A Fundamental Skill for Success is the Ability to Ask for Help

I’m experiencing what it feels like when something I “knew all along” becomes tangible. It’s a little embarrassing and kind of fun at the same time. Uncomfortable, for sure, but important.

Here’s the revelation. A fundamental skill for success today is the ability to ask for help. “Well, of course,” you might be thinking, “that’s obvious.” I thought so, too, until recently.

I’m working on a new idea, creating a new entity actually, and I’m realizing that there’s a lot about it I don’t know how to do. In the past this has stopped me cold. In fact, I’ve been thinking about this idea for six or seven years, wishing something would happen to make it easier.

Well, something finally did happen. I got tired of wondering about it and worrying about what I don’t know. I decided that when I encounter people who want to make fun of me for not having a clue about everything that’s necessary or who will act shocked because they assumed I knew stuff I don’t, I’ll calmly acknowledge my lack of knowledge or experience and move on. There is an awful lot I do know; more than enough to get going. I started to ask for help.

Before I say what an amazing difference this simple act has made, let me reflect a bit on why it’s so hard to do. Our culture celebrates success in various forms. Public knowledge, material wealth, fame, celebrity status, buzz … these are the things that many people seek in order to feel successful. So naturally, we tend to highlight what we’re good at and downplay what we’re not. Think about writing your resume.

The older we get, the more pressure we feel to have an impressive resume. This is true whether you’re in your late-twenties, early-forties, or mid-sixties. We’re trained to believe that our lives should show clear evidence of progress. We should have fewer questions and certainly need far less help.

Now imagine voluntarily taking on a challenge that is filled with more risk than certainty. That highlights what you don’t know, while assuming what you do. That exposes you to raised eyebrows and doubtful clucking. That forces you to ask for help.

That last paragraph describes what kept me stuck for years. Why would anyone do it? Now, whether it’s my age or simply the fact that this idea won’t leave me alone, I’ve swallowed my fear and opened my mind and my mouth to ask for help.

What’s the amazing difference? People not only get excited about the idea and what they can do to help, they are also beginning to admit things they don’t know and would like to learn. Not everyone, of course. There are still plenty of people who would rather show me what’s wrong with my thinking than help me develop it.

But despite these types, I’m finding a hidden community of smart, funny, energetic people who have way more talent to offer than they’re using at the moment. Makes me wonder how much more successful a lot of companies could be if they found a way to unleash this repressed talent. Makes me wonder, too, how much we could all discover if we started taking the risk of asking for help. I highly recommend it. Wish I’d learned how to do it a lot sooner.

Categories: General Advice

About Susan Marshall

founder susan marshall

Susan A. Marshall is author, speaker and founder, whose mission is to create a stronger, more confident future, one person or team at a time.  Through personal experience and hands-on work with executives from diverse industries at all levels, Susan has had the privilege of helping thousands of people do the difficult and exhilarating work of growth.