Photo Credit: Ken Treloar via Unsplash

That Time I Was on the Receiving End of an Intervention

My friends told me I was too independent.

Earlier this year, I was on the receiving end of an intervention.

It happened at my house, on my home turf no less! And I’m pretty sure we were drinking my whiskey.

The intervention wasn’t about sex, drugs, or rock n’ roll. Sorry to disappoint.

As we sat in my living room, two of my closest friends told me that I’m “too independent.” They said I don’t ask for help enough.

They gave me permission to lean on them more.

“You’ve got this incredible capacity for hustle,” Nathan said. “But that’s a gift that can be wasted.”

I was stunned. But I knew that they were right.

As an entrepreneur, my Achilles heel is chronic discontentment.

As a Type 1 on the Enneagram, my Achilles hell is perfectionism. (Typo intended)

Discontentment and perfectionism work together like gasoline and fire to make me anxious all the time that I’m not doing enough…

…not working hard enough

…not working smart enough

…not moving fast enough

…not dreaming big enough

…not being enough.

I get trapped in a vortex of impossible standards. I hustle myself to exhaustion. Exhausted people struggle to keep wisdom and discernment at the forefront.

The trapdoor in the vortex is asking for help.

Think about it: You have access to a brain trust if you ask other people for advice. You gain leverage if you ask other people to push on the crowbar with you. You get more done if you delegate.

Interdependence opens up a beautiful country, verdant with possibilities:

All that intelligence out there waiting to be tapped.

All that strength and strategy out there waiting for an invitation.

All those lovely folks who enjoy lending a hand because giving makes us happy.

Most exciting of all is that we make other people happy when we ask for help. I could make my friends’ lives better by being less independent, admitting my limitations, and inviting them into my mess.

Because things sure are messy up in here.

Hustling is smart until it causes so much stress and anxiety that your body and mind shut down. Hustling doesn’t always solve the problem.

Sometimes, hustling makes the problem worse. I can move so fast that the problems become a blur.

If you’re moving at 60 mph (or 96.5 kph), then you need 300 feet (or 92 meters), to come to a complete stop. If you’re going 150% as fast, or 90 mph (145 kph), then you need 584 feet (or 178 meters) to stop.

Moving too fast lessens your response time.

What is the alternative?

You schedule margin in your calendar. You then have the time and brain space to draw circles around specific problems and trace them back to their roots. Margin also gives you the time and space needed to identify new opportunities and find the places of maximum leverage.

In his book Overlap Sean McCabe has this to say about scheduling margin:

“You will be amazed at the clarity that comes from this blocked-out time. A moment in your day when you’re not rushing from one thing to the next will feel incredible. Actually, at first it will feel very wrong. You might even feel guilty. Don’t feel guilty. This is very important time. It is a necessity, not a luxury. Avoiding burnout and stress is not a luxury; it’s survival.”

Anxiety has been a part of my mental landscape for so long that I thought it was normal.

I’ve got a constant buzz in the back of my mind: “There’s probably something else that I should be doing instead.”

I only began to recognize my anxiety for what it is when I stepped out of the day-to-day crush of tasks. Other people don’t carry that buzz with them wherever they go? Other people aren’t exhausted — all the time?

No. That isn’t normal.

In “The Calm Company (our next book)” Basecamp founder Jason Fried remarked on the stupidity of exhaustion:

“Long hours, excessive busyness, and lack of sleep have become a badge of honor for many people these days. Sustained exhaustion is not a badge of honor, it’s a mark of stupidity.”

Um… guilty?

Let me gather up all the loose threads…

  • I have been too independent. I haven’t leaned on my friends and business partners enough.
  • Being too independent has caused me to miss out on other people’s brilliant thinking and talent.
  • Being too independent also accelerates exhaustion. In order to accomplish everything on my own, I must wring every last drop of productivity out of days.
  • Not finishing everything I had hoped to finish contributes to my anxiety.
  • Without enough slowness in the form of margin, I cannot identify specific problems and develop remedies for them. I cannot seize opportunities because they pass by in a blur.

That intervention taught me that my friends would like to help me. But they usually don’t know what I need unless I ask for help.

Never underestimate how much people will care if you give them the chance.

I now desire to work and lead from a place of rest. To do that I must rely on other people and be fast to ask.

Does any of this resonate with you? Are you good at asking for help or are you too independent?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Are you as successful as you want to be?

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