It is too easy to ask for less.
“Ask, and you shall receive. Knock, and the door will be opened.”
Most people hate to ask for what they want. For some reason, it can be difficult. Or tedious. Or inconvenient. Or they think that somehow life will just hand it to them.
But the truth is that we nearly always have to ask for whatever we want. No one just gives it to us.
And even if we muster the courage to actually ask for what we want, sometimes we only ask for what we need at the moment or what we think is appropriate. It is a rare person who asks for what they really want.
A great friend, Jerome Vierling, recently reminded me of a story that I heard years ago. It is one of the most impactful and incredible stories I have ever heard.
It takes a special person to ask what the person in the story asks for below.
“Understand: if you are weak and ask for little, little is what you will get.”
— Robert Greene
Many years ago, a great king had conquered land after land. His vast empire extended across continents.
After his conquests concluded, the king desired to show the people in his lands how gracious he was.
To prove how great of a king he was, he picked one day each year to grant requests from his subjects. On this day every year, the king would give each person whatever he or she asked for — no restrictions.
One year, a huge crowd lined up at the king’s palace on this “giving” day. The king sat on his throne, while the king’s aide listened to each request and informed the king.
A middle-aged man walked up to the king’s aide and presented his request.
“Please sir, I am in need of food. I can barely feed our growing family. Life is difficult, and times are tight. Our request is that the king would provide us with enough food to last until the end of the month. At that point, I will be able to earn enough to last throughout the winter.”
The aide listened to the request fully. He then said, “I will ask the king.”
Then the aide walked the distance to the king’s throne and whispered into the king’s ear. The middle-aged man watched closely as the aide stopped whispering. The king slowly nodded.
The aide walked back and said, “Your request has been granted.” The aide motioned for the man to walk to the side. The man, overjoyed, moved forward to receive his gift.
The next man stepped forward. This man was older, with grey hair and a slower walk.
“Kind sir, my wife is sick. She requires a dose of a certain type of medicine in order for her to live peacefully. We have run out of medicine for this month. Is there any way our great king could give me some medicine so my wife can function and live without pain for another month?”
“I will ask the king,” the aide said.
Again, the aide walked to the king and whispered the request into the king’s ear. Another slow nod.
The aide returned, “Your request has been granted.” And the aide motioned for the older man to move forward to receive his request.
A young man walked up to the aide next. This man could not stop moving. He was excited. He kept looking up and around. His excitement quenched his speech for a few moments until the aide gave him a hurried look.
“I want a palace.”
The aide nearly jumped in surprise.
“I want a huge palace — one bigger than the king’s. Every wall will have beautiful artwork. Every hallway will be majestic. And build it right over there, near that hill. With a fountain in the front that has jewels and gems along the side. And I want a large room with spectacular views and a great balcony. I want to host a great party, with the best food and drink in the land.”
The aide was appalled.
“You surely heard the people before you. One asked for money to feed his family. The other asked for medicine for his wife. How can you ask for a palace even greater than the king’s? Ask for something else so you do not offend the king and the others before you.”
“No. I told you what I want. Go ask the king for my request.”
Grudgingly, the aide realized that this man would not change his mind. The aide then walked to the king. He started whispering in the king’s ear, but for a much longer time. The aide explained about the palace, the artwork, the hallways, the fountain, and the party. The aide neared excitement as he anticipated the king’s response to the outrageous request. When the aide finished, the king said something, but then the aide started whispering in the king’s ear again. The king quickly said one more word and then dismissed the aide back to the line.
The aide returned to the line and the man who made the outlandish request.
“The king has granted your request.”
Much later, in a quiet moment when the events of the day had died down, the aide asked the king, “Why did you grant the request for the palace? That request was so much bigger and excessive than any other request.
The king answered quickly.
“Nearly every person here asks for food, medicine, shelter, or whatever he or she needs at the moment. But I am the most powerful person this world has ever known. My resources are incredible. My wealth is nearly infinite. My realm extends farther than anyone knows. I can easily grant every single request that is made. But when this man made his request, his request was the first request that made me feel like a king. So I granted his request, like all of the others. If I can give, I will.”
“An educated person is one who can achieve anything he or she wants without violating the rights of others.”
— Napoleon Hill
I realize that the above story has multiple interpretations.
Many people only ask for what they think they need at the moment. Most people have a limit on what they will ask for. And most people fail to embrace what the full upside of asking.
I have seen so many examples of people who demand more from life‒and get more in return. If you do not demand more, then you will never receive more.
Here is what I believe.
- If you are going to dream, dream big.
- If you are going to play a game, compete to win.
- If you are going to live, live to become the best that you can become.
Because if you do not use your gifts and talents, then you will lose them.
But I also believe this: not every desire that we have is healthy. We must run the intention through a set of filters.
Filter 1. First, ask whether the desire fits within our moral code and purpose. Does the desire hurt anyone else? Will the desire hurt someone I love? Does the desire honor my purpose in life?
Filter 2. Second, ask whether you are willing to work to achieve what you want. Are you willing to do more than just ask? Are you willing to put as much (or more) work than anyone else to chase down your desire? If you’re not willing to do the work, then don’t expect a return.
Together, let’s ask big.
Together, let’s aim high.
Together, let’s move forward, with the attitude of the third person.
Run the requests through the filters. Then act. Then get to work.
That’s my plan.