Most of us are terrible at asking for help. We don’t want to seem weak, needy or incompetent.
The problem is that our reluctance to ask for help can often turn a trivial problem into a hot mess.
As an especially proud and stubborn person, I’m often guilty of spending countless hours troubleshooting a problem that someone else in my network could easily help me solve. Worse yet, I regularly complain about an issue instead of proactively taking steps to solve it.
Maybe that’s why I was particularly intrigued when a member of my mastermind group, Carolynn Ananian, recently shared that the best advice she’d ever received from a mentor was to ask for help.
Since receiving her mentor’s advice, Carolynn has transformed her life, founded two businesses and is currently living her definition of a rich life.
I asked Carolynn if she’d be willing to share her experience and the importance of asking for help with RSM readers. I’m grateful she obliged.
1.) Can you describe where you were at in your life that compelled you to reach out to this mentor?
I’d hit what my aunt Didi would call my “come to Jesus moment.” I had a major health crisis, then over the course of a year, a dozen people in my life passed away one after another. Every month, there was another loss: I lost my job, I went broke, my partner walked out. When I went to my friends for help, they turned their backs. My faith in humanity was shattered and I wasn’t sure how to go on.
What do you do when you’ve lost everything?
A mentor once told me that true wealth is what you have when you’ve lost everything else. This gentleman came to the US with a couple bucks in his pocket and an invitation to sleep on a stranger’s couch. Within a few years, he was a very successful businessman. When asked how he did it, he said, “I watered my garden.”
What he meant was his community. Even when he had nothing, he’d give to his relationships, and they gave back to him. That’s how he found friends, clients, business partners. That’s how he built his foundation and grew.
That was a lightbulb moment: I needed to reach out to my community … and not just anybody, but the right people. Obviously, I’d picked terrible friends, and going to them had been demoralizing.
I had another brilliant mentor, “Bill”, who helped me during my transition to adulthood. Bill left home young, studied and worked all over the world, and ran his own company. He was the pinnacle of cool and successful.
If anyone knew what to do, it’d be Bill. I emailed him immediately.
2.) What specifically did you ask Bill? What was his response and what was your reaction?
I wrote Bill a brief email telling him my life had fallen apart. What would he do, if he were in my shoes?
I’ll never forget his response.
“The reason you’re struggling,” he wrote back, “is because you’ve been going at it alone. Your arrogance is killing you. You need to ask for help TODAY.”
This advice wasn’t particularly sexy. I remember feeling devastated at the time that he didn’t have a magic pill for me. Ask for help? That’s it? Are you f*$%!@ kidding me?!? But once I tested it, I found out he was exactly right.
That same day I reached out to the family and friends I had left, and people responded in droves to help me – with money, with resources, with love, you name it. Within a month, I had a new job. Within a year, my health was back and I successfully launched my first business with the guidance of my new community, which really speaks to the power of picking the right friends.
3.) You described Bill’s response and your consequent action as one the of most impactful lessons in your life. Can you give readers 2-3 actionable takeaways on what you learned and why it’s so important to ask for help?
First, our relationships are a direct reflection of us.
I’d chosen bad friends because I didn’t know how to pick people who valued me, so obviously I didn’t value myself. Also, how could I possibly be a good friend when I couldn’t judge whether someone was a good friend to me? You can tell a lot about a person by who she keeps in her life.
Our relationships are our greatest asset. Mine saved my life and helped me embark on a new career. Nurture them and treat them like gold, because they are.
Second, compassion is crucial for happiness. Sometimes a smile from a stranger can keep someone going (it certainly did for me). Money and technology are useless without kindness.
Compassion and hope are so transformative. They heal people on a deep level, remind them that they’re worthy of love, and help them aspire for more. They’ve triggered social movements and revolutions. Everything else is just details.
Third, asking for help is not a weakness. Nobody ever succeeded at anything by themselves. Actually, when you ask for help, you’re giving someone a gift. Because what you’re saying to them is, “I trust you and think so much of you that I’m turning to you for guidance.” Who isn’t flattered by that? And then when they help you, they feel good and the bond between you is strengthened.
4.) Where are you at (in life) now? What are you working on? How can readers acquire your services?
Now my life has balance and joy in it. I’m surrounded by amazing people, and I have freedom to live the way I want and do the work I came here to do. I left corporate last year, founded 2 businesses, play every day, and get to work on the coolest projects with teammates around the world.
I’m a healer and spiritual teacher in the Modern Mystery School, as well as a copywriter who helps entrepreneurs. After cutting my teeth on Wall Street, I traveled 3 continents to study spirituality and martial arts, which has been such a great experience. It taught me how to build a solid foundation for a good life.
Photo Credit: Roo Reynolds