Mind if I Ask You a Question?
After staring at the blank canvas that is often the beginning of every piece I write, my eyelids found their way to one another, the afternoon going dark for a few minutes of badly needed snooze time.
I don’t recover from travel like I used to. Who knew?
Last week I shared brief bits of my trip to Iceland, including a few words about the inaugural men’s retreat.
One of the things that happened – quite spontaneously – was an extraordinarily useful session on the topic of my work. It might be fairer (for some) to call it an unannounced grilling, but I was thrilled and delighted it unfolded the way it did.
And it all started with one man asking “Mind if I ask you a question?”
If I could bottom-line the essence of where it went, it would go something like this: “Your work is valuable and needed, and more men need to experience it. You need help finding language to describe it to the men who need to know about it. We’re the ones who know those folks, and we need that language so we can share this stuff with those we know. We’re your best ambassadors and salespeople and want to help, so how can we help you help us help you?”
As I said, something like that…
First, I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was a humbling, heart-opening, and wildly vulnerable experience. I was, in fact, in the hot-seat and getting kinda sweaty.
In a good way…
In all seriousness, this was a welcome, important conversation to have – and one that, had it not been initiated by a retreat participant, would have been challenging for me to ask for.
On one hand, I’ve gotten much better at asking for help in many areas. On the other hand, there’s something about asking for help in this arena that’s felt unreasonably difficult. It’s seemed unusually vulnerable, as if asking would expose a soft, dark part of an underbelly that’s somehow shameful. Part of me is convinced that, because this is my work, I “should” already have known about or figured out all aspects of it.
Now, as I’m writing this, I see so clearly the illogical, outright unfairness that sits below the thin, cracked foundation of “should.”
Hey, I know myself well enough to know that I do have some formidable gifts and skills. I also know myself well enough to know that organization, linear thinking, and long-term strategic thinking are not among them.
I can conjure all sorts of amazing, compelling future visions… but if you ask me how to get there from here, I got nuttin’.
This isn’t denial or excuse making, people. This is a level of self-knowledge and experience that I get to take ownership of. Doing so allows me to take full responsibility for how I show up and how I can make the “very best use of me” in the world. It shines bright lights on where I really need to seek help from people who have the strengths, gifts, and skills that are simply not part of my toolkit.
I’m at a point in my life and work where spending time on things outside my wheelhouse is not just frustrating, it’s wasted time and energy. It’s really kinda stupid. I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say it’s downright disrespectful of Self.
That’s a big deal.
While I continue to unpack emerging take-aways from my time as both leader and participant in what was the first IAM graduate retreat, one thing I’m astoundingly clear about is this: it’s time to get out of my own way. It’s time to raise my hand, to seek out the help I need and ask for what’s needed to have this vision take flight as imagined and intended.
The longer I do this work, the more I stretch and grow, the more I come face-to-face with the terminal points of my own limitations. That, I think, is a very good thing because I also get to acid-test my vision, desires, preferences, and choices. Simply stated, if I want to move forward, I’m going to have to do things differently.
The first step, based on the conversation mentioned above, is pulling together an advisory board of men who’ve experienced the work – men who think and operate differently than I do. With that formidable group on the case, I trust we’ll come up with, among other things, some clear, user-friendly language we can take out into the world.
And that, dear readers, is something I’m excitedly looking forward to.
What kind(s) of help is it time for you to ask for?