This is a question that goes deep for me. As an only child, I was raised to be self-reliant. My reflex for much of my life was therefore to go it alone. These lines from Everything is waiting for you by David Wyte speak to this experience:

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings.

Like David, I have learned we are never truly alone. Help is, in truth, just a question away. And yet, I know from personal experience that asking for help involves so much more than just asking for help.

  • There can be a sense that our image of self-reliance and strength may be undermined.
  • That we will be in someone else’s debt.
  • That we may become vulnerable.
  • That they might think less of us.

How Might I Think About This?

We clearly can’t control what or how other people think of us. What we can control is how we choose to see the world. So let me offer you an alternative narrative.

  • Rather than seeing ourselves as individuals, let’s see ourselves as members of communities. Communities help each other. In fact, communities have an interest in supporting their members.
  • Rather than seeing ourselves as in debt to any one individual, make it a debt to the community. If you can do a good deed for others then do so – in this way you can pay down any debt you feel you have.
  • Vulnerability is simply accepting that we need help. Others need to see how they can help. Unless we open up how can they?

Opening Our Eyes

Once we open up to the possibility of being helped, we come back to the original question: What help am I walking past?

The invitation is to pay more attention to the world around you as you go through your day – to see more opportunities not only for help you know you need but also for help you don’t yet know you need. Equally, ask yourself: How might I pay it forward?

Questions in the Image:

  • What help am I walking past?
  • What help do I not know I need?
  • What help will I ask for today?
  • How might I help others today?

Want to Read More Around This Topic?

Dare to Lead by Brené Brown (link to Dare to Lead is both practical and inspirational, offering insights and strategies for developing more human and effective leadership skills, fostering stronger communities, and embracing vulnerability as a path to courage and meaningful connection.

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day. I’m actually writing this on my first morning back after the Christmas break and my body is rebelling. It doesn’t want to be here. It longs for holiday mode and is asking: Why not take it easier this morning? This is a deep question. Indeed, why not take it easier every morning? What, in fact, is driving me – or you – to get out of bed in the morning?

About Tom O’Leary

My mission is to help others think differently – meaning more broadly and deeply – and thereby make better decisions. The key to thinking differently lies in our curiosity.

The more we question, the more possible answers we uncover, and the more we expand what we thought possible. Life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential.

And yet, in a culture obsessed with efficiency and productivity, the paradox is that much energy and resources are wasted by a bias towards action over contemplation. If you are answering the wrong question, it doesn’t matter how ‘hard’ you work, you are still answering the wrong question.

That is why I am a big advocate of nurturing curiosity and innovative thinking at all ages, particularly amongst leaders because of the impact they have on us all. In my vision, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are curious, open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning.

What Thoughts Would You Like to Share?

I welcome your thoughts, feedback, or personal experiences related to these questions or any insights they may have sparked.