When I was working for UNITE, I would travel across the country teaching haircutting classes, styling courses, coordinating regional events, and participating in hair shows. In anticipation to these travels I would always need to find models to showcase the hair trends on. As a team we would us tools like social media, talent management companies, and good old’ Craigs List to find models. However, we couldn’t offer to pay the models. I would have all the models scheduled and once arriving a few, or sometimes all, of the models would cancel. This happened numerous times! Twenty-four hours (or less) until a class or a huge event and no models to showcase the hair on.
In these moments we would be desperate and resort to asking random people on the street to be a hair model.
Atlanta, Georgia 2013, my colleague and I are standing in front of a Trader Joe’s, desperate to find six models for a three-hour workshop the following day. As we stand in front of the store looking at all the people walking in and out, I am terrified to approach random strangers and ask for their help. I was confronted with two choices. The first choice would be to give up, which was not an option! Or the second choice, ask for help.
My colleague and I sought out the most ideal models, woman ages 18-35, attractive, and most importantly, a beautiful head of hair. Diving deep into fear I start approaching women with hesitation and anxiety, starting by saying something along the lines of, “Excuse me. My name is Daniel Hill and I work for a company called UNITE, we are hosting a hair show tomorrow and our models have cancelled on us. Would you be interested in donating your time to be a hair model for us?”
Some people would walk on by as if we didn’t exist, others would stop and listen and politely decline, but surprising more than half of the women we asked were interested and more than happy to donate their time and hair to the show. In less than an hour we found all six models and two women on standby in case anyone fell through.
The next day all six of the models we found in the Trader Joes parking lot showed up and let us do whatever we wanted with their hair.
Fast forward a few months to New York City. I was working a full day workshop, beginning with a morning demonstration that lasted three hours and an evening demo that lasted another three hours with a two-hour break in between the segments. Thank goodness for that break because we had models cancel and needed to find gals for that evening slot.
Yet again, a colleague and I are walking the streets asking for help, with 30 minutes until the next demo we still needed a model to cut a bob haircut on. We returned back to the venue to give them an update and they said you still have time to find a model, get back out there and keep asking. As we enter the elevator, we noticed that there were two floors above us, we decide to take a risk and ask the businesses within this skyscraper. One level up and we are in the office of an interior design firm. We talk to the receptionist and tell her about our predicament, she says no one in the office could help us out. We thank her for her time and call the elevator. A tall, slender woman in her early 30’s with beautiful natural chestnut brown hair cascading down her back stops us and says she would be willing to help. I tell her that the artist wants to showcase a chin length bob, with her gorgeous long hair I thought she’d change her mind and say no, instead she says, “Let me grab my things and I’ll follow you down.”.
I worked for UNITE for nearly a decade and when I was on the road, I had the pleasure to work with so many beautiful people, but I will never forget the kindness of these strangers. When the chips were down and I had nothing to lose I extended my hand to strangers and said, “Will you help me?”
I was with UNITE from 2008-2018, I asked random strangers to be our models from San Diego, California to New York City and everywhere in between. Most of the people I spoke with were willing to help, whether it was being a model for us or giving our number to friends and family members.
There is something profoundly special about this experience, walking the streets, buildings, bars, and restaurants asking people, “Please can you help?” These people had no reason to trust us, but we trusted them to help us out. They all saw something in our request, they recognized that I couldn’t do my task, I couldn’t do my job alone, I needed help.
We are all trying to achieve the same goals in life and obtain the same basic needs, safety, security, love and belonging, esteem, self-actualization, self-transcendence. These needs cannot be meet alone, perhaps at times they can be, but help and assistance maybe required to complete a task or move onto the next phase in life.
We are taught to ask for help, this is why we have group projects in high school, to learn to work together to accomplish a task, or why we ask for letters of recommendations to get that scholarship or a job.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength and confidence. Falling into the arms of random strangers is an act of courage and vulnerability, it shows that you want to succeed and will achieve that by the means of collaborating with another to help ensure your success. We all want to succeed and most people will recognize and empathize with that desire and be willing to help.
There is no special art form behind asking for help, if there is passion, honesty, and authenticity behind your request, my sense is you’ll be surprised by how your friends, colleagues, family, or random strangers on the street will go above and beyond to assist you. You can see this in so many cases, from how crowd sourcing platforms operate, to social media influencers asking for donations to non-profits, and of course how community members rally together in moments of crisis.
As an individual you are not exempt from the kindness of others, if you need something don’t be afraid to say, “I need help, can you help me?”.
To learn more about The Art of Asking, check out our friend, Amanda Palmers book The Art of Asking.
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