How to make an apple pie: First, get a stove.
A similarly overlooked first step:
I've written before about the Ron Santo Rule of Communication, which states that people should ask for what they want.
I called it the Ron Santo Rule, because for many consecutive years, when the Hall of Fame ballot came up, Chicago reporters went to Ron Santo, a radio announcer and a longtime star Cub third baseman, and asked him how he was feeling about his chances of getting in. Santo, who had lost both legs to diabetes, more or less cried out in agony every year: He wanted so badly to be voted into the Hall, he believed he deserved to be in, and he was trying not to get his hopes up for the umpteenth straight year of crushing disappointment (Santo retired in 1975 and this went on until he died in 2010). Then, every year, he wouldn't get in, and the reporters would drag their cameras back, and Santo would wail again. Maybe next year.
People loved Santo—not despite the guileless enthusiasm with which he played …
… and with which he lived. People like people who ask directly for what they want—partly because we're all so used to dealing with people who ask for one thing when they really want another—and want to do their best to give it to them.
My daughter Scout has figured this out.
Yesterday my wife and I were at Scout's parent-teacher conferences. She's in sixth grade, so we had to see four teachers—science, social studies, reading and math. Lots of waiting for these brief encounters. At one point, we'd seen three out of the four. Scout has all As. Did we really need to wait around to talk to the math teacher?
"Yes!" Scout said.
"Why?" we said, hungry and hot and tired of being there.
"Because she's going to say a bunch of nice things about me, and I want you guys to hear it."
"But we already know it."
"Yes, but I want you to hear her say it, while I'm sitting there."
"Look! I've worked really hard and I just want you to listen to my teacher saying good things about me!"
What, pray tell, is the proper retort to that?
Ron Santo's sleeve-sewn heart didn't get him into the Hall of Fame in this life—he was inducted posthumously—but it won him the adoration of millions of baseball fans and almost everyone in Chicago, a love that kept him on the radio until the end, despite his rather thin talent as a color announcer.
And yeah, we waited around to hear Mrs. Novak tell us what a delight it is to have Scout in class.
All on account of the oft-forgotten Ron Santo Rule of Communication.