The Power of Asking for Help

It’s one of the first things Dev Bootcamp wanted to know about me: could I identify when I needed help with something, and could I then ask for that help? In programming, people get stuck all the time. Knowing how to get unstuck quickly is key to successful growth. So…would I withdraw in the face of a difficult challenge, vowing at first to grind it into submission through brute force, only to retreat after realizing I needed assistance? Or would I be able to set aside my pride and ask for what I needed when I needed it?

I still tend to apply the “stubbornly solo” strategy all too often. But that doesn’t mean I’m not improving. Like any habit, asking for help is easier the more I do it. When I first started Phase 0, I thought it was a sign of weakness to use Google before hacking at a coding problem for at least an hour or two. Now I search within ten minutes of realizing I might not find the right answer without guidance. I’ve found that saying “I don’t know” is far easier than it was the first time I made a conscious effort to admit my ignorance more often. I might never reverse my old thinking completely, but I’m making strides in the right direction, and that’s good enough for me.

People who finish Dev Bootcamp are quick to gush about how their lives outside of programming were improved as a result of the work they put in as boots. I think getting over self-imposed loneliness, that addiction to being right at the expense of learning, is one big part of the life change. I know my life is already changing for the better.

Last week, I had a real wake-up call while analyzing the family budget. I’d saved just enough to cover my wife and daughter’s needs in my absence, but there wasn’t anything left over for my train fare or food during my stay in Chicago. I agonized for days over how I’d bridge the gap – should I bring a guitar and busk for extra cash on weekends? Should I start selling my music equipment, breaking my promise to myself that I’d return to music once I had a more solid career footing? I had no idea what to do. And that’s because I had a gigantic blind spot.

In a moment of (what felt at the time like) desperation, I created a GoFundMe account and set up a donation page for food and travel expenses. I set what felt like the most modest goal I could live on and crossed my fingers, hoping to net at least enough to buy my first monthly CTA pass and a week’s worth of groceries.

That was two days ago. As of this writing, I’m already 75% to goal and there’s no sign of slowing. I’m floored for two reasons. One, the generosity of my friends and acquaintances. Two, my stupidity in not asking sooner, before it was the eleventh hour and I was out of other options.

I didn’t have much to offer in exchange for the donations I’ve received, but I made a promise to blog daily. Since I have benefactors now, I feel like I owe it to them to tell my story in real time, so they can share in my success at Dev Bootcamp. It’s a small gesture, but it will keep me busy, humble, and thankful every time I sit down to write. And future boots will have the benefit of a complete DBC story to refer to when doing research.

If I hadn’t asked for help, I don’t know how I’d be able to pull next week off, let alone all three Phases of DBC’s ridiculously challenging program. I had stubbornly focused my vision on taking care of my family without thinking about taking care of myself, because taking care of myself would have meant relying on others. Once I got past that mental block, I was amazed at how much support I received.

I guess my point, for those who expect one, is to stop confusing selfish pride for selfless concern. We all have moments where martyrdom looks like the best way to craft our self image. The allure of self sacrifice for the sake of self love is powerful. But sometimes what starts out as self sacrifice ends up becoming self harm. Western society is so hyper-individualistic that many of us would rather suffer alone than prosper with others. Dev Bootcamp’s focus on teamwork and empathy is trying to crack through that narrative and find a middle ground, where individual excellence can be amplified with the synergy and momentum that only a collective can bring.

So this goes out to everyone who has supported me with words and wallets. I’m so grateful for your faith in me. It’s helped me renew my faith in myself during a week when I’ve been kinda terrified about what’s ahead. And it’s helped me see just how good things can be when I set myself aside and admit that I need a helping hand.

Imagine what I could have known by now if I had started saying “I don’t know” ten years ago. Imagine how much I’m going to know ten years from now by exposing my ignorance every day and letting others fill the gaps in my understanding. It’s embarrassing and exciting in equal amounts.

If you’re wondering about Dev Bootcamp or programming or music or whatever, I want to be a resource to you. Feel free to let me know what you don’t know, and maybe we can find the answer together. This is an open invitation to reach out if you have any questions I haven’t answered in this blog yet. Chances are you’re not the only one asking, but you might be the first to ask out loud. Paying this awesomeness forward is the absolute least I can do.

See you tomorrow. 

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