We don’t always like to ask for help when we need it and I’m no exception. You can name any number of reasons, but it usually boils down to one thing and one thing only – stubbornness.
For someone like me, a person who tends more toward the creative side of things instead of analytical, it can be doubly problematic because I have a visual in my head that represents exactly what the end game should look like. And because I trust very few people to be able to bring about my vision the way I’d like it, I end up just doing everything myself.
In some cases, it’s just not possible to handle everything alone, such as when putting up a set for a live performance. I like BIG. I like FLASHY, I like DETAIL. There’s just not enough time in the day to accomplish my goals and also handle my responsibilities on the job or at home. So in these cases, I have a crew to help. Unfortunately, I can’t keep my hands out of their business and I do mental (and sometimes physical) harm to myself by trying to be involved with everything.
This happened when I was doing a set for a musical revue my wife and I were directing. I designed a platform with a series of levels that had to be both large and structurally sound. Because I prefer to build sets in the wee hours of the night when there is less “world” to compete with, I found myself building this set piece alone, supporting major platform sections by balancing them on my back and stretching my arms to secure them in place with the screws. The result was fantastic and I couldn’t wait to get the pats on my sore back that I assumed I would receive. Instead, I got berated for doing it alone and they were right. It was dangerous and I was lucky nothing bad happened. It wasn’t until much later, doing work on another prop for another play that I paid a price that would finally persuade me to get help when it’s needed.
Stupidity and physical pain have been a constant in my journey in learning to accept help.
Several years ago, I was asked by my Grandmother to retrieve a riding lawn mower from someone who she had loaned it to. They had moved and left the mower, so Grandma wanted it back and she warned me to get help putting it up on the truck. Did I listen? Nooooooo. I felt like I was man enough to do it alone and two days after the failed attempt, I found myself in the middle of the living room floor, writhing like a snake that has been run over in the road. It took months to recover. But did I learn my lesson? Nooooooo.
My eureka moment came from being pinned under a piano.
Bye Bye Birdie is one of my favorite stage shows. We were directing it and I wanted a great prop piano for the first scene. There was an ancient, tall, upright Steinway in the pit that was unusable and the management had mentioned that they’d like it removed, but couldn’t figure out how. I offered to take it apart and rebuild it, minus the heavy soundboard, onstage so that there would be a fantastic prop piano for future use. The idea was met with much glee and merriment. In my mind, I could hear the powers that be singing, “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow” in party hats in my honor and I was eager to get started. The instrument needed to be on its back to start the work and two members of the cast, strong men of valor, agreed to help me lay it down. But when the day came to do it, my help, both of them, had to cancel. It wasn’t their fault, but I wanted to get to work, and so I decided I could do it myself.
I tested the weight and felt confident that I could make it happen, even if I had to let it drop to the concrete at some point. As I lowered it, I got it about a foot above the floor and realized it was going to either be me or the piano.
I dropped it.
On my two big toes.
The pain was intense and I was certain the toes were crushed. After managing to shimmy my feet from under the weight of the piano, I found my toes to be intact, but black and blue and I decided right then to ask for help, receive the help, and wait for it to get there before I tried anything so stupid again.
I think there are questions we need to ask in the event we’re confused about whether or not we should be asking for help. They are as follows:
Is there an offer of help on the table?
Is there the potential of harm if I go it alone?
Is help available to ask for?
Can the project actually wait until help arrives?
Will you or others benefit from the experience?
How much time, your most valuable resource, will it save to get help?
How much will having help ease your stress?
The answers to these questions will aid you in your decision and I’d venture to say that nine times out of ten, if you had to ask them at all, your conclusion will be that you do, indeed, require help.
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