How to Apply the Art of Asking
And How I Got My Professional Dragon Wrangler Photos
Asking is scary because it gives people the opportunity to reject you. But sometimes asking opens up possibilities that you never could have imagined.
At first, I considered my experience as an actual dragon wrangler in an exotic animal hospital as a separate part of my life from my writing and entrepreneuring. But it’s hard to stand out in a sea of bajilions of other writers. As I struggled to become a unique part of the community, I wondered if tying in my real-life dragon wrangling with my identity as a writer of dragon stories would be worth trying.
I did, and it seemed to fit well. At least I enjoyed talking about that other side of things and the occasional pictures I posted of my reptile buddies got lots of interaction.
But I soon discovered a problem with this cool new part of my branding. As I developed my expert positioning statement and submitted various versions for critique, I discovered that the term Dragon Wrangler was more confusing and off-throwing than unique and wonderful.
I was reading The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer at the same time as discovering this confusion, and a fantastic idea popped into my head: What if I had pictures on my website of myself in the business clothes I would wear to speak on stage but with a real lizard perched on my shoulder?
Not only would it at least help a little to tie things together, but it would be memorable and help me stand out in a fun, unexpected way.
But I didn’t have the kinds of dragons I would need for this in my own home. At the time I only had a small chameleon that I was fostering for an exotic animal rescue. I would need some more models.
I thought about who I knew with large pet lizards, and was surprised to realize that I didn’t actually know that many people, despite my fascination and experience working with them.
So a crazy idea came to me. What if I reached out to a general pool of reptile people in a Facebook group for local reptile enthusiasts?
Immediately part of me shot this idea down. Reach out to people I don’t know? About borrowing their lizard so I could get some cool pictures?
There were some problems to overcome with the idea, like the fact that it was December in Indiana and much too cold to take exotic reptiles outside for a photoshoot, which would mean I would need to go to peoples’ houses. Inside the houses of strangers. Not only is it a bit risky to meet random strangers in their houses, but what random strangers whose houses would be okay to visit would want a random stranger coming inside?
I was also worried that people would think that I thought I was all that to want to get this photography of myself done. And that reptile owners would be concerned about spreading germs between different lizards in different households if I didn’t do a complete clothes change in between each house.
And I recognized the likelihood that I could get bitten by one or more of these lizards, which could get infected, and could result in losing a limb or death. Ever notice how imaginative Resistance can make your brain be when it wants to talk you out of a good opportunity? (For the scoop on Resistance and kicking its butt, read The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield. Like, right now. Go buy it. Right now.)
Because I knew about how Resistance works from reading The War of Art , I knew that the fear and desire to forget about the idea that I felt meant that I should definitely pursue it.
So I found ways to address these issues.
Fear about spreading germs: I asked each lizard owner if they felt that me changing my shirt and washing my hands between locations would be enough to prevent the spread of any germs between different lizards, and they all agreed that it would.
Fear of getting bitten and losing a limb: I packed a first aid kit with bandaids, gauze, bandage wrap, hydrogen peroxide, and neosporin.
Fear about going into strangers’ houses: I started with people I knew personally. I didn’t know as many as I would have thought, but I did know several. Then I asked them if they had any friends with pet lizards because a friend of a friend is safer than a total stranger.
I had a list of a few great lizards this way, but none of the larger species I was hoping to find. So armed with perhaps a little over confidence from reading The Art of Asking, I posted in several facebook groups about what I was looking for, knowing that most people I heard from would be complete strangers, but giving it a try.
I ended up getting ignored by most people (honestly I would ignore some random person wanting to come into my house and take pictures of my pets, too) but a few awesome lizard owners responded and agreed to let my photographer and I come to their house with our equipment and get some pictures.
It was an interesting experience and we were a little freaked out when the first location was pretty far out in the country, but we met several amazing people and had a great time.
We met Susan, who’s leachianus geckos and crested geckos are in the first two pictures.
In the third picture is a white-throated monitor who lives with the Exotic Tails Rescue Center along with the green iguanas in the next photos.
Tree Weasel the water dragon, who belongs to my friend Kylie, tried to make a run for it.
Emily's Gus Gus the blue-tonged skink refused to show his tongue that matched my book covers, but did pose for a few pictures.
And we finished off the day of driving all over Indiana to various lizard locations with a visit to Doom the bearded dragon, who belongs to my friend Kameron.
So yes, it was a little weird to drive all over Indiana and borrow stranger’s lizards for photos, but it was fun and they had fun and we got some great pictures out of it.
Hopefully they will help make my brand memorable at least, even if they don’t help with the confusion about what the term dragon wrangler means here.
So if you haven’t already, tell me in the comments what’s something you’ve been putting off asking for that you can finally take action for now? A mentor you look up to but don’t want to bother? A friend to beta read your book and give you feedback?
Whatever it is, I bet it’s no crazier than asking strangers to visit their houses and borrow their lizards, so go for it! And if it is crazier, you really need to tell me about it in the comments!