When’s the last time you asked somebody for help? It could be learning a skill, advice in a difficult situation, or even financial support. Whatever it was, do you remember how you felt when you asked? Were you embarrassed, scared, or were you empowered?
I'd describe myself as a “proud person”. I take great pride in my work, relationships, and accomplishments. One thing I’m not proud of however, is my attitude towards asking for help. Perhaps it’s this unshakable romantic idea of “going it alone”, like a modern-day cowboy, but I perceive asking others for help as a sign of weakness. But, is it?
In a literal sense, admitting I’m incapable of doing something myself does reveal a weakness, but who’s actually better off in the long run, the person who ultimately achieves his goal with help, or the one who’s stuck, too proud to admit he needs assistance? You see, maintaining an image of strength is nice, but you must also weigh the costs of managing such a reputation. There’s no trophy for suffering in silence.
Asking Others Takes Strength
I’m all about finding my own solutions to my problems. Whatever it is, I’m usually the first to crawl the Internet for information. Sometimes I lose hours reading obscure papers and articles, just so I can feel more informed about a particular subject. It’s not that I distrust other people completely, but I tend to be very skeptical and reserved in who I actually trust. Once I trust you, I shut up and listen whole-heartedly. Until that point though, I can be stubbornly independent.
There’s an African Proverb, perhaps you’ve heard before, that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” As far back as I can remember, I’ve always focused on that first sentence. How can I go faster? How can I be more independent? Lately, I’ve been thinking about the second sentence—how can I bring more people into my life? More specifically, how can I tap the knowledge and experience of others to help me in my own endeavors?
You can, in fact achieve more when you involve other people. There’s no doubt in my mind. Additionally, there are usually always some unpredictable synergistic effects from assembling a cohesive team of like-minded individuals. The strengths balance the weaknesses and together the entire group wins (see Nash Equilibrium).
On Deciding Who To Trust
Once I realized I should involve more people in my life and work, I still had the problem of discerning whom I can actually trust. Maybe there are lingering intrinsic psychological issues for my skepticism, but I rarely if ever blindly assume everyone has my best interests at all times. As I mentioned before, I’m not particularly proud of that—not that I should always assume people are willing to help, but I know I discredit more people than necessary.
The symbiotic relationships between humans are one of biology’s gifts to mankind. How else, if not through cooperation and communication have we come to dominate the food chain? You see, when others have interest in your success, you instantly increase the odds of achieving your goals. That’s why support groups, forums, and accountability buddies, are so effective. Protecting your pride once again becomes a motivator. In other words, if I have people counting on me, I’m less likely to disappoint.
Professional boxers have corners. The “corner” consists of trainers, physicians, promoters, even celebrities—none of whom are in the ring fighting, but all play some small part in the boxer’s victory. If you get cut, you go to your corner and they fix it. Don’t think you can pull off the win? Listen to your corner. I like this concept, having a trusted support corner for just the right moments.
Who would you want in your corner? How do you build one? In writing this, it’s become clear that the easiest way to find these people and invite them into your life is to simply be more open-minded. Previously, my thinking on trust has been binary. But you don’t have to share your deepest secrets right away. You only need to lean a little and see if that someone pushes back. In time, this relationship can build.
Why I Need Your Help
I need your help. There, I admit it. I want to spread this message with as many people as possible. If you’re already comfortable asking other people for help, that’s wonderful, I commend your bravery. But if you’re like me and feel pressure to exemplify the image of solitary strength, my hope is that you’ll find comfort in reading this story.
If you have examples, big or small, of ways other people have positively impacted your life, I’d love to hear from you. Can you remember the last time you really opened up to someone? If not, that’s totally fine and perhaps with a little help from friends, you can turn these “weaknesses” into strengths. It calls for tremendous courage to want to discover your limits—something I strive to practice every day. But I know I can’t do it by myself, so that’s why I’m asking for your help.