There’s a simple strategy for “success” – whatever that looks like to someone – that seems to get lost on some folks; and I believe it’s BECAUSE this strategy is so elementary and obvious that people dismiss it, rather than understanding how powerful it really is. I’m talking about the simple practice of asking for help to get the things we want out of life; but for some reason, this single idea is often a major source of anxiety for some people – one that often stops them from going after the things they truly want. Unfortunately, because of this lack of action, these same folks usually wind up stuck, and often without the result they wanted to get in the first place.
I’m not a religious man, but have to admit that Matthew 7:7 nailed it when he said “Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find”. It’s also important to note his use of language here – he didn’t say “Hope for and it shall be given you”, or “Wish for and it shall be given you” – he was quite specific in instructing us to ASK or SEEK in order for whatever we want in order that it “shall be given” to us. Because as Matthew so correctly points out, finding (and getting) is reserved for the askers and seekers, not the hopers and wishers.
The bottom line is that when you need some help, just ask someone for it… period. This action alone begins the process of bringing the help you need (and want) into your life. Let’s say you’re looking for the horseradish at a grocery store, but don’t know where it is. You can wander the isles for hours, scouring the shelves for those obscure, tiny bottles; or you can simply ask someone who works there for help, who will in turn point you in the right direction immediately, no muss, no fuss, and best of all – no wasted time.
And obviously this strategy isn’t just reserved for your local supermarkets, oh no! You can ask ANYONE For help with ANYTHING; and chances are pretty good that (a) you’ll get the help you need, (b) you’ll save time, and (c) they’ll be more than happy to give that help to you. Need help carrying a heavy item? Ask! Need help proof-reading a document? Ask! Or perhaps you have a tricky problem that you don’t know how to solve, and need some advice… just ask someone who has experience in the area! Do this and just like with the horseradish, you WILL eventually get the help you need!
Besides, asking for help isn’t some crazy new-age idea or sudden “struck-by-lightning” type epiphany, but rather a basic success strategy that – as Matthew 7:7 attests to – has been around since biblical times. And don’t think that because this wisdom comes from the bible the strategy only works for folks in the New Testament; nothing could be farther from the truth! Check out the next couple of quotes to see how this exact same principle is described slightly differently in other applications and cultures:
- Dr. Anne Wilson Schaef, a highly respected Native American / Irish seminar leader and consultant specializing in addiction, describes asking for help this way: “Asking for help does not mean we are weak or incompetent. It usually indicates an advanced level of honesty and intelligence”
- The Danish have a proverb that sums up the idea of asking for help; heck, they even try to guilt us into it! It goes: “He who is afraid of asking is ashamed of learning”
So with such a diverse group of people endorsing the idea of asking for help when needed, why don’t more people do it? I think it’s because there seems to be a stigma of negativity attached to asking for help that scares some folks off; they have this preconceived idea that if they ask for help, they’ll come off as needy, incompetent, unintelligent or worse; they might look dumb or stupid. Let’s be clear on this crazy idea right now – these are all ideas we put into our own heads! In fact, NOT asking for help is a far greater fail than asking ever could be; and it’s also what puts up a barrier that stops us from achieving things we are capable of. The truth is people (even strangers) are usually more than willing to help out wherever they can – but they won’t know when we need their help if we don’t tell them first.
It’s also possible that for some folks, asking for help might challenge their personal beliefs and is therefore is not something they’d be comfortable doing. If someone grows up constantly being told that “asking for help” is a sign of weakness, then the chances are excellent that, later in life when they actually need help, this ingrained belief would cause them to stay silent rather than asking for the help they want… I know – weird, eh? But believe it or not, this kind of “old school” thinking is pretty common; but worse, it can be pretty damaging, and here’s why: Asking for help is often the only way to get the guidance, assistance and knowledge needed to move forward with some things in life – Just ask those former nay-sayers, the Catholics!
The World Is Flat… Guaranteed!
During the 1500’s Catholic theologians believed that the world was flat; so for them this belief was an absolute truth, and not to be challenged. Then one day along comes Christopher Columbus who – by sailing over the horizon and not off the edge of the earth as the Catholics predicted – actually proved the “flat earth” belief / philosophy to be completely false. Despite the fact that Catholics had spent years of “knowing”, believing and teaching that the world was flat, Columbus’s discovery shattered their old belief and forced it to be replaced with a new, and ultimately realistic one.
And similar to how the Catholics had to rethink their position on the whole “Flat World” deal, people who’ve believed in the past that asking for help is a sign of weakness also need to re-think this outdated idea; they need to understand this new, updated philosophy:
Asking for help when you need it is a sign of STRENGTH; not asking for help when you need it is a sign of WEAKNESS.
Now obviously this is an extreme example, so I’ll ask you to look around at your own life for times when – if only you’d asked for help – the journey would have gone a lot smoother or had a more positive outcome. I know they exist for you, because they exist for us all; but my point is that they don’t have to if we simply ask for whatever it is we want. Doing so says to the world, “Hey look; I don’t know it all, I can’t do it alone, and I’m confident you can get me where I need to go… would you help me out?” Asking for help sends a far stronger and more powerful message to send yourself (and everyone else) than suffering in silence, and going without the things you truly want. The truth is that people want you to succeed, and most are usually more than happy to play a part in helping you achieve that success… so get over yourself and ask for help already!
A Word of Caution
One word of caution about asking: Whenever you ask for help in the form of advice, there is potential for it to open up another door – a door that may require some ego-checking and/or tongue-biting. By requesting advice you must also be willing to listen to their words fully and completely, and trust what they are saying and/or doing to help you is in your best interest, even if it sounds like criticism at the time – remember, you asked them. You may ask someone for their advice on a project you are working on, secretly hoping they’ll give you encouraging words, but instead – and unexpectedly – they might tell you that you are way off base, and missing your mark.
Remember – you REQUESTED their advice; so once you’ve heard and fully understood what they’ve had to say, you can respectively choose to accept or decline it. Just ALWAYS thank them politely and graciously for their kind service, and let them know you appreciate their offer and candour, even if you don’t follow their suggestions. Anything else would come off as ungrateful or selfish, of which I’m pretty sure you are neither… this is always just a case of two different opinions, that’s all.
Remember, accepting help from others can be uncomfortable sometimes, especially if the responses aren’t favourable; this is the “chance” we take. The important thing is to treat the exchange with the utmost respect and importance that it deserves. I guess what I’m trying to get a cross is not to dismiss any offer of help without respecting their intentions and thanking them for their offer. Either way, remember the point that Matthew, Dr. Wilson and the Danish all eluded to in their words of wisdom; that in order to be successful in your quest, you will need help from other people; and “help” comes only to those who ask for it…
While You’re at It, Why Not Ask For a Discount?
Since you’re getting in the habit of asking for help, why not try asking for other things you want – big or small – as well, like cash discounts on any purchases you are making? Because if you don’t ask, you might blow the opportunity to save some serious money! For example, whenever you are out shopping, go ahead and ask the clerk if there’s anyway you can get a discount – you’d be blown away how often they say “yes”! Case in point: While looking at an already marked-down pair of jeans one time, I asked the clerk for a discount, and she gave me a 20% off coupon towards my purchase!
And just this week when booking a holiday, I mentioned to the tour operator I was a “returning customer”, asking if this made me eligible for a discount… It did, and I saved and extra 5%, or $139.98! All this free dough just for asking “Is there anyway I can get a discount?” If you’re not asking for discounts, you’re definitely leaving money on the table.
Whether you are asking for help, or a discount, or even if you can have that last piece of pizza, remember the immortal message of Matthew: That receiving is reserved for the askers; so if there’s something you want, it’s up to you to make the first move! So let me ask you this… do you agree with what I’m saying here? (Go ahead and answer in the comments below… I can take it!)