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The Day Job – Be proud, but not too proud

HiRes2This is what I tell my people. Be proud of the uniform you wear, proud of the service you provide for our country, and be proud of the skills you have. But please, never be too proud to ask for help.

In the organization I’m in, pride is big.

In life, a lot of things are bigger.

Now, I’m not saying to go running for help at every conflict.

Conflict is good, just like some stress is good. Conflict and learning to deal with it will make you a better communicator, a better leader, and a better person.

Unfortunately, some conflicts can’t be resolved alone.

When I was a lab tech, my regular rule was that if I couldn’t get blood from a patient in two tries, then I probably wasn’t going to get it on the third try. After two tries, said patient normally wouldn’t be in the mood to let me try again, so I would go get some help. Now I use the same approach to some life stressors.

Financial problems, relationship problems, stress management, and other things that distract us from focusing our minds on work are dangerous. If a person isn’t focused on the job at hand, he could lose a hand.

So, once you’ve identified a problem, which is usually pretty easy, try to deal with it. That might not work, but don’t worry. Try another solution, give it a shot. If that doesn’t work, get some help.

I know it makes sense when I put it this way, but more often than not, people just keep trying to solve things themselves without having all the right resources.

If you were sitting in a chair with two holes in your arm from me not getting blood from you, why would you let me try again? That’s just silly.

So, who should I go get to try again?
I know. I’ll go get the new guy. Maybe he’ll get lucky.
Good idea, right?
Of course not. Again, silly.

So when you don’t get it right on your second try, and we can both agree that it’s time to ask for help, will you ask?

And no, I don’t think everybody needs to get into therapy. By and large, the average person can resolve 95%, maybe even 99% of all the regular stressors in life. A young man gets behind on a car payment, or learns how hard it can be to manage that first credit card. He  makes some adjustments, and in a month or two he’s back on track.

Two friends get into an argument that affects work and their circle of friends. They figure out what went wrong, they apologize and work towards getting back to where they started.

Again, conflict is good. Stress of the right type and in the right measure is good. When you try with the tools you have to resolve conflict, give it two honest tries. If you haven’t gotten back to normal or redefined normal after those two tries, you either haven’t identified the real cause of your stress, or it’s something you’re probably not going to resolve on your own with the tools you have.

But here’s the thing: That stressor needs to be resolved.
Just trust me on this. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and energy.

Experience, both my own and in guiding the people around me, has shown that the third attempt is usually the one that looks a lot like flailing. By the time that dies down, the situation is usually to the point that it’s distracting not just you but the people around you. Again, all I want to say is that distractions are dangerous. We really don’t need to get into the messy details.

Another interesting part of a person and situation after the second try is that they often do ask for help. They ask a coworker or a manager what they should do, but it would be just like me handing the needle to the new guy and wishing you both good luck.

Don’t be too proud to ask for help.

How about, and this is just a crazy recommendation, ask someone with the right resources and training to help you solve that specific problem?

And now, the hard part.

When someone has tried twice and is now asking you for help with something that couldn’t be resolved, don’t be too proud to admit that you don’t have the right answer.

If you really want your friend to succeed, refer him or her to people who are trained to deal with those stressors.

Here’s where I would normally ask an open-ended question to get some feedback, but I don’t have a question that won’t bring up some messy stuff, and I don’t want us to focus too much on the negative.

So, tell me something good right now!

My good thing for today: Flying home to Maine.

Have a great week.


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Tags: motivation, lifelessons, self-help, resources, leadership, management

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2 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    My good thing…when you were a lab tech and getting blood from me on the first try…you were the only tech who was able to do that 😉

  2. theval2000 says:

    asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness :) easier said than done a lot of the time unfortunately. My good thing is Violet (my 7 year old) got a “Caught Being Good” slip :) for being kind to a classmate :)


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