As my regular readers know, my husband and I have spent the past month moving from our former home in Woodstock, New York to a new one in the Seattle area. It's come with a lot of firsts for me. First time driving all the way across the country. First time traveling long distance with cats. First time sleeping in a camper van, in a campground which could be quite pleasant. First time sleeping in a camper van in a truck stop, which I don't need to ever do again.
But one of the biggest firsts was this: Never in my life have I asked for or accepted so much help from so many different people. There's my stepson, who arrived with his best friend to move heavy furniture. There's the friend back in Woodstock who is helping get our house ready and rented. There are the members of my writing group, who gave up a Sunday evening to come over and pack our most fragile objects in bubble wrap.
Once on the road, one friend in Cleveland provided meals, rides, showers, and a memorable tour of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Another friend took us to lunch in Lincoln, and a third tracked us down in North Bend near Snoqualmie Pass to welcome us to the Pacific Northwest. And there are the friends whose house I'm sitting in right now as I write this, who've offered us shelter till we find a place of our own.
Without all these friends and their support, as well as many others I haven't mentioned, this move would have been impossible. And, frankly, I'm uncomfortable with that. I'd much rather think I can manage everything on my own.
It was good to learn that I can't because sooner or later everyone needs to ask for and receive help. If it's as hard for you as it is for me, I encourage you to start practicing now. Ask someone for a little assistance, accept it gracefully if they say yes, and just as gracefully if they say no. It's a skill you need to build up. Here's why:
1. Sooner or later, you won't have a choice.
Even if you've bootstrapped you way to success, even if you're a solopreneur, the day will come when you need to ask someone for help. I don't know about you, but I have an extremely hard time doing that, and when I do it comes out very awkward. Practice would make this a lot smoother.
2. Helping benefits the helper.
If you've ever helped anyone with anything, you know what I'm talking about. Helping someone generates a warm glow that can make you feel really good. Helping someone with your expertise gives you a chance to show how smart you are and can even benefit your career. Helping someone with a loan or investment can pay off as well.
Not asking for help means withholding all these benefits from the people who care about you and want to help you. Why would you be so unkind?
3. The next time someone needs your help you'll be able to empathize.
You may be the most generous person in the world, but giving help when you've asked for it yourself is completely different from giving it when you never have. And those who receive your help will feel much better about it if they know you're paying forward something that was done for you.
4. Not needing help is a form of conceit.
This one is tough for me to admit. Most of my life I've taken pride in being self-sufficient. But the truth is, that's not a moral strength, it's just vanity. Look at me, I don't need anything from anyone, aren't I clever?
And it's dishonest because--like everyone who's ever succeeded at anything--I've gotten lots of help along the way from teachers, relatives, mentors, friends, clients, and colleagues. It's just been offered without my asking.
5. Not asking for help means not being connected.
It took me a very long time to understand this, and I don't think I ever would have if it weren't for my husband who is one of the most resourceful people I know. What makes him so resourceful is that he often asks for--and offers--help. In both cases he is building connections with friends, acquaintances, and business associates. These connections will last much longer than any favor he asks for or does.
And that's the point, really. Asking for help, getting help, offering help, and giving it when it's needed are all ways that we connect and stay connected with each other as human beings. Whether we're reaching out to one other person or thousands through, say, crowdfunding, that connection is there. It's precious. And it's worth a lot more than any pride we may have in not needing it.