376: Learning to Ask for Help
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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about learning to ask for help in business.
Many founders are not used to asking for help and this can be a disadvantage for themselves and their businesses. It’s common to see founders who are great at helping others solve their problems to be horrible at asking for help when they need it.
In this episode, Steli and Hiten share their thoughts on why it’s important to ask for help when you need it, why you should figure out how to ask somebody for something, tips for figuring out how to ask for help and much more.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
00:00 About the topic of today’s episode
00:33 Why this topic was chosen.
02:22 How Many founders are not used to asking for help and this can be a disadvantage for themselves and their businesses.
04:00 Why you should figure out how to ask somebody for something.
04:27 A major reason why some people are terrible at asking for help.
04:50 How Steli is working on his ability to ask for help.
05:29 One moment in time that made Steli more aware of his struggles with asking for help.
06:44 Another moment in time that made Steli more aware of his struggles with asking for help.
10:25 Tips for figuring out how to ask for help.
11:33 How to reach out to Steli and Hiten if you need help.
3 Key Points:
- Many founders are not used to asking for help and this can be a disadvantage for themselves and their businesses.
- I needed such a good reason to reach out that I was actually helping them when I asked for help.
- Figure out how to ask somebody for something.
Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti. And this is Hiten Shah . And today in this sort of chat, we want to talk about learning to ask for help, asking people for help. And here’s why I wanted to talk to you about this. Just recently at a conference, I was talking to a founder and when she was describing to me what she was going through, some of her challenges and problems, I think after 30 or 40 minutes of talking, eventually we arrived at this point where it was clear that one of her biggest challenges is that she just doesn’t ask enough for help. She has this huge network of people that could help her; help her find customers and clients, help her find people to hire, help her with good advice, but she’s not tapping into that network because she’s the type of person … And I think that that’s something that applies to a lot of founders, that has been so accustomed to being asked for help and being the person that’s just offering solutions, that her solution muscle is awesome and her advice muscle is awesome, but her asking for help and asking for advice muscle is terribly weak. She just always cooks her own little soup and when she’s challenged by something or when she has a problem, she just tries to figure it out on her own versus tapping into the amazing ecosystem and network that she has developed and the good will she’s developed by helping so many people. And she was like, “Yeah, I’m just not comfortable asking people for help. I never realized that.” And I tapped into that, giving her some advice and talking to her about how important it is to ask for help as a founder and entrepreneur. I thought that would be useful and valuable to other people to hear us talk about this. First of all, right off the bat, let me ask you: Would you agree with a problem statement that I’m making that many founders are not used to asking for help, that that is a disadvantage for themselves and their businesses.
Hiten Shah: Yeah, I think that … I want to say I used to have this problem, but I’m actually going to say I still have this problem. It’s similar to what you described because for me, there are clearly enough people I’ve helped and it’s disproportionate in terms of the amount of times I ask for help versus the amount of times that I help someone or have helped someone in the past. It’s only recently that I’ve started reaching out to people I know and ask for their help. I’ve reached out recently to people I haven’t talked to in like three or four or five or six or even seven or eight years, maybe even longer and asked for their help and it was hard. I always felt like I needed a really good reason. More importantly, and this is where it gets tricky, I needed such a good reason that I was actually helping them when I asked them for help. That’s so weird, but I think if you have this muscle where you’re helping other people, it is the people I’ve met that help a lot of other people similar to like I have, have this problem because they’re constantly in one mode. They have one muscle they’ve worked and the other side of that muscle is being able to find people who can help you and ask for that help when you need it. I think that it’s very tricky to navigate this and force yourself to go get help when you need it. Because oftentimes when you’re helping other people, you tend to be good at problem solving and just almost feel like I should just solve the problem myself. It’s just a place that you’re in from a mindset standpoint. So the only advice I have for someone like that is just get over it; just figure out how to ask somebody for something. It might even by somebody who’s really close to you because the thing I’ve noticed about myself is even when it comes to my wife, I will not ask her for help when maybe I should. So I think this kind of mentality does permeate with certain people. That’s one reason. I think another reason that this happens if you haven’t necessarily helped a ton of people or you aren’t giving advice to people all the time or whatever, you just grew up in a family that never asked each other for help.
Steli Efti: That’s a good one. I love the honesty, Hiten, and I’m not surprised. I knew that you were terrible at asking for help obviously, since we are good friends. But I also would put me in the same bucket. I’m not above this. I don’t think that I’m good at asking for help and this is actually something I’m working on. To some degree, I think there’s many reasons for it, but I’m not even that interested in that. I think I’ll share my biggest “aha” moment. There were two “aha” moments that made me start working on it and then obviously, I get all these founders. I talk to them and eventually at some point, we get to the well, who do you know who could help me with this? And it’s like well yeah, this, this and this person could easily make a massive difference here. I’m like, cool. Do you know these people? Yeah, yeah, I helped this person. Yeah, I know this person really well. Have you ever asked them for help? No. And I’m like, would you ask them for help? And the answer is always like, I don’t know. I would have never thought about it. I’m like, okay. This might be a universal issue or challenge or opportunity. I think for me the two things, the two moments that made me more aware of this and that started shifting my mindset … Well, there’s a variety of it. I remember there was one big challenge that we had where I started actively reaching out to a few people to help with. It was a recruiting challenge. We needed to hire somebody very specific and I had a hard time finding that person. Then eventually, I sucked it up and I reached out to a number of people, asked them if they knew somebody. And what I was most surprised about was the enthusiasm and the response. People were just so enthusiastic about me asking them for help and they went so out of their way to try to help that I was like, wow, I do have this incredible resource that I almost never tap into. People that know me, that have known me for a minute, if I ask for help, they’re actually … They’re not just like dealing with it, but I think oh yeah, sure, if it’s convenient here. I know somebody. They will like … I spent an hour. I talk to all these people. I research all these things. Here’s what I can do and I’ll do this other work. They go beyond what is reasonable to help me and they seem really excited and happy about it. That was the first moment I was like, whoa, this is a much stronger response than I expected and consistently from a number of people. The second time around was an “aha” moment I had recently where I had a friend visiting me in New York. Everywhere we went, I had the inclination to pay for our food, for this, for that, for the other. And eventually, he stopped me and he looked at me and he said, “Stelly, I love you. You’re an amazing friend. But what you’re doing really sucks.” And I looked at him and was like, what? He was like, “Listen. I know that your intention is always to try to make sure that you give and you give and you give. And your goal is that your account is always in the plus. In any relationship you’re in, you want to give more than you take, so your account always needs to be in the plus, right? You’re always building surplus in terms of how much you help and what you pay for and just going, always taking more responsibilities, paying more than the rest of the people, helping more than the rest of the people.” “That’s part of why I love you and that’s part of what makes you awesome. At the same time, I also like my account to be in the plus and you make it impossible. And that’s just not cool. That puts me in a really bad spot because I don’t like my account to be in a bigger, bigger, bigger minus in our relationship. I also want to help you. I also want to pay for things. I also want to feel like we’re equals and it’s a give and take. It’s not just me taking all the time from you. That just doesn’t feel awesome.” And nobody had ever given me the business this way. Nobody ever had confronted me about this in quite a similar way and I was like, oh wow, okay. I didn’t realize that. He’s like, “Please let me pay. Please let me help a little bit more. Please … Because it feels awesome to me as well, to be an awesome friend to you. I know it feels great for you to be a great friend to me, but I also want to be a great friend for you. And you don’t give me an opportunity to become that. You don’t allow me that.” He’s like, “Many of your friends, you’re in a much more dominant position. Why? Because you always give, you always help, you always … And you don’t give people as many opportunities to give back and create kind of an equal level of relationship.” And that blew my mind that I didn’t realize that as clearly as in that moment. I was like, oh shit. People are actually happy when you give them a chance to help and I don’t give people a lot of chances to help. I’m always so eager to help others and to give that I don’t realize that it’s a joy for people … Other people also want to give and help and I don’t give many people an opportunity to do so. So I never thought about it that way. I think that that was a real big “aha” moment for me. Since then, I’ve been just practicing this a little bit more, asking for my help, stepping back and giving other people the chance to also step in and help and be a real resource. It has both provided a lot of value to me, like I’ve gotten a lot more help, a lot more advice, a lot more resources than I had gotten before. And I see that I’m giving people more value in our relationships because people are excited that they finally get a fucking chance to do something for me versus like the last few years, they were only able to receive help from me.
Hiten Shah: Yeah, it’s interesting to understand that psychology on the other side, too. I think that opportunities like that where you can have someone feel like they helped you when you’ve been really helpful to them is really useful and important. I think another aspect to this is also, if you aren’t asking for help and it’s not because you’ve been helpful to other or anything like that, it’s just because you don’t know how to. I would say that you should just think up whatever problem you’re having right now that you’re challenged with because everyone has got one of those at any given time at least, hopefully one. Hopefully not more, but you can just be very practical and think through or list out, whatever you want to do, the people who can help you and go send them an email with a single question. Just say hey, I’m struggling with this. I’d love your thoughts and give them something very short to respond to you and see what happens.
Steli Efti: I love that.
Hiten Shah: I think you have to force yourself to do it because as humans, we want to help each other. That’s the majority of humans, not everyone, but that’s the majority of humans. Even though I say not everyone, even the person who you think might not be willing to help somebody else, there is somebody that they’re willing to help with something. So I feel like you just have to push yourself to do this. This is something that’s part of living life, having a fulfilling life and being able to be happy as well. You’re learning to get help from others. That way, you don’t feel like you’re alone and struggling with something. As all of you that are listening know, Stelly and I are always here to help you. So, you want to do the usual thing, Stelly?
Steli Efti: Yeah, I’m going to say you could always reach out at , but also let us ask you for help, which is please, if you haven’t done it yet, it would mean a lot to us. Just go to iTunes, go to our podcast page and give us a fast review and write a little bit about what this podcast has meant to you; why you like it, why you enjoy it, really helps make the podcast more popular and visible so more people can enjoy it and hopefully find using it. That’s it for us. Ask yourself, who can you ask for help? What is an area you need to ask help for and then ask for help today. [stelly@firstname.lastname@example.org
Hiten Shah: Yeah, and we don’t do this for our health. We do this to help you. We do like talking to each other but we do this to help you.
Steli Efti: Yes, very much so.
Hiten Shah: Cheers.
Steli Efti: Cheers.