I was on Twitter the other day and saw a bunch of people repeating something I didn’t remember saying and attributing it to me.

“Success doesn’t mean you don’t have problems. It means you’re strong enough to ask for help.” — me, I guess.

Right. It turned out to have been something I said during a call I with my group leaders from the Kitchen Table program. I definitely said it. What the context was, though… who knows.

So I’m going to elaborate on the concept because it keeps coming up in a variety of forms. Plus I think it’s really important.

Also, people keep asking me what the hell I’m talking about. So I might as well figure that out too. Hahahahaha. How awkward.

Three teachings.

There are three ways I would interpret this concept.

And since I can’t for the life of me remember what my original point was — and because this still true, valid, and useful even though it allows for different interpretations — I’m going to give you all three.

First interpretation: challenge is a constant. But hey, it’ll be okay.

Problems and challenges … things not going the way you wanted them to … it’s just part of business. Part of being alive.

It’s like when my clients say, “I don’t want to have this pattern anymore.”

We can zap patterns all day — or even all year. We can rewrite them, shift them, change them, dissolve them… but you will always have patterns.

Just different ones — ones that work better for you.

Same thing with challenges.
You work through one, you get to work on the next one. If you made it through your last one, you should have picked up some helpful tools for working with the next one.

But those challenges? They’re going to show up.

You’ll get better at facing them. You’ll be less impressed with the fact that they exist. You’ll have more creative ideas for how to interact with them.

But the fact that they exist is not going anywhere.

I know, it’s kind of a pain. But here’s the good news:

Since challenges and problems and Stuff Going Horribly Wrong no longer imply that you are a total failure, you can take the time you were spending dreading them and start getting help working through them.

Since they’re going to be around anyway, you might as well learn as much as you can about maintaining your peace of mind and asking for what you need.

We talk a lot in my Shiva Nata classes about finding the eye of the storm. Coming into that solid spot of calm, even — especially — when there’s chaos all around you.

Success — whatever that means for you — will solve a bunch of your current challenges. And create a bunch of new ones. So you might as well get really good at figuring out what your support systems are.

Instead of thinking that the challenges are the enemy. Which is my favourite thing to do, yes, but not all that helpful.

Second interpretation: vulnerability is power.

It’s useful for your clients and customers to know that you have challenges too.

If you try to convince them that you’re actually perfect, they won’t be able to relate to you. They won’t believe that you get their pain. That they can ever be like you.

When you speak honestly about the challenges that come up in your business and your life — and how you’re interacting with them — you’re demonstrating that it’s possible to learn and grow and change.

We’ve talked about this before. Perfection is not sexy.

Come on. How often do I talk about things that terrify me? Or mistakes I’ve made? Weaknesses. Pain. At least twice a week.

Actually, it’s probably way more than that.
But at least twice a week I tell you about stuff that’s hard for me. You get to watch when I fall down.

And every time I model what it’s like to have problems and challenges, good things happen. And people hire me. Willingness to admit weakness is pretty much the only strength you need.

If you want the people you truly care about helping to believe that it is possible to make the changes that you have made, to learn what you have to teach — you’d better have problems and challenges too.

Because we need to know that you’re a real-live human being. That you know how much it hurts.

Every time I see someone I admire ask for help, I get a little braver. I get a little more daring. And a little more inspired to ask for help when I need it too.

Third interpretation: don’t let anyone put you on a pedestal.

When you’re strong enough to ask for help, it’s easier for your Right People to identify with you. And the more they identify with you, the less likely they are to put you up on a pedestal. Which is a good thing.

For one thing, if you’re not up there, no one can knock you down.

And — even more important — your clients can’t use your “greatness” as an excuse for not trying.

Since you have problems too, they might as well give whatever-it-is a shot.

I know it feels scary to not have that illusion of safety, but that’s exactly what it is. An illusion.

When you surround yourself with the protection of presenting only your professional side to the world, you constantly have to worry about people finding out “what you’re really like”.

Real safety comes from somewhere else.
From asking yourself what you need. From creating structures and boundaries. From letting people know how they can interact with you and what’s not appropriate or acceptable.

From letting them see that your humanity is what makes you and your work appealing and accessible.

Obviously we all worry about that feeling of exposure, being human and everything. But whenever I worry about it, I remind myself that you guys already know what I’m really like.

You already know that I get scared. That I’ve done things I’m not proud of. That I rage around and accidentally break the bed.

Problems? Yeah, I’ve got them. Badge of experience. Badge of humanity.

So when I need it, I ask for help. Sometimes from you. Sometimes I hire people. Sometimes I ask myself for resources of strength that I haven’t been able to access before.

But I ask.

Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m talking about.

Apparently though, it doesn’t really matter. Especially since I’m having so much fun explicating my own accidental words of wisdom!

Either way, I think that “success” — as completely terrifying as that prospect can be — doesn’t need to be this distant, end-of-the-line goal. It’s just something we practice in little bits and pieces. We model the way we would like to be, while acknowledging that “hey, this is where we are”. Even when sometimes it kind of sucks.

We practice interacting with ourselves with as much compassion as we can stand… and when we’re not there yet, oh well.

Another challenge.

Because success doesn’t mean you don’t have any problems any more. It just means you’re strong enough to ask for help.

I read it on Twitter so it must be true. 🙂

The Fluent Self