Help Me Help You

“Dad I want to run for student council. Can you help me?

Just last week, Ian, my eldest son asked this question at the dinner table. As a writer, I was excited my son wants me to help him for such a momentous occasion. The student council for a fifth grader is a BIG deal. It is like the presidential election for 10 and 11 year old candidates. Winning this event would be life changing based on Ian’s account of its significance.

I will help you with your speech Ian. When do you want to get started?”

His eyes widened and a smile appeared from behind the stern curious look he had when asking his question. Then he screams,

“Let’s do it tonight after dessert!”

See Also: Change can be Beautiful

Helping With The Speech

The moment had arrived. We sat at the table, his tablet in front of him to take notes, my notebook and pencil were in front of me, and I figure I would start the process by asking him the following three simple questions:

1. Why do you want to be on the student council?
2. What will you do as a member of the student council?
3. Why are you the best person to vote for?

These questions were provided to Ian on a small sheet of paper that I slid across the table to him. He looked down at the sheet of paper, I guess expecting a full well written speech, and then looked up at me with absolute disgust.

He reads the questions on the sheet and angrily replies, “I don’t know! You are suppose to help me write this speech.”

Shocked I respond, “So you don’t know why you want to be on student council? What does being on the student council even mean? Why are you even running?”

For 45 minutes we went back and forth with me asking questions and Ian giving politician answers making no progress. Finally he yells in frustration,

“You aren’t even trying to help me!”

I shook my head and replied, “My definition of help may be much different than yours. When you say help I think you mean do it for you. When I say help I mean assist you through the process helping you learn and grow.”

Three days pass and now it is election time. Being the father that I am, who spoils his children, I write the speech the night before the event. He stands in front of the class, with my literary gold written from a 31 year old point of view of fifth grade, recites the words aloud and…loses the election. My words were not what the kids were looking to hear. They wanted to hear from Ian. He lost this election and fell short because he went looking for the wrong type of help and it handicapped his growth.

Seek the Right Type of Help

In our times of deepest need, we often find ourselves asking others for help. It is during these moments that we have to make sure we are seeking the right type of help and not the wrong type of help. Many people are going from situation to situation looking for the type of help that Ian was looking for instead of looking for assistance to learn from the situation and grow from it.

Giving someone the answers to a test will never help them master the material. It only delays the inevitable. There will come a day when the test (situation) will arise again and if you never take the time to learn the lesson, you will be doomed to repeat it.

“There is no use whatever trying to help people who do not help themselves. You cannot push anyone up a ladder unless he is willing to climb himself.” – Andrew Carnegie

Below I have included the difference between the right type of help and the wrong type of help:

Right Type of Help

The act of showing someone how
Giving someone the tools to succeed
Useful Advice

Wrong Type of Help

Doing something for someone without teaching
Hoarding the tools so they will only succeed when you are around
Never having time to develop but only want to give quick solutions
Making people dependent upon you because of something you have that they lack

See Also: Three Reasons to Stop Avoiding Your Problems

The wrong type of help will never move you forward. It will keep you trapped repeating the same scenarios over and over again until you get tired and quit.  The allure of the wrong type of help is that it gives the illusion of time saving. However, all it really does is delay the process. You are going to have to learn how to do what you are avoiding or get used to having that handicap in your life. (Ian still doesn’t know how to write a speech.) Starting today, I challenge you to seek the right type of help in your circumstances and grow.

avoiding problems

“Dad, I don’t know how to do it. It’s too hard.”

Sitting at the kitchen table attempting to help my oldest son work on a math assignment was like continuously slapping Ronda Rousey trying to start a fight. Situations just like this are always explosive. Ian is a know it all even when he doesn’t know it all and when he doesn’t know it all it gets frustrated because he doesn’t know it all. Are you still with me? In other words, he is frustrated when he doesn’t already know how to do something perfectly. I think he gets it from his mom. (Don’t tell her I said that.)

While battling his latest challenge in the math arena, he sizes up his opponent and immediately runs for the hills. The problem before him is unlike anything he had ever seen before. It didn’t show any signs of being easy. It looked like a sweaty, muscular, and powerful giant equipped to lead him to an early death.

See Also: Stories About Overcoming Adversity

“Ian!” I screamed in a typical I’m up too early on a Saturday adult fashion. “You can’t play the game until you finish your work.”

“It’s too hard.” Ian whines in response.

“Well the longer you take to finish, the less time you are going to have to play. You can take a few minutes to figure it out or you can waste your time and then take a few minutes to figure it out. Don’t waste more time avoiding the problem than it takes to solve it.”

Two hours later, after sitting at the table and doodling on the paper, I come by to check on Ian’s progress.

“I just don’t get it.” he continues to complain.

I look over his shoulder down at the problem located in his book and then stare him in the eye with the sad look of extreme disappointment.


“Yes, it’s too difficult.” Ian fires back quickly.

“Wow! Ian do me a huge favor and…read the directions?”

The problem Ian had been struggling to complete was so simple but he failed to read the instructions. He didn’t have to solve the problem. He only had to identify what type of problem it was. He lost out on two hours for something that only took him two seconds to complete.

From this experience with Ian I learned a valuable lesson about avoiding problems that I could immediately apply. In my career, family, and spiritual life there were some problems that I had been avoiding as well. After watching Ian waste his evening, here are three strong reasons I stopped avoiding my problems. I would suggest you do the same if you want to live a fulfilling life

1. Waste of Time

I could scream over and over again that time is precious and that avoiding problems is a waste of that time. Instead, I want to share with you a snippet I found from in the book “Today Matters,” by John C. Maxwell that changed my perspective on the value of time:

To know the value of one year … ask the student who failed the final exam.
To know the value of one month … ask the mother of a premature baby.
To know the value of one week… ask the editor of a weekly newsmagazine.
To know the value of one day…ask the wage earner who has six children.
To know the value of one hour…ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To know the value of one minute… ask the person who missed the plane.
To know the value of one second… ask the person who survived the accident.
To know the value of one millisecond… ask the Olympic silver medalist.

Every time you waste a moment avoiding your problems is time that could be spent doing something that really matters. Don’t continue to squander your time avoiding something you are going to have to do anyway.

2. Stops/Slows Progress

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over.” John Wooden

I can’t move forward to step three if I completely avoid step one. For example, attempting to get your financial life in order is done through a process. This process includes creating a budget, paying off debt, saving, and planning for retirement in some variation. If you want to save money for a future major purchase like a home or a car, it might be beneficial to start by making sure you spend less than you earn. Spending every dime you have and living check to check is not going to help you save. You will not make any progress on your saving goal if you don’t have any money to save.

If you want to make progress, you have to stop avoiding your problems. It is stopping you from moving forward.

3. Solutions Are Often Easier Than You Expect

“Better than three hours too soon than a minute to late.” William Shakesphere

After waiting two hours, Ian’s problem took him two seconds to complete. I can relate and say I have had experiences just like that. For three weeks I put off making a call I was terrified of. In my head this conversation would be a brutal life altering argument where at the end a relationship would be shattered and a rift in the time space continuum would cause the end of the world. You see how dramatic I am?

When I made the call, it was not nearly as bad as I imagined. It was pleasant, encouraging, and positively influential in my life. Every experience may not turn out positive like this one but most of them are not as cataclysmic as we imagine in our heads.

See Also: When The Smoke Clears

Ian lost two hours avoiding a problem. Over a lifetime how much time have you wasted avoiding your problems? The way to get the life you want, you have to stop trying to avoid your problems but instead go through them. Don’t waste your time, stop your progress, or imagine a doomsday scenario in your head related to a situation you must go through to be our best.

The fastest distance between two points is a straight line right through your problems. Today, I challenge you to live courageously.

Each person on this planet has a unique allotment of strengths. These strengths, also referred to as gifts or talents, if used to their best potential, has the power to change an individual, family, community, and maybe even the world. Determining what that strength is may sometimes be a challenge. These strengths may also widely vary from person to person. I like to think my strength is writing. My wife is an excellent singer. Ian, my oldest son is a natural at making people laugh. Ethan, my youngest son, is good at, well, learning. He is a two year old sponge who works part time as a wrecking ball.


“The giftedness is usually greater than the person.” – Author Fred Smith

It is our responsibility to use these God given strengths to the best of our ability.  When we don’t reach our maximum potential, we rob ourselves and the world of the amazing gift that we have been bestowed. Imagine the world if Picasso never picked up a paint brush. Imagine the world if Shakespeare never picked up a quill pen. Imagine the world if George Washington Carver never created peanut butter. (I love peanut butter.) These people are just a random select few who I believed attempted to reach their full potential in their craft. Who knows what masterpiece lies within you dormant waiting to be activated by your resolve.

We can’t selfishly bury our talents because they are bigger than us. When our strengths go unused, great things aren’t able to happen through us. Continue reading “Stop Holding Back: There’s Too Much at Stake” »


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