Just Ask For Help Already

Image  I love tomatoes.  My favorite food in the summer is a salad made with avocados, black olives and tomatoes.  I love picking tomatoes off the vine and eating them like an apple for a snack.  I also make a killer cucumber and tomato salad.


For these reasons, I need fresh tomatoes.  Yes, it is a need.  Not want, need.


Sounds simple enough. 


I looked outside at what used to be my garden and see two of my dogs chewing on the grass that has taken over.  I also catch them fertilizing the weeds that have invaded.


Not an ideal tomato patch.  It needs a lot of cleaning up.


But before I can clean it up, I need to cordon it off.  The two big dogs have a way of trampling, fertilizing and marking things; but the little one, well, she was trained by my old pack leader how to pick tomatoes off the vine and eat them.


So before I can plant, I need to clean it up; but before I can clean it up, I need to create a crazy-dog proof fencing.


I say crazy because one dog scales six foot privacy fences and the other can pretty much open any latch man has made.


So I have to build something.  I decide a fence with added features on the corners will cure the scaling dog and a couple contraptions on the latch will slow down the other.  I need to build a six foot fence and gate that match the existing fencing and gates.


Which means I have to prepare before I build, before I clear, weed, prepare and plant. 


Post holes need to be dug, things have to be measured off, materials have to be purchased without the risk of returning because they are the wrong things.


All I wanted was tomatoes.


One simple thing that has turned into a huge to-do list, an overwhelming to do list.  The first thing is dig the holes for the posts.  


After a couple of weeks, and only being able to dig down 12 inches and they kinda looked in line; I finally gave in and asked for help.  I had no choice.  If I was going to get my tomatoes this year, then I had to admit I was out of my element here.


I called for backup.  I called one of my best friends.  I even made the request more urgent by telling him that our 21-year-old son was going to help me build the fence. Yes, my son’s father is one of my best friends. 


He is also an expert at cars, building and well, sometimes everything – but that is another story.


He built the deck on the back of the house and many moons ago used to build desks and privacy fences.  The man can build.


Yesterday the rest of the post holes were completed then two eight foot and two ten foot posts were set in concrete.  I helped, I just want to say.  I carried lumber, poured concrete mix, held things straight, strung twine and masterfully added water to the concrete. 


I was so excited at how much progress was made in a couple hours with help that when my little buddy (my two year old neighbor) popped his head up and asked, “Whatcha doing?” I had to tell him about the fence, gate and garden.   Hey, I was excited and he asked! 


Then he asked why, I think a natural response from two year olds, so I told him to keep the doggies out of my tomatoes.  I completely lost him then because I said the magic word “doggie” (he loves my dogs) and he was off trying to see them between the fencing. 


Today, the bracing goes up and probably the fencing.  This means that soon after the gate, clearing, tilling and preparation can be done for planting this weekend!


Now, had I not asked for help, this project could have stretched out indefinitely, which means no fresh tomatoes for me this year. 


I am not a person to ask for help easily.  I am stubborn.  I could justify this not asking by saying other things like I am independent, my dad and ex taught me how to use tools, blah, blah, blah.  But let me just cut to the chase – I am stubborn.  I want to be able to do things on my own.


It burns me when I cannot.


I put my big girl shoes on and asked for help because I needed it.  Sure, I could have done it all myself.  It would have taken me a crazy long time to complete and honestly, may not have been as solid as what it is now.  I would have wasted a lot of time, money and energy only to have to have it all fall down after I did it on my own.


I’m still breathing after I asked for help.


That’s the other thing – it didn’t kill me to ask for help.  No price to pay, no begging, crying, pleading, humiliating sucking up; I just simply had to ask.  It was so easy.  Why do we set it up to be so difficult?  Why do we force this “I can do it all on my own” attitude on ourselves and then when we realize we are out of our league we have to compound the problem by “having” to ask for help?


I didn’t have to – I wanted to.  We work well together, he does awesome work and I always, always learn something.  I also let him know how much I appreciate his help and expertise.  He felt good about being able to help.  It was a good thing all the way around.


We are not made to do all things ourselves.  We need help.  People like to help.  We just need to get over it and simply ask.  Then those that need the help are connected with those that like to help and guess what – it is a win-win situation!


Where are you stalled?  What is some hurdle that you cannot get over to move on with a goal?  What is it that you are lacking in order to accomplish this goal?  For me it was two things:  knowledge and brawn.  Look, there is no way I was heaving four 50 pound bags of cement to the back yard.  Just wasn’t going to happen.


Figure out where you need the help, get over yourself then ask for help.  I know part of it was ego, luckily being only five foot tall there isn’t a lot of ego to get over, but I had to; and once I did, I can see the vision coming together.


I think I might have to put this into practice more often.  It feels awesome to know that not only will I be able to plant tomatoes soon, but the gate and fence are going to be solid, well build and look great.  What else can I accomplish if I just ask for a little help?  What can you?


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer



Pick Your Battles While Remaining True To Yourself

Throughout my early career development I had bosses and mentors make mention that one of my strongest attributes was that I am a very passionate person.  Sometimes it was a good thing, sometimes not so much.


One of my early mentors told me that, especially with my passion, I had to learn to pick my battles carefully or I might steamroll everyone.  Yes, it was a compliment – but a lesson as well.


One of the most challenging ideas I had, and continue, to learn is leveraging my personal strengths to gain the greatest benefit to my company, my staff and the goals at hand.  Learning how to read situations and recognize when one attribute is preferable over another because ultimately it is not about me – rather it is about the value I can bring to others.  Much of this value is derived from my personality.


I think this is one of the biggest challenges people have when they begin a new job or feel like something has gone off track in their current position.  It is not just your skills and expertise that brought you to a company or position; it is also an element of your personality.  But finding balance between personality, strengths and corporate needs is a delicate balance.


Some things are more obvious – for example apparel.  I have a thing for shoes – some of my favorites are pointed toe, strappy sandals and boots all with three inch spiked heels.  In a very conservative environment I realize that some of my shoes are not appropriate so they don’t get to come to the office, others can be downplayed with the right outfit.  It is a balancing act.


For young women especially I find more and more that they have difficulty understanding balance.  Yes, you want your personality to show through; however there is a line between that and shoving it down everyone’s throat.  Error on the side of conservative and bring in smaller elements of your personality.  Allow your coworkers to get to know you for the value you bring rather than your unique style.  Your value will gain you respect, promotions and a secure future; whereas your style could lead to misinterpretation.


I’ve had young people argue with me that that is their personality and others will just have to get over it.  Aren’t they cute?  Listen up youngsters – if you are a talented, committed team member then I will allow for some slack on the unique personality.  However, if you are too busy shoving your personality down my throat with a “take it or leave it” type attitude I’ll ask you to leave.  You have not earned the right to shove anything in my face.


Professionalism – that means working, being part of a team, getting results – takes precedence in the work world over your too revealing or inappropriate clothing.  Deal with it – it’s called the real world.


Speaking of dress, I’ve also had staff members that, after a few years in the job, their professional attire had become more relaxed and on the verge of too casual.  Let me tell you a secret – in management meetings these things were noticed.  The decline of professionalism in dress was openly discussed and questioned as a direct correlation to their decline in commitment to their job and company.


Other elements of balance are more challenging to recognize and manage.


For example I am a pretty outspoken, take charge person.  Part of that is how I was raised, part was through business development and another part is due to life experiences.  But what I have learned is sometimes I need to just shut up and let others lead because I bring more value as a supportive team member than the leader.


If you find that you are in a state of continual battle in your current position it may be that you, too, need to learn this lesson.  It is ok to let go of the reigns and learn from others.  We all have things to learn from others and we cannot listen if we are always talking.


I will admit it is a hard thing to do – trust me, this I know.  Let me put it this way, one of my favorite male co-workers ever looked at me one day and said, “Can I be the guy today?” when we were working on a project.


On the flip side, sometimes we loose faith in ourselves and therefore loose the ability to use our personal/personality strengths and try to adopt others’ behavior to get through.  I’m an example kind of girl, so let me use one here and see if that helps clarify this idea.


I was recently in a situation that was going along all fine and dandy and then one day it wasn’t.  Instead of stopping, stepping back and remaining true to my intuition, skills and expertise to regroup, understand the challenge and proceed in a favorable manner – I got stuck.


In my stuck state I started listening to the analysis and opinions of others who do not approach challenges the same way I do and I begin to morph into their mindset.  Stupid.  What this did was to alter my behavior, the situation got worse – but luckily my vacationing mind just came back and said, “what the hell are you doing?!”


Kind of like if you know your boss is wrong and normally you would take them aside and gently explain your opinion yet something recently made you question yourself personally.  So asked the opinions of others and they said the boss would not want to be corrected.  So you keep your mouth shut and play dumb.  Then the project falls through and your boss calls you out for not communicating like you normally do.  You knew better – but you got afraid so you adopted someone else’s behavior.


This is where your personality is a key part of why you are there.  People do depend on you for certain elements that you bring to the table.  When you stop being true to some of your most valued traits the result can be that not only do you suffer, but the team does as well.


If you find yourself derailed or seemingly stuck in your position take a moment to think about what you have read here – have you changed something about yourself that is actually causing you to bring less than your best to the table?  Recognize it and fix it immediately.


Here’s the rub, though: it will take more time to get others back on track in seeing you for what you are and what they were used to rather than what you recently were.


In other words if your attire has been slackerish and you start dressing professionally again expect a few comments and the expectation that it won’t last.  Don’t pay any attention – you just keep doing your thing.


If you morphed into the wallflower and you start speaking up again – in a positive and productive way of course – then expect some surprise from coworkers and bosses.  No worries, just keep being true to yourself and they will eventually see, and be glad, that your brain is back from vacation.


Alternatively if you had turned into the steamrolling office grump then do not be surprised if others around you keep expecting the other shoe to drop when you start being a cooperative, engaged team member.  Reassure them that you are there to help and support and eventually they will forgive you for your temporary digression.


We all slip and fall at times, but it isn’t the fall that is important – it is what you do when you get back up that counts.  Remember, you are there for a reason.  How do you bring the most value to your organization by means of your skills, expertise and personality?  Get back to basics and move on!



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.