Jay Shirley

Striving to be a man of gallantry and taste

The Most Difficult Question

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Someone asked me a question which completely stumped me. I was totally one of those kids that the teacher ignored because I knew the answers, regardless of how high my hand was raised. I don’t like being stumped, but here I was, completely befuddled. The question wasn’t even hard:

How can I help you?

This was in connection with The Daily Practice, my app I built to track daily activities on the pursuit of a better life. And I have no answer. Yes, I do want help! That wasn’t what I was asked. I was asked how and I had no answer.

Why are they asking?

Since I couldn’t answer that question, I think about related questions that may help. What do they want out of helping me? Do they want to just make it better? What skills do they have that push them to offer?

A better way of looking at this is to look at the person. Who are they, what are they interested in and ultimately what are they hoping to accomplish in their life? This is a more interesting question, because what I really want to discover is how we can help each other.

What are my needs?

The next question is more self-centered. Sure, I’d love to figure out how to not pay for TDP operations out of my own pocket. That isn’t a big deal, though. What do I really need? If I find a magic lamp, complete with a genie what would my 3 wishes be?

My fear is that I don’t know what I need. Especially because someone offering to help is not me, they are them. Because they are them, they know things I don’t even know I don’t know. They know my unknowns, so maybe they should tell me what I need! But this is a cop out.

What I need is, again, to get to know them. To talk about them, to hear what excites them and let the conversation evolve. It will emerge what I need the most if I stop and listen, and give space for people to express what they are passionate about doing.

Is it fair to get help?

But do I deserve it? Do I deserve their help? Their time? It’s much easier to accept money from someone than their time, because time is exhausted and cannot be replenished.

Do I believe I am creating value, creating time and helping others? Yes, of course I do. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be spending my time doing it. If I believe this, then I believe I deserve someone’s time and energy to help me. It still is hard to accept this, impostor syndrome weighs heavy on my mind.

It isn’t fair to dictate to them how to help me, to assign tasks and expect them to just do them. It isn’t fair to try to manipulate someone into doing things they don’t want to do or see completed. It is fair to discover where our goals and ambitions align, and collaborate to make them a reality.

Better for everybody

There is a lot of merit to having a Values First company. It doesn’t conflict with the notion of seeking profit at all. In this effort, TDP isn’t a company. It’s a tool I built, but I do want to keep the idea open that maybe someday it is a company. Maybe it is profitable. Maybe it has employees.

Until that day, accepting an offer of help doesn’t hurt me or them. Even as I write this I struggle to accept it. I need to delegate and let things go. I know I’ll be fair, respectful and appreciative of any help I get.

In the end, I want TDP to be the best product it can be. I want people to feel they’ve contributed, because I enjoy contributing.

I need to learn the right answer to a simple question, and I think writing this put me one step closer.