Think Bigger

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:


Screen Shot 2017 03 31 at 8.44.07 AM
“Finding new friends in a new city”

Tweets about things people procrastinate on when they should just ask for help - entrepreneur tips
“Creating amazing content” (we can help)

Tweets about things people procrastinate on when they should just ask for help - entrepreneur tips
“Staying on my fitness goals”

Tweets about things people procrastinate on when they should just ask for help - entrepreneur tips
“Finding a job” (we can help with that too)

Tweets about things people procrastinate on when they should just ask for help - entrepreneur tips
“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.

Screen Shot 2017 03 31 at 8.59.37 AM

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.

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:

A

B

C

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.

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There Are 15 Comments

 

I asked a fellow boulderer (rock climber) how he’s able to climb “like a freaking spider” yet has an inability to hold on by his fingertips to small holds? Note that the guy has climbed up to V12 (which is freaking hard, elite/professional level climbing). His advice was life changing for me. He simply said one thing; learn to use your other muscles more. Not just forearm muscles or upper body, but use your legs, your hips, etc. Never make your next move unless you have all four points on the wall. And to do that, you need to get into the proper position…and to do THAT, you need to use more than just your arms.

My climbing went from V5 to V10 within a year. CRAZY. But yeah…I just asked the right guy the most unusual question and he gave me 5-star advice that I happily share with noobs whenever they ask.

For years I have been thinking of going freelance, in 2013, I finally summed up courage to be a self employed pharmacist . It was a challenge but I am very glad I took that courageous move. Now I want to build my online health and beauty site . I have opened an Instagram and website. I am working on targeting the right audience . A constructive view on the website and an advice to move this business to the next phase will be very much appreciated. Thanks

Mind over matter – my uncle tells me that when I’m letting my head game get in the way of getting things done and it seems to works every time.

Ramit hi,
Am Martin from Nairobi, Kenya, Africa.

I want to quit my day job and start a business around what I love – cars! However I feel I don’t have enough capital, skill set to start it off.
I love everything about cars- engines, car types, performance, sports cars etc.

Please help guide on what steps I can take, cause I cannot just wake up and quit my source of livelihood….:-0

Relebtlessly cut out every negative person in my life.

I thought I was too nice to do this. It took me years. But eventually I realized there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be happy. In fact people respond to you’re happiness I’ve come to realize. And the ones that don’t are not my responsibility.

Most importantly, when you surround yourself with successful people- even just newsletters… your life changes more and more every year.

I now know I don’t to stress about money. If I surround myself with successful people, push and care for myself, the rest will always follow.

Cheryl Ireland

Hi, Ramit –
I once had a counselor that was fantastic. When I would share my frustrations with him (big ones), he would say, “So?”

I would then look within to possible scenarios, some that would lead to a feeling of exhilaration, others to exasperation. We talked it out usually with more questions that began and ended with “So?”)

The result? I nailed my priorities, and decided to deal with the consequences of my decision (which was NOT an easy task – but well worth making the change.)

Sometimes, the best advice is actually a question. :)

Cheryl Ireland

I did not make a pair of parentheses, I forgot the first one. Oops. I do better when I get paid to write. lol

I could have also used a comma, and dismissed the use of parentheses.

So many roads not taken…

Cheryl Ireland

I could have also used a comma…v. what I wrote above. (sigh)

Hi,

When I was 25 I made the decision that I would pursue a Career in Vedic Astrology. At that stage I had only read a couple of books on the subject and had only gleamed some information from Astrology Blogs and websites. My knowledge was very limited.

I knew that I would achieve my goal no matter what, but I also new that I needed to find the best possible start to my studies, I needed a teacher/mentor, not more books or online courses. (As a side note, at the time I had just completed, a BEng).

It was very scary, and I had a lot of fear to push through before I did it, but I reached out to a world renowned astrologer and asked him to teach me. To be honest I had wanted to ask this man to teach me before but had been to insecure to ask him, we had met in the past. It was only when my mother was terminally ill with cancer that I seriously reviewed what I wanted to do with my life that it gave me the resolve to just ask the question, honestly and openly for help and guidance.

I never thought he would say yes but he did! Just like that I got the spring board onto the platform of learning from a pro with 30years experience, who worked with over 40,000 clients around the world and hadn’t taken on a student in 20years.

I am now 29, and am establishing myself as a Vedic Astrologer, and Karma Coach.

Thanks for all the information on your website Ramit. It is a huge help to me in moving my business forward and reaching more people with my services.

Best,

Philip

I got advice from a creative director for an advertising agency to watch out for low hanging fruits on my way to the top and it has revolutionized my life

Asking for help has seemed to back fire for me. At major points in my life when I needed help the most, I have been ignored, mislead, and out and out ripped off. I wish I could surround myself with better people

I think the usually small number of comments on this one shows we’re not doing this enough I know I’m not!
So today I discovered a colleague has done a lot of freelance work I didn’t realise she’d done. And tomorrow I’m to ask if I can by her a coffee and listen to her experiences. Thank you!

There are other areas I wish I could sort out and not scared to ask but don’t know who to ask. Like how can I update my look when I’m not that bothered about clothes and image so want it to be easy plus I’m over 40 and don’t want to look like trying to look younger (and failing!). Yes know some people who can admire as looking good but that’s their look and probably ‘experts’ out there but more US than UK I imagine and how know they’re any good.

I’ve learned to ask for help for quite some time now. In fact, I joined ZTL because I needed help, and it’s OK to admit you need help.

The worst thing is to pretend you have all the necessary skills and knowledge to do ANYTHING. Come to think of it, nobody does, or else everybody would be able to do just about any activity, and we all know that is not the case. You have to work for it, not mattering what it is that you want to achieve, and in doing so you can always benefit from experience.

Now, let’s assume that you could, effectively, “figure it out” for yourself. Would you even want to? The fact is, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. It’s much faster and easier if you can get help and guidance.

Why do you think people go to University? They could certainly pick up certain books from a library and learn anything they want for themselves, but yet few ever do (of course, I’m not considering careers that require a special license, like medicine).

At my day job many people refrain from asking questions, and you never really know if they actually know what they are supposed to do or not. Fear in the office is very powerful, but I have learned to ask questions regardless of looking silly. If you do, many times you will find out that people will laugh at you…and yet they themselves are not able to answer the question!!!!!

As always, Ramit, great post!

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