How to Help Someone (And Ultimately Help Yourself in the Process)

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.

Richard P. Feynman

There’s a funny, slightly insulting quote you’ve likely heard, from the author and dramatist George Bernard Shaw, that goes “He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches”. And perhaps, an even funnier follow-up quote by Woody Allen, saying “Those who can’t do, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach gym.”

Now that I’ve insulted every teacher and, specifically, gym teacher reading this, I’d like to discuss a somewhat related idea (that might be a bit more helpful to us than criticizing our doing and teaching abilities):

If you can’t help yourself, try helping others.

When we hear about other people’s problems, Why do we think they are so much easier to solve than our own?

Because we can usually see their — our friend, family member, coworker, boss, etc —problem with a clear mind and come up with linear ideas and strategies to solve it. Our problems are too close to us because we are the ones dealing with them (and at the same time trying not to have a panic attack and emotionally eating an entire cake). And it’s the same both ways. They might see your problems and think they are easy to solve, just like you think the same about theirs. In reality, most problems are messy and hard to deal with. But we make them harder by weighing them down with fear and blindly try to fix things without clarifying the problems first. Clarity is key.

Clarity is what we can give to others. And clarity is what we need for our own problems. We need to see all the visible cards on the table and think through (and gut feel) our way through the cards we don’t know about.

How do you help someone gain clarity about their problems? Have a conversation with them. And more importantly, listen to them. Be a sounding-board first; A helper second. Sometimes all we need is to hear ourselves speak aloud about our problem. Having a person in front of us who is giving us eye contact, nodding their heads every so often, and allowing us to talk is a great way to do that and really hear what we need to hear.

After, listening, giving actionable advice and ideas is another way we can help someone. I believe advice needs to come from a neutral place. The point of helping is not to tell them what you think is best for them. You need to think about the advice that is best for who they are and what their goals are. Remember, we’re not trying to make clones of ourselves. We’re trying to help others be the best version of themselves they can be. Not the best versions of us they can be.

Of course, sometimes people don’t know what they need. Use your best judgment. Some skills and piece of advice are universal. For example, building a better community and support group around you who all want you to succeed is always a great idea. (Or at least, I’ve never heard or read anyone giving the opposite advice — ‘don’t be friends with anyone. support groups will get you nowhere’ 😜)

However, there’s a caveat I would be remiss if I didn’t say: we first need to make sure that the person (or people) we are trying to help actually want our help. If we’re just telling them what to do and giving them a dozen ideas to try that they don’t want and didn’t ask for, the help isn’t going to work. And related, it’s always good if you can back up your advice with experience. If you haven’t taken your own advice, very few people are actually going to listen. Help works where it’s needed, not where it’s assumed to be needed.

By putting our energy towards helping others, we end up helping others and helping ourselves. Not only do we do a good thing by lifting someone up when their down and teaching them something valuable, we also begin to feel better about our own circumstances and problems because we are no longer are wasting so much energy into doubt, fear and worry about ourselves. By channeling our energy towards others, we’ve taken away energy that we would be giving to fearing our own issues.

Giving a helping hand doesn’t have to be just people we know too. We can also help others online or in our local community that we haven’t met. We could even put energy towards helping a group of people, like the homeless, or a type of need, like clean water.

In a roundabout way, helping others usually helps ourselves in the process. We gain motion through the act of helping others, and in the process gain the confidence and momentum we need to help ourselves.

How can you leverage your skills, connections and extra resources to help others?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #684

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Related

“Help others and give something back. I guarantee you will discover that while public service improves the lives and the world around you, its greatest reward is the enrichment and new meaning it will bring your own life.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger

“It’s also selfish because it makes you feel good when you help others. I’ve been helped by acts of kindness from strangers. That’s why we’re here, after all, to help others.”

Carol Burnett