I struggle with a lot of things in life, but two areas where I struggle the most are vulnerability and asking for help. Over the past months I read two books that really highlighted these struggles for me. The books were Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead and The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help. I had first become aware of Brown and Palmer last year through their TED talks. Daring Greatly was highly recommended by my friend and mentor Roy Bethge and I bought The Art of Asking after listening to an interview James Altucher did with Amanda Palmer on his podcast.
My reluctance in these areas may be a guy thing, an introvert think, a personality thing or a cop thing. I grew up as the chubby nerd who got picked on at school and was no good at sports. I quit school when I was 16 and with a friend took off to the west coast of Canada in a 1964 Plymouth, which became our home for a number of months. At 18 years of age I was 60 pounds over weight, a pack a day smoker working in a warehouse and making $325.00 per month. I made the decision to drastically change things in my life in order to achieve my goal of becoming a police officer and at the tender age of 22 found myself sitting in recruit training with the Calgary Police Force (yes they called in a Police Force in 1979).
When I graduated from recruit training I was assigned to the downtown patrol district. They had not allowed recruits to go downtown for 5 years as it was felt that E District was not a good place to learn to be a well rounded police officer. I was assigned to the patrol zone at the east end of the downtown core, which was the home to a large number of tough bars, lots of drugs and violent crime and some slum apartment complexes. I was told by a sergeant who was just coming from that District to training to get a picture taken with all my teeth in as it was likely I would not keep them for long. I learned early from the veteran cops to never show any sign of weakness or vulnerability.
Over the years I have struggled in allowing myself to be vulnerable (talking about my feelings, my fears, my struggles, my insecurities, my failures) and asking for help. I am not good at asking for help when I am struggling with my business, feeling overwhelmed or struggling personally. I have a loving and supportive family and friends and colleagues around North America who would be more than willing to help, I am just not good at asking.
Why am I talking about his now? A few years ago I was doing a full day workshop for the Calgary Police Service Victim Assistance Unit volunteers. At the end of the day I asked for questions. One of the VAU staff members who had sat through my presentations a number of times said, “I have a question. Have you always been like this?” I nervously asked what she meant by “like this”. She said, ” You stand up there for 8 hours without notes and never miss a beat. You rattle off names, and places and dates and statistics. Have you always been this dynamic, confident and engaging speaker?”
I was a little embarrassed by the praise built into the question, but also realized I never talked about my struggles, living in the back seat of a car for months, struggling with my weight much of my life or my failures, fears or insecurities. So, I explained some of my background to the group. The person who asked the question was stunned by my revelations. Since that time I talk about some of these issues in many of my seminars. I was very reluctant to build this in to my law enforcement seminars. The response however, has been very positive and the nodding heads in the room tells me that many of them can relate to the struggles I had.
It struck me as an important lesson for all of us as trainers. When your students see you at the front of the room they think you were always like this. They often think you have always had this level of confidence, skill, knowledge, and expertise. They do not know about your struggles when you were new to the profession, your mistakes and struggles over the years and the wisdom and insights they provided you.
I am getting better about allowing myself to be vulnerable and am working on asking for help. In fact you will find me asking you for help more often. When I do ask for help it will be for a cause greater than myself and not simply for the sake of asking.
In fact, I am going to ask for a favor now. My mission is to Inspire Change Through Excellence in Training. In order achieve that goal that I need to reach the largest audience possible. This blog post is one way for me to accomplish that. Over the next week can you get at least 3 additional law enforcement trainers to subscribe to the Excellence in Training blog.
There are two ways they can subscribe:
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Take care and always remember Life’s Most Powerful Question – What’s Important Now?
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