Who Needs Help? You and Me Both
Some people seem to manage multiple tasks so effortlessly and efficiently. It seems they're always getting bigger and more important projects. For my part, I am drowning in my work. What do they do that I don't?
I once had the privilege of interviewing Coach Morgan Wootten. He was a high-school basketball coach for more than 46 years at DeMatha High in Hyattesville, Md. He is a local legend whose lifetime record of 1,274 wins and only 192 losses is unparalleled in his field. He is the only coach at any level to win 1,200 games. He was elected to the National Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000.
My sons attended his basketball camp last summer. After the camp I stood in line with all the kids who were waiting for Coach's autograph. When it was my turn, I told him I didn't want his autograph but I wanted to interview him on a radio show I host called “Healthy Minds/Healthy Souls.”
On my show, I like to ask successful people what they do differently from others in their field. What separates them from less-successful people? When I pressed Coach Wootten on this, he talked about getting good kids of character and not just talent, highlighting the fundamentals and teamwork, even developing a strong spiritual life. But when I said, “Yes, but many other coaches do that — and none of them have won more than 80% of their games like you have. What else do you do to be so amazingly successful?”
He paused and said he always asks for help. He said a lot of people don't ask for help. They like to do things their way, independently. But he realized he had great dreams and great ambitions. And he could-n't achieve them without a lot of people helping him. The dreams were just too big for one man to accomplish on his own.
Many hard-driving leaders will delegate. But delegating might not be the same as asking for help. Delegating is telling people what to do or giving people something to do. You need not be humble to delegate. But asking for help and offering to help others — and helping others get into great colleges or attain their own coaching jobs — is a central part of Coach Wootten's success.
If we do not ask for help, then we can only take a project or dream as far as our own shoulders will carry it. And everyone's shoulders have their limits. So often we keep things close to the vest to retain control or to frame our work as an extension of ourselves. It could be pride on the one hand that convinces me that only I can do it well. Or maybe it's vanity that makes me ashamed to appear dependent. But how many great ideas, how many of God's projects, get buried because we suffer to keep everything to ourselves?
Coach Wootten shows that petitioning is not out of character for success. In fact, asking is a critical aspect of achieving. Needing help is fundamental to being a Christian. Admitting we need help is critical to growing in the virtue of humility.
This does not mean that we can dump on others when we are not prepared or that we should have others serve us. We cultivate a humble heart by turning over our abilities — and our desire to use them — to Christ. He'll always show us we need help to make the most of the gifts he's given us.
Art Bennett is director of Alpha Omega Clinic and Consultation Services in Vienna, Virginia, and Bethesda, Maryland.