5 min read

The Gift of Help

The Gift of Help
“I've never found anybody who didn't want to help me when I've asked them for help.” - Steve Jobs

Why is it hard to ask for help?

Because it means we must be seen. Not just physically, but also mentally & emotionally. This person, who might be able to help us, will see things no one else will. And that’s scary. They can easily judge, criticize, and even hurt us with just their attention alone. A spotlight on all the internal conflict & dissonance that we work so hard to hide from the world.

Asking for help means forcing change upon ourselves. We are inviting others to our world and opening it all up to them. They can see our dirty laundry and all the stuff left out in disarray.

Our willingness to open up seems to be heavily influenced by our mindsets.

People who grew up with a growth mindset likely find asking for help easy. Fixed mindsets try to get it all right before even asking. It’s this fixed-ness that makes it hard to ask for help. It's like being trapped in a vat of newly-poured concrete, and needing it to completely dry before asking for help. That doesn't make any sense. Don't do that. Ask for help early.

I think we all have certain proportions of growth & fixed mindsets within us.

Here is a story that illustrates my point:

Parable of the drowning man

A man was trapped in a flood, and as the water rose, he climbed onto his roof. He prayed to God to save him. Soon, a neighbour in a rowboat came by and offered help. The man refused, saying, "God will save me." The water continued to rise, and a rescue team in a motorboat arrived, but he again refused, insisting that God would save him. Finally, a helicopter came, but the man still declined assistance, remaining steadfast in his belief. Eventually, the water engulfed the house, and the man drowned.

Upon reaching Heaven, the man asked God why He hadn't saved him. God replied, "I sent you a rowboat, a motorboat, and a helicopter. You refused all the help I provided."

The man on the roof had a very fixed mindset about the type of help he needed. And when God said, "Damn Bro, you missed all that help I sent." I bet he was feeling rather foolish.

Say YES to the part of you that needs help

So it’s a mixed bag. We are fixed on certain things. We are growth-oriented in others. If you’re lucky, you’re growth-oriented on the things that matter most to you.

But oftentimes, that’s not the case. Why?

Because oftentimes the things that matter most to us, our hopes, dreams, and ambitions sit on the other side of fear & change. And we normally stay away from the things that scare us. It’s a matter of biology. Our fixedness finds comfort at the base of the rainbow when our heart seeks to soar across the sky.

And if our time on this planet is short. Why wouldn’t we be following our hearts? Why wouldn’t we want to make the next step toward our dreams?

This is where asking for help can help get you sky bound if nothing else works.

Help saves time

This is what help looks like. It’s a teaspoon of humility, a tablespoon of self-awareness, a cup of courage, and a dash of optimism.

It’s not easy to muster up the courage to reach out. But it will save you lots of time. Imagine trying to publish a book without the support of a publishing house. Imagine trying to start a business with no co-founders to support you. Imagine trying to move to a new house all by yourself. They’re all-time sucks without support.

Asking for help is a way to tap into networks of experience, knowledge, and energy that you wouldn’t find without incredible investments of your own time.

Why reinvent the wheel when you can just use the “wheels” other people have already made?

Help builds relationships

What do you do & how do you feel when other people ask you for help?

Reflect on that for a second.

You’re unlikely to give this person a cold shoulder. You’ll probably be happy that someone is asking you, yes you, for help. Maybe honoured even.

Why wouldn’t that be the case when YOU ask for help from someone else? Is it not likely that they will feel good, honoured, and happy in the same way you do?

Is it possible that helping other people is a biological human process? I think so.

Helping one another is a major part of sustaining relationships. Asking for & giving help is the currency that makes communities work. We live in networks of mutual help and aid.

So long as the ask is reasonable, isn’t a burden on the other, and comes from a sincere place, then asking for help is a superpower.

Giving help feels good! So give others the opportunity to feel good by asking for their help.

Help increases luck

When you ask for help, especially in your intellectual pursuits, you open the door to experiencing serendipity. Just from asking for help, a chain reaction of effects I cannot even begin to understand start to unravel.

You’ll find life-changing advice, connections, and knowledge in exchange for your sincere ask.

By asking for help, you become seen by other people. Most people don’t even ask for help. They fear even making the attempt, so they never get stuff done.

People who ask for help get stuff done.

Fortune favours those that ask.

A caveat

Don’t just expect another person, especially very busy people to go out of their way to help you.

You must first come correct. Show that you really care & are intensely passionate about whatever you need help doing. Show that their help is going to actually move things forward. And make a painstaking effort to keep them in the loop when you actually follow through.

You’ve got to give them a reason to care. And that reason may as well be the motive that is driving you to move forward. Show that.

You might also get a ton of “No’s”. And that’s okay. Don’t expect help. Ask for it and see what happens.

Ask just 1 person for help a day…

Here’s a challenge. Every day for the next 30 days, ask 1 person for help on something that matters to you. Maybe it’s a project or a work thing. Find people you admire in your networks or Twitter, and ask them for help. Start with a really short ask. Something as simple as "Hey! I would love it if you took a look at what I am doing... Would love your thoughts."

Apply & really follow through on whatever they suggest.

Make it easy for them to invest in you.

After 30 days, reflect on the new ideas, people, and outcomes you’ve accomplished. Share what you learned with those that help you and you'll be on your way to accomplishing amazing things.

Some extra reading:

Why asking for help is hard, but people want to help more than we realize | Stanford News
We underestimate just how willing people want to assist others and how positive they feel about doing so.