Sometimes it takes a smart person to ask for help – and some of the smartest people are always asking, because they know you’re better at whatever than they are.
When I lost my position in January, I remained with the same company, moving down to a lower position at a different location. This left myself and the manager in a very odd place: my place wasn’t one of authority but it swiftly became one of reliance. I had no position, and knew everything.
I wanted to bring this up because it happens more often than people realize. Computer experts are hounded by their friends for advice and help with technical problems. Mechanics get pestered all the time to fix cars off the clock, because it’s what they’re good at. It’s a social burden we place on anyone with any kind of speciality because, as much as Generation X and Y rebel against the idea of your work being your life, to a certain extent it never will be anything else.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Competence demands, of itself, constant demonstration. It’s a form of perpetual training; if we’re generous, we’ll thank those around us for the opportunity to do what we’re good at, and improve their lives in the doing.
There’s a down side to savvy, however. I used to sum it up as “the problem with being reliable is people who aren’t” – but that’s a but harsh and, at best, an over-generalization. The core of the issue is that, with so many specialities available, there’s an unusual amount of access to people with far greater skills than you’ve got in any given area. If you want to learn about anything, you read Wikipedia or a blog – you ask the friend who does that for a living, and they help you out because they’re nice. But this can become a habit, and it leads to people making the change from being active Doers in their own lives, to Gatherers, collectors of databases of resources, who never actually get anything done themselves. It’s possible to be a gatherer and have that be your speciality – but only when this speciality is used in the service of your community. If you’re a collector who never shares their collection, you run the risk of becoming parasitic.
Almost no one stands at the polar ends of either Doing or Gathering – life doesn’t work that way. But where, for most of history, people had to rely heavily on themselves as the sole doers in their lives, specialized savvy is so much more common now.
If you can figure out where you’re a doer and where you should be gathering, you’ll be ahead of the game compared to much of the breathing world.