Will you help me?

urban apartment buildings with "help" sign

A few weeks ago, I felt completely over-committed. Between an International trip, a minor speaking engagement, business booming, and family life, I did not have margin for much else. And yet, I had to prepare for one of the bigger speaking engagements of my life at the end of the month.

Reviewing my outline, I came to one conclusion. What I had created absolutely sucked.

So, I did what any wise husband would do. “Will you help me?” I asked Sarah.

Thank God for Sarah.

She refined it.

She cut out the fluff.

She got rid of the extraneous nonsense.

Especially the parts where I was making myself look better than I was.

When I looked at the new outline, I had hope about the future product.

A few thoughts on asking for help:

Ask early. I asked for Sarah’s help more than 3 weeks prior to giving the talk. I still had time to make wholesale changes, which I did. Conversely, if you ask for help too late in the game you don’t have a chance. Whatever you are creating will suffer because doubt will enter the equation.

As I learned in competitive golf, if you are messing with your swing on the driving range, you have no chance of winning the golf tournament. Same here.Ask someone you trust. This will sound pompous, but I could care less what most people think about certain topics. When it comes to my speaking, I trust my wife over any other human being. She knows me best. There are also other friends whom I would trust. In fact, I ran an outline of a potential talk to a friend (also a customer) last month, and they gave me incredible feedback that will shape what I do with that talk on sustainability. That kind of feedback is golden. Just be careful who you ask. Most engineers would not ask me how accurate their CAD model is, and for good reason—I cannot be trusted to give an accurate answer because I lack that ability! So choose wisely.Ask with genuine humility. At first glance, this should be a given. But notice that in my example, I did not ask Sarah to do anything specific. Rather, I asked for “help,” which gave her full authority to “help” in anyway she saw fit.

She had the freedom to rip it up, suggest I start anew, or even disagree with my diagnosis altogether. The point here is that I did not steer her towards my bias (i.e. that the outline was terrible) and gave her the freedom to help as she saw fit. It takes real humility to allow this to happen.

I challenge you to ask for help the next time you are stuck. Ask early, ask someone you trust, and ask with genuine humility.

Your work will get better in the process.