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The Science of Increasing Productivity: The Art of Asking for Help

I have a question for you: What separates the truly successful in life and business from the people who just get by? I believe that one major key is the ability to get help from people who know more than you. In the West, we are encouraged to be fierce individualists, yet it's the people who can learn and get help from others that are the most likely to succeed in life. Today, I'm going to talk about the importance of being able to get help from others, and a simple way to go about it.

Asking for help or feedback from other people is not always easy to do. Often, we only do it when we are at our wit's end. I remember many years ago my career as a professional speaker was clearly going nowhere. In desperation, I asked a friend and fellow professional speaker, "What do you think is keeping me from greater success in my career?" He answered, "Do you really wanna know?" I looked him straight in the eyes and said, "I think so." He said, "Well, you dress like you're 14 years old, so you just don't look credible as an expert." Ouch. I didn't like hearing it, but I knew he was right. This friend even offered to go through my closet and throw out everything that made me look like a teenager. I was left with practically nothing but my underwear. Then he took me to a men's clothing store, and he helped me pick out some nice new clothes. To make a long story short, soon thereafter, my speaking career mysteriously skyrocketed.

You know, sometimes we can't see our own obstacles and blind spots. Yet, by asking a trusted friend or co-worker for feedback, we can often get new insights that help us overcome our areas of weakness. Asking for honest feedback is not easy, but it's well worth the effort. Consider this: If a balloon has an extremely small hole in it, it keeps the entire balloon from expanding. Likewise, a small blind spot in you can keep you from expanding and fulfilling your larger destiny. What you don't know can be biting you in the butt. It's much better to know what your exact obstacles and weaknesses truly are. After all, you can only improve on something if you know what's wrong.

Besides asking for help by getting honest feedback from others, we can also ask for help in how to get better at something. Learning from experts is a tried and true way to get better at something quickly. So why are so many people hesitant to ask a friend or colleague for help? Well, we fear that if we ask someone, they might say "no," but the truth is that rarely happens. However, asking a friend or colleague for help or feedback does make us feel vulnerable. Yet, I've learned that such vulnerability often leads to deep friendships, connection, and important information that can skyrocket your productivity and career.

So right now, sit up straight in your chair, take a deep breath, and then let it out with a long, slow sigh.


So sometime today or tomorrow, I want you to ask a trusted friend or co-worker one of two questions. The first question is, "What do you think keeps me from having greater success and effectiveness in my career?" By asking this question of a trusted colleague, you may learn about some so-called "hole in your balloon" that could be keeping you from greater success. Now, if you feel that question might be too hard to ask someone, I have a second question you can ask. The second question is, "I'm wondering if you'd be willing to tell me your secret for how you're so good at (blank)." Of course, you fill in the blank with whatever you'd like to learn from a friend or co-worker. People absolutely love being asked this question because it's an indirect compliment. And by asking this question, you are likely to learn how to do something better at the same time you deepen a friendship.

For either question you ask a friend or colleague, just listen attentively to what they say, and learn from them as best you can. Assure them you really want to know what they have to say. As you get better at the skill of asking for feedback and help from friends and co-workers, you'll both deepen connections and learn valuable information that will improve your skills. Be sure to ask for help either today or tomorrow. You might be surprised at what you learn.

In our next session, I'm going to discuss the importance of maintaining high levels of motivation over a long period of time, and give you a great method for doing that. See you soon.

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Written by

Jonathan Robinson