Asking for help has never been a personal strength.
My problem here isn’t typically in the asking, though;
more often, the problem is much more foundational than that.
In order to ask for help, I must first admit I do not have–and maybe cannot alone locate–the answers.
(Nooooooooooo! Not that! Never that!)
At work a couple weeks back, I encountered a small but impactful technical issue I couldn’t resolve. I spent a couple of hours independently consulting search engines in futile search of a workable solution before twin understandings dawned on me:
- I am not going to figure this out solo in an acceptable-to-me timeframe.
- There is probably someone here who already knows how to do this!
Having experienced this astonishing revelation, I searched for and quickly found just such a person. Said person not only had the answer (“Change it at the destination, not the source, just like this!”), but was also so friendly, my spirits were lifted by the conversation.
I felt certain there was a broader lesson in all this, but I wasn’t
clear on what.
In the wee hours of yesterday morning,
I found myself puzzling over a certain situation. After a few months of independent trouble-shooting there, I felt maddeningly further than ever from understanding a solution.
After some consideration, it struck me:
Holy crap! This is one of those situations where the thinking that created the problem literally cannot also resolve it!
In other words: If I could have thought my way to a solution on my own, I would have done it already!
Fundamentally, I saw, this was just like my recently resolved technical issue at work:
With my limited technical skills in the arena, I didn’t need to keep trying to solve the problem alone. Rather, to actually get it solved, I saw I needed to avail myself of the wisdom of someone who already has the requisite skills (ones which, if I’m completely honest, are unlikely to be ones in which I ever excel).
Relieved to have identified this reasonable next step, I texted my best friend.
Lucky for me, he had a few minutes to talk.
On the phone, I quickly explained the situation to him. For this post’s purposes, I’ll summarize it thusly:
I’m currently up against some serious sort-and-filter limitations within my personal wiring, leaving me failing–abysmally, and for months–to locate a specific piece of information it’s important for me to first locate and then communicate. Failing to locate it in the first place, I cannot possibly communicate it.
After giving him this background, I said, “I feel like it’s maybe this one thing?” I shared the thing.
Having known me for 25 years, he said kindly that he didn’t even understand what I was trying to say as I’d said it. So he asked me a few questions to get clearer what I meant before then saying, “I think what you’re after is …” and then nailing it with two short sentences that just immediately felt right to me.
We talked for thirteen minutes, y’all.
I could not accomplish in months of solo contemplation what my best friend could help me do in thirteen minutes.
Thirteen minutes. One. Three.
Man, oh, man.
Twice in two weeks, I was blessed to have the sense to know I needed help and then actually ask for it.
Far from being frustrating or awkward, the reaching-out felt, in each case, full of connection and full of grace.
With all this reverberating in mind and heart this early morning, I find that …
It may not be so bad not to have all the answers myself, after all.
In fact, it seems my life is apt to be fuller, and happier, if I can learn to more quickly distinguish those problems I can solve solo from those I cannot,
and then, in the latter cases,
simply lean into the joy of discovering
some of the amazing things
the people around me
happy to share