04/25 2011

The Challenge (and Reward) of Asking Others For Help

Why is it so hard to ask others for help?

That is a question I ask myself a lot. But I was reminded of this conundrum when I read a chapter from Bonnie St. John’s Live Your Joy the other night. In her book, she references another author, Ken Kragen, who served as manager to Trisha Yearwood and other country superstars. His advice, she says, is “a successful career is really a result of the collective efforts of a great number of people….”

Asking others for help, however, isn’t all about career. And our reluctance to seek help may have something to do with how our lives got started.

Harkening back to childhood

I grew up in a single parent household, and many times – whether it was cooking dinner, cleaning the house or preparing for school – I had to fend for myself. With a full-time job and other responsibilities around the home, my mom didn’t have time to hand hold me through all aspects of my day. She had a courageous way of surviving, and her unspoken mantra was: “We don’t need anyone’s help; we can do ourselves.” As a child who was naturally independent and strong-willed, I adhered to this advice proudly. I probably still do, unknowingly.

What lessons did your parents teach you?

Moving onto career

Have many time through the course of your career have you said to yourself: “I’m going to do this task myself, because I’ll get it done better and faster than if I hand it off to someone else to carry out.”

This strategy works for a while, as we prove to be a shining star amongst our peers. Then one day we realize we’ll get no sleep and have no personal life if we don’t learn to delegate. Climbing the corporate ladder is much easier, and just as gratifying, if we rely on a collective team.

Ironically, I’m re-learning this lesson as an entrepreneur. So much of the life of an entrepreneur can be characterized by hard work, fighting through adversity and boot strapping operations. It feels counterintuitive to reach out to others for support, encouragement, advice and even “muscle.” With help from others, however, our chances of success are higher, not to mention the likelihood of retaining our sanity.

Learning the lesson for life

I think many women were born with the caretaking gene. If dirty clothes are lying on the floor, we pick them up. If a child needs bathing, we give them a shower. If food is molding in the fridge, we throw it out. If the dogs are bouncing off the walls, we take them for a walk.

I was late to the whole family/marriage thing, so I was accustomed to taking care of the home chores. But as I continue to learn to live with others, I am reminded that seeking help from others is beneficial for all. Cooperation helps bury resentment and builds a collective a more peaceful environment for all.

If we all play on the same team and distribute the ball evenly, without a lot of ball hogging, we’re far more likely to win games.

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