My life experiences generally fall into two categories: the times I asked for help and the times I wish I had.
I remember when I first began to note the difference. I was in a bind, trying to figure out how to implement a new idea. I worked very hard on it but felt outside of myself. In a moment of panic, I made a phone call that changed my life.
The person on the other line was someone I deeply respected. They knew me and my idea just enough to provide encouragement. Perhaps I could have figured out the details on my own, but at the moment, I had driven myself into desperation. This busy person dropped what they were doing to help me. I did not lead the conversation with my vulnerability because I wanted to pretend like I had the perfect plan. Yet in a rare moment, I expressed my faltering confidence.
This person shot right back: There are a million mistakes to make in the process; the only failure is not learning from them.
The clarity of this declaration changed my life. So much so, I can tell you exactly where I was sitting when a mind-shift began.
Over time, I began to accept that asking for help early often leads to better outcomes. Here are three discoveries that I learned to accept the hard way, and I offer them in hopes that others won’t have to:
- Everyone makes mistakes. Welcome to the human race.
- If we are going to make mistakes, then it makes sense to know which mistakes are worth making, and which mistakes we want to avoid. Asking for help is a faster way to learn.
- People have valuable experiences and unique insight that we can tap into. Many are happy to share, if only someone sincerely asks for it.
Asking for help is hard simply because it is hard. The best thing we can do is get over it. We can get over it by doing it, and seeing the results. Besides, why wait for desperation? Every moment is a chance to take a new path.
The power of asking for help is also seemingly multiplied by the number of people we can ask directly. Sometimes, it comes down to asking the right person who we can trust will understand. We may want to seek help from diverse people with very different expertise. Each helper can open more doors than any one person can achieve alone. My favorite is asking people who think differently than I do. They often surprise.
Finally, when it comes time to act, it is best to follow through. You are not alone. Remember the process. The only failure is not learning.
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