I have a childhood memory of saying “I can do it myself”. That strategy worked well when I was two years old and I was learning how to tie my shoelaces. But that strategy doesn’t always work now. My life works better when I ask for help, but I still find that the three hardest words to say are “I need help”.
I know some people who need help right now, but they are unable (or unwilling) to ask for it. There is something in our culture (at least there was) that makes asking for help a shameful activity. We have a thread of cultural DNA that says “I am a pioneer, I am self-made, I don’t need help from anyone or anything”. Asking for help is seen as a sign of weakness in our culture.
That’s nonsense. People with big responsibilities have “ask for help” baked into their job descriptions. CEOs have Boards of Directors, and Presidents and Prime Ministers have Cabinets. Boards of Directors and Cabinets are there to provide advice and help.
I need help clearing the roads if there is a blizzard. I need help with traffic control if there is a six-car accident ahead of me. I need help with trash pickup, electric and gas service, car repair, income tax preparation, and colonoscopies. I can’t do any of those by myself.
It’s not only tasks that I need help with. I also need help with decision making. I can make some incredibly bad decisions all by myself. I still have the capacity to think that I know better than everyone else. One example of this is that when I was younger, I decided that I didn’t need to change the oil in my car. I ignored the light on the dashboard for several months. (Imagine the expression on the face of the mechanic when he pulled the dipstick out of the engine and there was no oil on the dipstick). After making a bad decision like that, one of my friends used to ask me “how is that working for you?” So I’ve learned to ask for help in my life.
If CEOs and world leaders can ask for help, I should be able to ask for help too. A paradox in my life is that things work much better when I ask for help, but I don’t want to. Think about that for a minute. I don’t want to do something that works really well for me.
I need help.