SEVERAL YEARS AGO, when I was still a one-woman operation working from home, I felt so overwhelmed by things I needed to do to keep up with my growing business, I actually hired a friend of mine to drive me to an appointment in Atlanta so that I could use the time in the car to get some work done. I needed help and I was smart enough to ask for it.
Fast forward a few years, and people are reach- ing out to help me when I didn’t even realize it. Other business owners helped me get my first office, and friends became “employees” to help manage multiple events. Business was growing, and the capacity to do more kept expanding.
Fast forward a few more years and here we are at our 10th anniversary. There’s people all around managing different sides of this business, and I seem to have forgotten how to ask for help. In looking around at everyone doing their part, I have lost the ability to look at my own list and ask someone specifically to help me for a specific task. It’s hard to say, “I need help.” But it’s even harder to say, “I need help with .”
At the age of 42, I’m now balancing caring for older family members, while still caring for myself and my husband. Of course, I do not have the added stress of caring for children, and I don’t know how people in the “sandwich generation” are managing. But I do have a growing business to run, and clients to take care of. I’m a list maker, and usually manage to get it all done. But everything came to a head this past week when I needed to find a way to be in two places at one time. I had two people I loved who needed me, in two different locations, at the same time. I finally broke down and called my precious sister and said, “I need help.” Thankfully, I was able to specifically articulate what I needed and she was more than happy to jump in.
I was raised to be pretty tough, and I think I’m fairly independent. I’m supposed to be able to do everything by myself. But the reality is that you can’t. There are some things you just can’t do by yourself. There’s a risk in asking for help – rejection, of course, but also the (irrational) fear that I will be seen as weak or needy.
In the midst of these last crazy months, I’ve had a friend working through a medical crisis as well. It’s a medical crisis he can’t fix himself. As I’ve watched him, I see how hard it is for him to ask for help. He’s young, and feels like he’s invincible. But he’s not, and he hasn’t figured out how to ask for help, at least not to the right people who won’t reject or judge him, and he can’t seem to ask for the very specific help he needs.
Luckily, the help is already happening all around him. Most people don’t see the work that is being done around them. People who love you are already, most of the time, working to assist you before you realize you even need their help. What a blessing to have a community, a system in place. But it’s up to us to find the courage to speak up when we need to “call in the troops.”
To that end, I’ve hired another event planner to help manage clients (and bring in more) so that the company can continue grow. I’ve asked my business partner and co-workers for specific help; I’ve written down the items that need someone else’s attention. I’ve told my family members what I can and cannot do in a day or a in a week, and we’re finding creative solutions to meet everyone’s needs. I took a break from writing this column, so there was one less person I was letting down (my editor) during a time when I feared I was letting everyone down. I’ve also done the hardest step of all: I’ve forgiven myself not being able to do everything on my own.
While the last six months have been, in a word, frenetic, the lessons are long-lasting. I only hope others reading can remember that help is just one question away. Pause long enough to look around and see who is already there, who is already setting up the safety net. That’s the community to call on. Circle the wagons, gather your troops. Whatever allusion helps you see the bigger picture of your crisis, do it. Just ask.
Holly Lynch is the owner of The Season Events, a full service catering, event planning and design company.