Opportunity does not always knock

My folks had a strange rule when I was being brought up: I was taught that it was rude to ask for things. Now, I’m sure the *idea* was to teach me not to whine about want­ing treats and so forth when out in the store, for instance, but it exten­ded to ask­ing for treats any­where. If we were at someone’s house, I wasn’t to ask for some­thing to eat, but wait to be offered. The res­ult was that as I grew up, I con­tin­ued to believe it was rude of me to ask for what I wanted.

And of course that is not a good rule. It is cer­tainly not some­thing I passed on to my own chil­dren. If you don’t ask for what you want, or advoc­ate for your­self, and just wait for things to fall into your lap, you are going to be a dis­ap­poin­ted person.

I remem­ber the first time I broke free of this rule.

At the end of my third year of university—I was 20—I was part of a tour­ing per­form­ance group with singer Ann Mor­ti­fee as our guest star. In our Cana­dian per­form­ance, before going on tour, Ann sang the John Denver/Julio Iglesias duet, Per­haps Love, with a gen­tle­man whose name I don’t recall. That fel­low did not, how­ever, join us on the tour. On the plane the dis­cus­sion about the song came up between Ann and the Dir­ector and Pro­du­cer of the show. It seemed they hadn’t given any thought to the lack of duet part­ner for Per­haps Love. Now, I was sit­ting nearby, over­hear­ing this con­ver­sa­tion, and think­ing to myself, I can do it. I play the Dove of Peace, so it would even make sense in the show for me to do it. Hey folks! I’m sit­ting right here! I can sing the song with Ann! 

I was think­ing those thoughts so loudly I figured they had to hear me. I sat there wait­ing to be noticed. Wait­ing for them to think of me. Because I had been taught all my life to wait until a thing was offered.

Then I heard them say, “I guess we’ll have to cut that song.”

?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

It hit me like a bus in that moment that I wanted to sing that duet with Ann, and that nobody was going to think of it. If I didn’t put myself for­ward, it was not going to happen.

I was nervous and shak­ing as I got up out of my seat on the plane and approached the small group. They looked up at me, and I said the All Import­ant Words: “I could sing it with her.”

Of course they agreed! “That’s a great idea,” they said. Ann and I had a short rehearsal once we got to our hotel, and then I sang Per­haps Love with her for every other performance.

That was a huge les­son for a shy kid who had never really advoc­ated for myself before. I didn’t become an instant expert at ask­ing for what I want, but I con­tin­ued to try, and got bet­ter at it over the years. I am much bet­ter at it now!