Entrepreneurial pro tip: Learn to ask for help
I stared at the massive stack of paperwork in front of me and cringed.
It wasn’t just any paperwork. It was the worst kind of administrative stuff that requires 5 different documents from 5 different folders (btw, I didn’t know where any of this information was).
I was dragging my feet on it for (let’s just say)…months. I kept ignoring the increasingly urgent emails I was getting from my operations team to complete it.
Finally, I booked 2 hours in my calendar to tackle it…and immediately spent the full 2 hours browsing Reddit (though I did find my favorite new subreddit, check out www.reddit.com/r/Whatcouldgowrong/).
Later, I was on a call with a co-worker and mentioned this offhandedly and what she said next blew my mind:
“Do you want me to help? I’m really good at this and I actually love doing it.”
What? She ENJOYED this kind of paperwork? My first thought: “Was this person emotionally stable?”
Second thought: “This might be the best hire I’ve made in 12 years.”
It felt unfathomable to me that there were people who enjoyed filling out paperwork. The very same work I hate doing. And it was a complete revelation that I could find people who would actually enjoy doing this kind of work, leaving me to do the work I enjoy.
Right now, take a look around you: What are all the things you’ve been putting off for weeks, maybe even months? Every day you tell yourself, “I’ll do that later” — which is the universal code for “never”:
- Building that Ikea nightstand
- Hanging up a painting
- Shopping for new clothes
- Cleaning your apartment
- Proofreading a blog post
- Finding a new babysitter
- Prepping meals for the week
We all fantasize about some nice long weekend where we’re going to wake up early, write down all our little “to-do’s” on a yellow legal pad, and spend the next 3 days cheerfully crossing stuff off the list.
It’s never gonna happen.
Maybe we check off the easiest 1 or 2 items… then spend the rest of the day Netflix and chilling.
And that’s totally okay!
I love relaxing on the weekend. I work hard during the week, so sometimes I just want to catch up on my reality TV and recuperate, and not have to worry about paperwork or cooking or cleaning my bathroom.
So if I’m going to do that, then I want to enjoy it, guilt-free.
What else have you been putting off?
It’s not just the little things we’ve been putting off, shunting off from today’s to-do list to tomorrow’s… for weeks at a time. We asked on Twitter, and here’s what we heard back:
“Finding new friends in a new city”
“Creating amazing content” (we can help)
“Staying on my fitness goals”
“Finding a job” (we can help with that too)
“Starting my freelance business”
Let’s take a closer look at the last one. Freelancing has a special place in my heart…
Because in addition to hundreds of free articles on freelancing, we’ve already created the best course in the world on how to build your freelancing business!
And if you don’t want help from us, cool. You can search #freelance on Google and Twitter, filter through the hundreds of people who are doing it, and reach out to them.
Even the mere act of asking for help — you don’t even need to take their advice! — will open your eyes.
But it’s up to you to ASK. No one’s going to do it for you.
Why we don’t ask for help
“But Ramit, I’m not like you, I can’t just send out a Tweet and get 100s of people offering to help!”
I’ll be honest: Whenever I hear this, I roll my eyes. You don’t need a successful business or a bunch of followers to ask for help.
“But Ramit, I live in Podunktown, Ohio and I’m a Pisces, and no one’s ever faced my unique problem.”
Yes, my Special Snowflake… someone else out there has faced the same problem you have. And they’ve found a way to solve it. In 10-plus years and hundreds of thousands of emails from people baring their soul in my inbox, I’ve seen it all — and there’s only one reason why we don’t ask for help: Fear.
Sure, it seems like they come in different flavors, but they all taste the same. Here are some examples:
“I’m terrified of people knowing that I need help with this stuff. I think I should have figured this out on my own by now, and the fact that it’s so tedious makes me feel a bit pathetic”
“I’m afraid to fail because if I do, then people will know how dumb I am. And if I am dumb, then I’m probably not a valuable person.”
“I’m afraid if I ask for help, I’ll be imposing on another person. I don’t want them to think I’m rude.”
“I’m worried I’ll ramble and make a terrible impression.”
“If I ask for help, I’m admitting that I’m not as smart as I think I am.”
“Who would I even ask? I don’t know where to turn for help.”
We all have these fears… which is why I want to suggest a way to reframe it, once and for all.
Instead of thinking, “I’ll look dumb if I ask for help…”
Reframe this as: “The smartest thing I can do is ask for help.”
No one succeeds without asking for help.
- Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s highest paid soccer player, gets help with his workouts, nutrition, even his sleep!
- Howard Schultz, while he was in the process of trying to regain control of Starbucks, took 3-hour bike rides to consult on strategy with Michael Dell.
- Jiro Ono, of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, still relies on his son Yoshikazu for his meal preparations at this famous Michelin starred restaurant.
How to get help
Trying to just “work harder” and “figure it out” is a losing battle. We know we should get help, solve the problem, then move on with our lives.
Great — so how do we get help? “Just ask! Post it on Facebook! Get on Twitter.”
Any of these can work. But let’s be brutally honest: How many times have we heard, “just post it on Twitter,” nodded our heads… then went right back to scrolling through our Instagram feed?
That’s because these are tactics, and tactics only solve the surface level problems. If you want to solve the real problem, we have to dig deeper and get at the root. At the root, the reason we don’t ask for help is fear.
Most of us are afraid of 2 things:
#1. We’re afraid of asking a dumb question and looking foolish
Actually…YOU SHOULD BE SCARED OF ASKING A DUMB QUESTION!
(What? Did you expect me to say, “there’s no such thing as a dumb question?” Wrong.) Questions like, “Ramit, what should I do with my money?” are dumb, because I’ve written hundreds of free articles about this already. Don’t ask a question that you can Google and can find the answer to in seconds.
The best people do their homework and spend the time crafting amazing questions, knowing that’s the only way you’re going to get busy, smart people to actually help you. Here’s a response that my top students often share with newbies, about how to ask good questions:
“Vague questions will get you vague answers. Good questions will get you great answers. The key is doing the hard work yourself before you ask others. I highly recommend you structure your questions like this:
– “Hi, I’m wondering how to (QUESTION).
– Here’s a quick background (SHORT 1-2 sentence relevant context. Include the information you’ve already reviewed).
– I’ve narrowed my next step down to:
I think I should tackle B because (REASON). Does anyone have experience doing this, and if so, what would you recommend?”
#2. We’re afraid people will ignore us
Let me just save you the suspense: You’re going to get ignored. A lot.
Now, here’s the good news: It probably has nothing to do with you! If you’re reaching out to important, smart people (which you should) they are, by definition, busy. Maybe they didn’t see your email. Maybe they saved it… but then had to run out to their kid’s soccer game and forgot. Or maybe they read it and decided to ignore it.
It happens. The reality is most people won’t respond.
The best people already know this, and react accordingly. For example, if they reach out to 5 people, they expect 4 people won’t respond. So if they’re looking for advice from 3 different people, they know they have to reach out to AT LEAST 15 people.
They understand the game happening around them… and play accordingly.
Isn’t it interesting that when most people try to improve themselves, they look for that quick, crunchy nugget? Maybe they download a new app to track their time, or find a different hack to reach “inbox zero.” Even if they do an amazing job, the best they can hope for is a 4% or 5% improvement.
But when you think outside of just the tactics, and start getting help from others, you don’t have to settle for these small, incremental improvements. The right amount of help, from the right person at the right time, can double (or more) your efficiency, revenue, or impact on the world.
For example, when I asked a mentor for help, he helped me:
- Make over $100,000 in one month
- Double my business in one year
- Have some amazing experiences in my personal life, in just a few months
If you’re curious, we talk more about that here:
Jay’s advice has made a HUGE difference in my life.
So, now I want to know: Have you ever had someone give you advice that led to a 10x improvement in your life or business (like Jay did for me)? Leave it in the comments here.