When I was in college, I took a scuba diving class; partly because I needed to fill some elective classes and partly because it seemed like a really cool class. It turned out to be one of the best classes I ever took: I actually learned a lot about a lot of different things, like physics, the human body, air—all kinds of fun facts, which made the class really interesting.
During one of the classes, in the middle of the semester, there was a night that really stood out to me. It was a night that I still remember very clearly and I don’t think I will ever forget. The instructor had brought the class as a group to the pool. He told us we would be doing an exercise on strength, stamina and asking for help. Each one of us would get into the water, one at a time, with our weight belts on. Weight belts are used to control your buoyancy; you hold different amounts of weight depending on your build.
So each one of us got into the water and were instructed to tread water. We were told that, when you need help, wave your hand and we will help you. As each student went in, the instructor, every 20-30 seconds, asked if we needed help. If we responded no, he threw us another five-pound weight to add to the belt. If we said yes, we could get out of the water. The instructor continued to do this until obviously, each person couldn’t hold any more weight and had to give up.
Naturally, all the men in the class were thinking about who would be the strongest—who would last the longest and be the last to ask for help. We all started competing with the times. When it was my turn, somewhere in the middle of the class, I gave it my best effort. I tried my hardest to have the longest time. And I swear, when the last weight was thrown to me, my nose was barely above water and my heart felt like it was pounding out of my chest!
The entire class finished the exercise and we were given the results. I didn’t have the best time, but I was pretty high up there. Enough to be decently proud of myself. And then the instructor said:
“Every single one of you failed this exercise.”
Everyone looked at him, dumbfounded, as if he was joking.
“Seriously, you all failed” he said. “And I am really disappointed that none of you have understood what we have been trying to teach you.”
At this point, we all realized that he was serious and we had screwed something up, but we weren’t sure what. And then he explained it to us. I will paraphrase:
When this exercise took place, we had been in the class for a solid six weeks. In every single class, the instructors had made clear to us that water was not to be taken for granted. We could die at any point. Safety and being aware of what was going on were the most important things when scuba diving. It was drilled into us. And here we were, doing an exercise that was very simple. You are in the water. When you need help, simply ask for it.
The second we entered the water and he asked “Do you need help?” we all should have said “YES.” There we were, in the water, no floatation device, just us treading water, being thrown more weight voluntarily. And every single person in the class said, “No, I don’t need help, give me more weight,” while having to treading water faster, getting pulled down, close to drowning.
“If you were in the ocean, in the same exact scenario, and the rescue boat came up beside you and asked if you were OK, would you say, “Yup, but before you get me, throw me some more weight?”
Wow, what an incredible lesson. How many of us don’t ask for help when we don’t know something? How many of us keep taking on more and more things? How many of us end up waiting until its way too late and have to eventually give up, because we are drowning in our own creations or situations.
That exercise was a great way to drive home the point that we all need help. And the more quickly you can ask for it, the better shape you will be in. All we had to do was jump in the water and immediately say “YES!” when the instructor asked if we needed help—and then get out of the water. But NO, we all thought we were better and we all thought we could handle it.
What do YOU need help with right now? Are you trying to do it all by yourself…and pulling yourself down with unneeded weight? Is someone asking you if they can help you, but you’re just ignoring them, or you don’t even see them?
Don’t wait any longer. Ask for some help and see how much easier things can be!
Filed Under: Business, Issue #160, Personal Development
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