuine interest in someone else.
  • Remember people’s names.
  • Listen.
  • Sincerely make someone feel important.
  • Smile.

Honesty and sincerity?! Man, what a jerk… 😉

Do you want to know the secret to getting influential people to do stuff for you?

Put the idea of “getting influential people to do stuff for me” completely out of your mind. Instead, try to help people. Slay the dragon of insecurity and make bold, but humble, asks:

  • Invite someone to breakfast or coffee.
  • Ask for a few minutes to chat on the phone.
  • Listen, smile, and thank them.

That’s what I do; that’s all I do. In other words: make a friend.  The real secret to winning friends and influencing people is anyone can do it. You just have to ask.

Why you’re not an influencer yet

So why aren’t you doing this? Why aren’t you connecting with influential people? If you’re anything like I was, you’ve probably succumbed to one of the following temptations:

  • You’re scared to ask.
  • You’ve already said “no” for someone else.
  • You’ve bypassed winning friends and tried to immediately influence people. In other words, you’re trying to use people.
  • You don’t listen.
  • You talk about yourself too much.
  • You think it’s all about you.

I believe you have something to say. I believe you’ve sabotaged yourself one too many times. I believe the world needs your voice and dream, and it’s time act.

Click the image below to get my free download on how to start guest posting for influencers.

The most overlooked secret to influencing people

Additional resources

Will you be bold and start making some asks? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Hmmm. This answer a question I was debating with myself the whole weekend and now…well, now I’m going to send that email and just ask! The wrost they can say is “No!” Right?
    South Africa

  • I guess I need to be a little more bold. I once asked a question on twitter trying to find what mobile plugin Chris Brogan used. I got a tweet back from Chris Brogan telling me! Thanks for sharing this Jeff!

    • You’re welcome, Sutton. May you be more emboldened than ever before!

  • Nice post, man. I’ll admit, I also wondered how you did it 🙂 Really helpful challenge here. Would you say email is the best way to “ask” influencers?

    • Thanks, David. I think it’s the first logical step for many. I’m going to write a follow-up piece to this, offering some more practical how-to. There is a bit of an art involved in making the actual ask, but I knew that I needed to write a post about the importance of DOING it before actually digging into the how-to.

  • Jeff,
    GREAT post! You just managed to make my palms sweaty and stir my soul at the same time. I think we all get to hung up on someone’s status, etc. When, in reality, we are all just humans looking for connection. Awesome post!

  • This is good Jeff.  I was waiting for the punchline….  Just ask.  

    It’s the curse of celebrity… sometimes we forget that these are just normal people, that we don’t have to be afraid of.Thanks for showing us that it can be done.  And, duh, just ask.  

    • Thanks, Dave. I think you’re doing a great job of beginning to reach out to some influencers. You’re right — “Just ask” is the whole point of the article. In fact, I added that in to the post. Thanks, man!

  • smart and good post…and it is truly that simple.  before vocational ministry i was a fund development guy…and the “ask” is always the risky thing.  and just because the say “no” isn’t always a bad thing.  because the ask can become the beginning of a relationship.  and life comes down to that…relationships.

    • Wow, that IS a difficult “ask”! Tom, I’ve raised support for missions endeavors in the past, and I know exactly what you’re talking about. I’m going to do another post on the art and science of making the “ask”, but I’d love to know some of YOUR secrets and tips!

  • Ron Edmondson

    This is an encouraging post Jeff. Thank you.

    • Thanks, Ron! Would love to know your “secrets.” I really admire the influence you have.

  • Talia Barnes

    I was actually thinking lately – Jeff has gotten some real traction lately – I wonder how he’s done it…thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks, Tal. Appreciate it. I’m just learning to be a little bolder.

    • I’d been having the same thought recently.  Now I know.

  • Great advice, Jeff!  It applies to blogging, as well to interpersonal interaction.  If you want to influence someone you’ve just met, be interested in them and ask questions.  Same with blogging.  It’s how I got to interview Philip Yancey!

  • This is fantastic, Jeff! I’m looking forward to the follow-up piece on practical how-to’s on the actual asking! 

  • Jim Martin

    Jeff, this is a great post.  I think one of the worst habits related to this is saying “no” for someone else.  Years ago, I had lunch one day with a minister who was very well known in a number of circles and who was in great demand.  

    I wanted to have lunch with him to ask him several questions for my own learning.  I wasn’t trying to manipulate nor did I want to visit with him because he was a popular figure.

    A month or so later, a friend of mine asked, “How did you have lunch with HIM?”  My honest response was, “I asked.”

    Real sincerity coupled with the boldness to ask can open doors to good friendships and stimulating conversations.

    • This really IS the new leadership, Jim. Isn’t it amazing how people ask you “How?” before they’ve even tried asking? I used to be like that, and I’m learning to stop saying no for others. It’s a challenge sometimes, but I was lucky enough to get a “yes” from a pretty influential person. So glad you had that experience; it can be so life-giving and encouraging.

  • Chris Ames

    So true. Good stuff.

  • Excellent post Jeff!

    Thanks for the kick in the butt I’ve been needing. 

    • You have a tremendous story, Janet. Your asks don’t even need to be bold; you should be INVITING people to join you. It would be an honor for anyone to be a part of your story in some small way.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for these encouraging words. I really struggle with asking. I have been working for the past several weeks on initiating new conversations and new experiences by simply asking people to meet with me. My very limited experience bears out your words – most of the time people say yes. Leaders, colleagues, and others are willing to respond, meet, discuss, etc when asked.
    Boldness, Courage, and Initiative are becoming new disciplines in my life.
    Your experiences and thoughts are very helpful.

    • Thanks, Jim. I’m going to do a followup post on how to do an ask. There is a right way and a wrong way, but you have to begin by being willing to ask in the first place.

  • Booksbyjanice

    I love it! I found your post because Michael Hyatt tweeted it, by the way. 🙂

  • Seth Barnes

    You’re making me proud, Jeff. Well done. And the blog post ain’t bad either.

  • Pamgillaspie

    So true! And even when you run into a “no” or two along the way you realize that even that really isn’t so painful.

    • Exactly. Ben Arment (https://benarment.com) has some great thoughts on this. Rejection is just part of it. It makes the yesses so much sweeter.

  • I totally agree with this, Jeff!  I love emailing (or writing letters to) my favorite authors.  It’s amazing how often they write back.  And it feels so good to print off that email or fold up that written response and tuck it in their book.  Good stuff!

  • Killer post Jeff.  The righteous are a bold as lions (Proverbs 28:1)

  • This was great Jeff. It really challenged me. I often don’t have the courage to ask “influencers”, but the times I have (like talking with Seth Godin or writing for Relevant Magazine), it has really paid off.

    Also, I wanted to add that part of why you were able to get some of these interviews is a LOT of hard work. At least this is a large factor in my mind. You blog great content at a frequent rate, which is quickly turning YOU into an influencer. I love this! It’s exciting to watch. But my opinion is that you can’t underestimate hustle either.

    As Jon Acuff says, “you have to be selfish with your time at 5a.m.” That’s a lot of hard work before GOING to work. Agreed? Thoughts?

    • Totally agree, Jonathan. In fact, I got up at 5am this morning. 😉

      Hustle is a factor, and in fact, asking is a form of hustle. A lot of my asks are turned down the first and even second time. For me, perseverance is key. I don’t consider blogging or emailing hard work. I love this stuff. What IS hard is having the courage to initiate.

  • Once again, you nailed it! I am the queen of asking, but I have learned that you must give a lot before you ask of people. If all you do is ask, without offering to help much more often, you are a mooch. We all know those people and avoid them.
    By the way, Jeff, can I do a guest post? 😉

    • You’re right, Courtenay. Trust is essential to asking. And yes. 😉

  • You know, it strikes me that beyond the secret of “just ask” (which is no doubt true) must lie a good deal of thinking that you have something worth saying. In a cacophonous world, with so much chatter and nothing new under the sun, I’d say being heard and influencing others has a little bit to do with ambition—both the good and bad kinds.

    • Well said, Chris. I may have took that for granted.

  • Jeff, I can relate to this. In college I wanted to start freelancing for magazines. I was a sophomore with no published experience. I sat down and wrote an email to the editor of a magazine and by the time the next issue came out I had an article in their publication. The first in a 2-year writing relationship. 

    From there, I asked other companies for work. Now I freelance for a major media company, writing articles every month. But it started with that first communication. I just asked. 

    • Awesome, Chris. I had a similar experience that launched my freelance career.

  • Great post, Jeff!  I love seeing how your little steps of faith and requests have paid off into bigger and better things.  I’m sure when you first emailed Seth, you never would have envisioned all that’s happened since.  So cool!

    • Not at all, Leigh. It’s mind-blowing.

  • You’re the man, Jeff!  (and I mean that sincerely and honestly 🙂

  • Oh, I would say you’re VERY special! Great post buddy. 

  • Thanks, Jeff.  Great post!

    Very encouraging!

  • Jeffcampbell7

    My own little story also concerns Seth Godin.  His book, “Tribes” inspired me to blog a critique.  It wasn’t particularly positive.  I was stunned to find him leaving a comment on my little piddly blog.  More than that, I was stunned to find him humble and not at all defensive.  In a wierd way, it was kind of a shock.  When I attacked his ideas, Seth Godin had been nothing but an abstraction to me; when he replied, he became a real person.  I felt a bit ashamed, not so much for my critique as for my indelicacy in how I stated it.  I guess this is all just a long-winded way of agreeing: the rich and powerful and famous are just regular people.

  • Evanblackerby

    Thanks for helping us keep things in perspective. They are only people.

    • Right. As are we. Which is an understatement.

  • See, sometimes we all forget the the simplest ways is, normally, the best way to reach for your goals. 🙂
    Congrats on the article.

  • Anonymous

    I need to disagree with you here, Jeff. Sure, asking is important, just like turning the ignition on a car is essential if you want to drive to Cleveland. The hard part isn’t the turning, it’s getting the car in the first place.

    I get way too much email every day, and I’m not in search of more! The key part, the hard part, the part that matters is building a tribe–finding people who want to hear what you have to say, connecting and leading them.

    I’m glad you’re doing that.

    • Seth Barnes

      Nothing like hearing from the master himself! Love your accessibility Seth.

    • Well said, Seth. I may have glossed over the importance of building trust thru small wins. Thanks for the comment!

      • Small steps.  Compliments, reviews, comments on blog posts…  all serve to build some initial pre-relationship that allows you to stand out from the noise.  I think “ask” works for you because you are doing all the other small things that make your “ask” more impactful, powerful than someone else’s version 😉

  • I have definitely struggled with this myself. But I have often found that when I put all of my fears aside and make the first move it is always met with what I was hoping for. 
    It is amazing to realize that all it took was pride or courage.

    I often have said as well that showing up is one of the hardest but most rewarding things as well. 
    It is amazing to see what happens when you show up and work hard. 

    • I agree, Kyle. We’re learning this lesson together!

  • Anonymous

    Every summer when I was a Youth Pastor my “kids” would be in awe at summer camp when I would step into our debrief room at the end of the day with Charlie Hall or Chris Tomlin or any number of other stage personalities. The secret: just asking/ inviting. It seems like those guys were never too busy to connect with the kids that, ultimately, they were trying to lead/influence.

    • Love that. A life of influence is an interruptible one.

  • Jeff: What a fantastic post! You have reminded me once again not to doubt myself, to BE myself, and to be courageous in “asking.” The worst that can happen is for them to say “no,” right? Thanks for some wonderful and challenging thoughts! …And have a great Memorial Day holiday.

    • Exactly, Tom. And after a while, “no” doesn’t sound so bad.

  • I’m totally finding this to be true. New social media stuff makes things possible that weren’t possible a while ago. I have emailed authors to tell them that I enjoyed their books and they replied to thank me. It was great!

    they respond on twitter or retweet something I said and it really does make me feel special and that they are real people too.

    Woah, 74 comments already? Dude, you are blowing up! I all that guest posting is paying off!

    • Thanks, Ben. Love how you’re first showing interest in others.

  • I really love this post!  It seems like the sincerity towards people you describe could be summed up in a word-love.  Or, we could try Mark 10:43 “But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant.”

  • Anonymous

    I tried this. I emailed you to ask for a “Day in the Life” for my site. You never replied:(

    In fairness I’m completely unknown to you. 

    Problem= trying to get loads of Day in the Life interviews, at least 1 for every single job on the planet.

    I would clearly get a much better response if I spent time helping and be-friending people before asking them to write one.

    Not being lazy but it feels like that will take an insane amount of time. So

    Focus on less people but get better response rate
    Lower response rate but ask lots more people

    Any thoughts?

    • Sorry about that. Just sent you an email. Focus on fewer people. Definitely.

    • You said what I was thinking, TheUglyKoala. I was reading this (and Seth Godin’s input) and thinking to myself that it would be better to make sure and listen to some of your favorites first before you ask.  If you are clearly a contributing part of their community, they would probably be fine with it. If you do it awkwardly to lots of people before you really know them, you could get a bad reputation.

      I love this article, Jeff. I think its more than just your boldness. I think your honesty comes through easily in your way of carrying yourself and so you naturally attract leaders who are also trustworthy. You are clearly one to keep an eye on!

  • MichaelDPerkins

    My secret?  It’s being myself.  I try to be as honest and transparent as possible.  And the whole fear of being rejected or turned down my big influencers is big factor for a lot of people.  I appreciate you leading the way man.

    • Thanks, Michael. You do a great job of leading your tribe by being yourself!

  • Matthew Snyder

    Before I even read this post I thought to myself, “the secret is to invest.” I think that’s exactly what you did. You invested in a risk AND in a possible relationship with some serious influencers.

    Good stuff, Jeff (as always). I would put this “just ask” idea up there with Pressfield’s get-off-your-butt-and-punch-restistance-in-the-face concept in the “War of Art”.

  • Mike Price

    Great article~ !

    • Thanks, Mike!

      • You are really coming into your own with web marketing – this really was a great article and a good example of making an old concept new again…

        • That means a lot, Mike. I’ve learned so much from you on this subject.

  • Kate Boyd

    Thanks for this post! I often find that I let my insecurities get the best of me, and they keep me from using my voice quite frequently. It’s good to hear others have similar struggles but also be reminded that you must put yourself out there or you won’t really get anywhere. And that you must always out the people before the goal.

  • Thanks, Jeff!

  • Jeff, another great post. Thank you for sharing “the obvious.” I think most of us need help with “the obvious and simple”  cause we’re intimidated and frustrated by trying to figure out “the obscure and complicated.” 

  • Brilliant post, Jeff. You’re right – there are no secrets to this. You just have to have the guts to ask. So many people fear failure that they say they’re not good enough and don’t even bother to ask. I’m not going to lie and say I’m always as fearless as I should be. But, it’s true that amazing things really do happen when you push the fear of rejection aside and JUST DO IT.

    I’m a big fan of Dale Carnegie. I agree that the title of his book doesn’t sit right with me, but the content is phenomenal. In fact, my mom made me read it in high school. I’ve read it several times since. In fact, it’s one of those books people could stand to read every year. I know I should. 

    So basically, it all boils down to this – be kind and show interest in people, THEN ASK. Simple as that. The strange thing is, it’s so simple yet so many don’t do it. Thanks for the awesome reminder!

    • Well said, Laura. I’m really starting to like you.

  • Great stuff Jeff!  “Asking” has always been the hard part for me.  From thoughts like “not wanting to put anyone out” or “who am I that they would take the time to answer” to the fear of rejection, there has always been a reason not to ask.  I have been learning, slowly, a different way.

    And, I think this is a great perspective for leaders.  To be accessible and willing to answer the question for others – instead of putting ourselves on a pedastool or isolating/insulating ourselves from others.

    • Yep. It’s a good lesson for us all!

  • I consistently want to read your work right away, and I’m never sorry.  And you seem like a good guy.  And I would have liked you better, in high school, than the “cooler” people.

  • Brilliant post, Jeff.  My problem? I talk about myself too much.  The reason?  I’m so desperate to find my purpose in life that it’s become an all consuming fire.  I look at everything through the lens of trying to find God’s purpose for my life.   

    I honestly don’t know how to flip it without finding what I’m looking for…but I don’t know if I can find what I’m looking for without it.

    • Hey Jason, thanks for reading. You might try serving someone else’s dream for a while. Just a thought.

  • Legendary stuff.  Really encouraging.  Thanks for putting yourself out there, and also being so generous with knowledge.  It’s the mark of a great leader and a big heart.

  • I love what you’re doing in this space, Jeff.  Thanks for paving the way and putting up signs as you go.  A true leader…  🙂

  • Very true Jeff. I had a similar opportunity when I had to Contact Woo Theme founder Adii. Its was great talking to him. If only all top bloggers had to share information like you. Networking would be so simple.

    • Thanks, Eddie. I think we should share more of our secrets.

  • I really enjoyed reading this article; your down to earth attitude & straight forward advise.

  • Jeff this is awesome. I think that there is another aspect to be considered in addition to the ask. You have to be believe in what you do so you can confidently make the ask. I believe that passion and belief are the fuel of the ask. Amazing post. You are super hero status. Good work. Thanks for asking. 🙂 

  • Anonymous

    Jeff, this is beautiful to read. Very practical and very encouraging.
    The truth is, it never hurts to ask. The worst that could happen is that they say “no” and then
    you move on. I needed to read this, thanks.

    • I think you’re right — we build up that “no” to make it sound much scarier than it really is.

    • Ekpuwise4000

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  • There it is: the ask.

    How can you NOT love that? In a way, either every ask is a bold ask or it is just an ask. Reducing to its essence. Nicely done!

    Yes, Jeff, it really is all about the art of the ask, isn’t it? If it feels uncomfortable at first, you know that you absolutely MUST do it.



    • Exactly, Peter. Thanks for the comment. I appreciate your using the phrase “art of the ask.” There certainly is art and finesse involved; many of us have been burned by blunt asks. But many more have failed to make an ask in the first place.

  • Fantastic, Jeff. Absolutely fantastic!

  • Anonymous

    This is the great philosophy for all of life, Jeff

    • Thank you, Suzette. I appreciate your reading it.

  • Anonymous

    I like you’re approach.  You have to expect some will say “no” and that’s fine.  The point is to put yourself out there.  

  • The fact that you guest blogged on Michael Hyatt’s blog opened the door for me to know you. You’re the second person who’s written about don’t say no for someone else. I don’t even remember who the first was. I appreciate seeing your openness and honesty followed up by the actions you’ve taken. They map out new territory to explore for so many of us.

  • Samantha

    Great article and blog! I’m a facilitator who helps people gain more self-confidence and better communication skills.  I would like to print this article and use it as a hand-out in my next class. Is that cool with you? Of course I will reference you and your blog. 🙂

    • sure! thanks. send me an email about how it goes, samantha.

  • Bryce

    Outstanding thoughts! Very inspiring for where I’m at in life right now. I journeyed over a few times from a retweet from @dsantistevan. Now I’ve got another blog to subscribe to 😉 Thanks for your thoughts! Looking forward to more!

  • I follow much the same plan you laid out Jeff.  Asking is heavily under rated.  From my chair (working in broadcast media), I find a lot of people make the mistakes you outline in your follow-up post.  

    Often, I’ll accept a friend request on Facebook, say, and before I can blink, the other person is asking for something.  I once heard Chris Brogan suggest that would be akin to meeting someone for the first time and after shaking their hand sticking your tongue in their mouth.  

    And what is it with people I don’t know attempting to connect with me on Facebook or LinkedIn without offering so much as an introduction or a reason they’d like to connect?  There’s a word for that.  Lazy. 

    • Wow, I love that, Jeff. Both the “lazy” part and the “tongue in the mouth” quote from Brogan. Genius!

  • 3Qs

    I totally agree. I tried the asking thing as I had spoken to friends that had always wanted to get around to interviewing people but never did it. On a quiet Tuesday, I took the leap & emailed (graciously) a bunch of people who I admired asked them to answer three questions…and so my little side project was born and people responded. I have been honoured & humbled by the responses & time people put into their answers.

    • Love that. I’m a big fan of interviews!

  • I am self-publishing my first book (https://stayingcrazy.com/) and I have been lucky enough to get some great recommendations from some well-known authors. How? As you said, I just asked. A lot of people never responded and some even said no, but I feel very lucky to have gotten the recommendations I did. And the only way I found out who would give me an endorsement and who wouldn’t was just to ask.

  • Jeff- This is a fantastic post.  I think the idea of simply asking people can apply beyond just famous online superstars.  I’m constantly having to encourage my coaching clients to just ASK their customers if it’s okay to add them to their email lists.  Most of the time, they say yes.  People are so scared to just ask, but more times than not, the answer is YES.

  • Great post, Jeff. 

    In fact, you hit the nail so squarely on the head (ie, illuminating my blind spot), I had to print it out — I’m going to keep this where I can grab for future reference. 

  • Oh man. It’s taking me a while to realize who you are, exactly. The fact that Seth Godin asked you to review Linchpin (an awesome book) and do an exclusive interview…that’s HUGE. And yes, it’s cool that people like him actually answer non-anonymous emails. 

    I’m going to have to start paying more attention to this blog. 🙂

  • Hey Jeff, I’m new to your blog, and just got the chance to read this post.  I REALLY needed to hear this today.  I would definitely fall into the “scared” category.  Working on it though…

    • Thanks for the comment, Mandy. Me, too.

  • Wow, this is something I really needed to hear. I appreciate you, Jeff. You don’t just talk it, you walk it!

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  • Ha–I was waiting with baited breath for some huge secret to be revealed, and it all comes down to something that simple. Ask.  Like so many things in life, our minds create so much mystery around what we don’t know, or have never tried or experienced, and the insecurity takes over.

    Thanks Jeff!

    • most “secrets” are pretty simple, Lynne. 🙂

  • Eliza Huie

    Great advice often never thought of.
    Some leaders make themselves more accessible and therefore win more friend and influence more people. You are very quickly becoming one of these. Thanks for being a real person who traffics with real people.

  • Susan Bailey

    Jeff, you are singing my tune! I think if you’re really immersed in your particular subject, your urgent desire to know more will overcome any shyness about asking. I am an introvert by nature but when I get gripped by something I’m passionate about, I seem to have no trouble reaching out. I’ve kept a blog on my favorite author, Louisa May Alcott, for the last year and have reached out to several authors. They are surprisingly easy to get a hold of and on the whole, seem most happy to talk. I was able to speak to one over the phone, 2 others in person (one happened to live in my town!), and others by email. One author even reached out and contacted me after I mentioned on my blog how much I was enjoying her book, and we’re developing a nice friendship. One author introduced me to an American Library Association project on Alcott and invited me to a conference in Boston where I met lots of interesting people. This lifted my blog to a new level of legitimacy.

    Once I realized that these authors are really just regular folks like me (except they are published), I had no trouble asking. And the thing is too, you are doing them a favor by reaching out. They love to talk about their subject and it gives them extra exposure. You benefit by getting to talk to someone as nuts about your subject as you are! It’s great fun and you make lots of new friends.

    • Thanks Susan!

    • Scorp68scorp

      Susan…Way late on this reply but is it not passion that turns the gears of success ?  I f we will not accept no for an answer then inevitably we will find that person that will give us a “yes”.  Why? Because of our passion for what we believe in.  I can easily say that but wish I was living that(more consistently) on a daily basis.  ”  Successful people do things that others will not do”  Tony Robbins. 

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  • Sherri Strickland

    That’s very enlightening and an affirmation for me personally.  Although I am a novice writer (lets say “not” a writer at this point in time), just today I used this philosophy in my work life.  I e mailed Warren Buffett to ask if he wanted to buy some property I am trying to sell where I live, Myrtle Beach, SC.  I thought, it doesn’t hurt to ask.  If you don’t enter, you dont’ win!  His assistant e mailed back almost immediately that Mr. Buffett would not be interested.  Oh well, but I have a cute story to tell, don’t I?  

  • Jeff, everything you said resonated again with me. Thanks for your clarity. Carnegie’s book is one of my favorites for just the points you laid out.

    • thanks, Dan. It’s fun and empowering to learn how simple this can be.

  • Lia London

    You make me smile, little chubby boy with a guitar.  I won’t beat you up today.  

  • Andrea Lawrence

    You know you’re a mind ninja coaching people here right? Just new thoughts about writing that feel amazing. Love every second of what you’re saying. Really. Glad Meadow linked your stuff. She’s onto something by being onto you. Now so am I!

    • Mind ninja? Do I need to put that on my business card? Thanks, Andrea. 🙂

  • MarinaK

    Hi Jeff, great post! I found your blog today, read a couple of posts and I am already a fan! Thanks for your words & posts!

  • Manpreetkaurahluwalia

    I truly agree with your statements and especially the reasons for not being influential. I want to add that even fear of rejection does not let people take initiative.

  • Isn’t it remarkable how powerful it is getting people to talk about themselves?

    Often we get so caught up in thinking that, before we can influence people, we need to prove something to them by making our achievements known to them. Actually, listening to them is far more important. You’d think that as writers, that fact would be obvious to us. I forget it far too often. Thanks for the reminder, Jeff!

  • I’m guilty of saying “no” for others all too often, and I’m constantly surprised when people say “yes” instead. Especially in the case of simply emailing someone, what’s the worst that could happen? Someone may choose not to respond, but that’s the hardly the end of the world.

  • I run a regular seminar for entrepreneurs.  One aspect I speak about is the “dream board of advisors”.  I get people to make a list of the 5-8 dream advisors they would love to have access to on a regular basis.  I then ask them to pick one on the list and make contact.  I ask them just to say what impact that person has had on their life.  Nothing more.  

    90% of people do not follow up.  They never actually send anything, not even an email.

    It is so difficult to get people to act.

    Those that do act, almost always get positive results.

  • jeanne

    Yes, I agree with you, just ask. It can’t hurt you or them to ask. I read Carnegie’s book years ago when I was new in sales. what he suggests is not manipulative, it’s how we should be to create the best environment for ourselves and those we live with and meet. As a writer and a writing teacher, I am honest with my advice and tips, I  don’t hoard ‘artistic’ secrets, all that I have learned on my journey, I share. Thank you for sharing.

  • Hello

    i believe jeff is probably right. one snag for me is that i loath humankind knowing how selfish and judgemental it is, and i cannot be bothered to pretend that i like it so i never make any friends. im a nice person really, i despise animal cruelty and exploitation (including people) i would help someone if they really needed it, but i have tried it all before, being nice and showing interest in people, and theyve 99% of the time nearly always fucked me over and used me and turned out to be complete cunts. I just cant be bothered with it any more, im quite happy to be a loner and be at the bottom of society but it just annoys me that for some reason were taught that oh its so important to be trying to suck ur way up the social ladder every moment of every day.

    • You sound like you need a friend. I would love to exchange emails with you, if you’d like. I promise not to screw you over. I’m just a dumb girl, nobody special except for the fact that I’m happy with where I’ve ended up in life. But we can be dumb together, if you’re willing to accept my offer. (((hugs)))

  • Hello

    Yes us introverts regularly get treated like the worst garbage about even though sociopaths (the ones responsible for ruining nearly everything on this earth) are normally very sociable and display all that superficial charm and superficial interest that jeff says is so important. They then gain social standing  gain power and then use that power to fuck up the world some more. OH arent you social elites so fucking wonderful.

    • Tough Girl

      I’m curious about whether you exchanged emails with the woman who offered. I just stumbled onto this site by accident and your post caught my attention. I know it’s a year old but I thought I’d try anyway. I hope life has treated you better during that time. It’s true the meek are trampled on, that is a fact. Just some words of understanding and support.

  • Best Seven

    I just signed up for your blog and clicked this link in my inbox. Every word here is true and I can attest to it because I do interviews with all kinds of interesting people–I am published weekly in a local magazine–mostly for kids. People meet me all the time and ask “How did you do that?” and I simply tell them “I asked.” I also could not stand Dale Carnegie’s book and all the people who are out there befriending others for convenience. Yuck! When I finished reading this my reaction was: TOTALLY! Your blog is sure to be one I will get inspired by. Thanks for doing this Jeff.

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  • Perhaps then I’ll start talking to my state’s sierra club representative… I think the other big preventors are fear of what will happen if you do connect, insecurity in how it will go (i.e. “What if I mess up?” mentality), and not being sure what to say once you do break the ice. I don’t know about other people, but those are the big ones for me.


  • Bignoumbas

    I did enjoy reading the lecture it’s very healthy for the brain.

  • Jeff, I love your advice to JUST ASK! I have received reply emails from every writer I’ve approached, always with shock on my end because who would expect a celebrity to be interested in anything *I* have to say? One in particular stays with me always — I reached out to an author whose work had seriously impacted my life, my relationship with my spouse, my very way of processing information on a daily basis… I wrote to thank her, & she wrote back a personal message thanking *me* of all people for letting her know that her words made an impact — then she went on to tell me how much *my* words moved *her*! Amazing! At heart, regardless of our social standing, we are all people longing to be heard. Thank you for pointing this out & refreshing my memory to this lesson.

  • christina brown

    Love this post!  Jumping over from Michael Hyatts blog.

  • C.K.

    Thanks for the great article. I’m still learning how to shut up, and then when verbal, how to ask the right questions, and tell the real experience. 🙂

  • hey thanks for referring to Dale Carnegie and his book. I saw the book the other day on a book shelf at work, and linked to this post from your guest post on Michael Hyatt’s blog. So it was nice to see some thoughts on the book. I totally judged the book by its title.

  • Heidi


    I want to let you know that this blog post has literally changed my life. For the last few weeks, I’ve put your advice into practice and stopped “saying no” on behalf of other people. I’ve started asking (graciously) for people to assist me where they can. 

    As the author of a recently-released book, I’m now walking the precarious path of a promoter/marketer for my book. Even though I am confident in the book, my lack of confidence in its reception was holding me back from taking some of the necessary steps to get the book out there. What you wrote has transformed my approach. Thank you!

    ~Heidi (www.unveiledthebook.com)

  • I agree, but don’t act on this knowledge enough. Things have been changing for me in the last few months though, so I will be asking more often. Taking risks usually work out, but sometimes it’s hard to remember that it’s that easy. Thanks for the great post. Also, just read your “Travel when Young” post and my wife and I are in Italy! First time in Europe for me and so glad we did it.

  • Mrobin

    Well said, thank you for sharing!