Look for The Helpers

I’ve never been the greatest at asking for help. I suppose it’s a combination of my classic midwestern “I don’t want to bother anybody”, a little of my self-diagnosed Hyper Responsibility Disorder and a bit of old-fashioned “I can do it myself” pride.
Ten years ago, I ran into a bit of a problem. I had this wild-hair idea about a business I wanted to launch and I just couldn’t possibly do it myself. I needed help.
I needed help with so many things. I needed help with construction of the physical space, creating a website, finetuning a business plan, even buying dishes. I needed help tiling and painting, making signs, and figuring out what I was missing. My need for help felt a bit endless at times. 


Here’s the beautiful wonder: the helpers were there.

It was ten years ago today that we hosted our first event, a culinary team event for 40 people. I had signed the lease just shy of six weeks before and we gutted and rebuilt the entire 4,000 feet of space in that short time. By we, I mean me and all the helpers. Friends and family, neighbors, and friends of friends. It was so humbling to see how hard people worked for this dream of mine. I will never forget watching our first customers stream through the door that night and feeling the jolt of excitement and gratitude that we had actually done it. We had gotten it done and people were really there!
Since then, the helpers have always been there. We’ve continued to need lots of help. Sometimes its painting, plumbing, or even cleaning up the pile of wet ceiling tiles when the water heater upstairs burst and flooded our space the morning of a big event. Help has shown up in so many other ways, though. Most of the time, help comes not in the form of doing, but in the form of engaging.


We can only do what we do if people show up.

We can only get better if people ask questions or give us feedback or tell us what we missed. Recently, a person in one of our classes apologized for asking me to repeat something I had just said because it wasn’t clear to her. She clearly didn’t see herself as my helper, but that’s exactly who she was. I thanked her profusely because her question was just so helpful. A few days ago, I spent hours frustrated and overwhelmed by the seemingly never-ending technical glitches and challenges that were hitting me. Right about the time I wanted to throw a brick through my computer, a note popped into my email from a client I hadn’t seen in quite a while. He was updating me on some amazing progress he had made and thanked us for our help. He probably had no idea that he was actually being my helper.
Showing up for one another is a powerful form of helpfulness. When I look back on ten years, I’m proud of what we’ve built, who we’ve become, and appreciate how much stinkin’ fun we’ve had. It truly has been a blast. What is way more powerful, though, is my view of how many helpers there have been. Not only how many ways people have helped Thought Design or me personally, but how many ways people have helped one another. I don’t think there has been a day that the helpers weren’t there.
As always, Mr. Rogers was right.

Who are your helpers? Whose helper are you?
How might you be a helper in ways that you haven’t seen?

Just some food for thought.