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Ist Dieser Platz Frei? The Courage to Ask for What You Want

Do you have the twenty seconds of insane courage it would take to ask “Ist dieser platz frei?” at one of these tables?


The summer after college graduation a good friend and I got train passes and wandered around Europe. In Germany, we were surprised the first time someone came up to our table and, putting his hand on the back of an empty chair, asked: “Ist dieser platz frei?” Is this seat taken?

That struck us as a very civilized thing to do, to share your table with a total stranger. Something that is rarely done in America, partly because we lack the twenty seconds of insane courage (that great line from the movie We Bought a Zoo) to simply walk up to a stranger and ask to be included.

The concept behind “Ist dieser platz frei?” is infinitely adaptable. Variations include:
Is Saturday night available for me to take you to a movie?

I’ve always dreamed of visiting Iceland – is there room for one more person on the trip you’re planning?

Is there a space in for my new book in your publisher’s line? (Fear of asking this question kills many a would-be author’s dreams in the cradle.)

Will you help me keep a promise that I’ve made to myself? (This is a key purpose of the Values Coach PledgePartner Agreement.)

Can I help you help your leadership team build a more positive Culture of Ownership by weaving our course on values-based life and leadership skills into your cultural DNA? (Reply to this email if you’d like to learn more about that.)
In their book The Aladdin Factor, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen riff on the theme of the little boy who finds a magic lamp inhabited by a magic genie who will grant him three wishes. They say that if you ask the right question of the right person at the right time, the answer will always be Yes. If you ask for what you want and the answer is No, then they say that you need to change the variables – and keep asking until you get all three to line up.

But you never know until you ask.

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