Ask for Help: The Second of Five Lessons I Learned from a Difficult Transition

“You should have asked. We wanted to help.”

While comforting, those words still haunt me. Unfortunately, too many times, we are too embarrassed to ask for help when we need it most.

This is the second in a series of five lessons I learned in making a difficult transition. In this post, we will discuss when, who, and what to ask for when you need help making a transition. We will also discuss why we don’t, won’t, or can’t ask for help.

Those that follow me know I have transitioned several times in my adult life. You also know that I’m pretty open about my mistakes and share how you can avoid them. That may be why you appreciate my candor about the challenges required to transition to your next, great opportunity. I’ve made the mistakes and work so you don’t need to make the same ones.

Whether as leaders, managers, or employees transitioning in either their personal or professional lives, my clients appreciate the unique perspective I offer from my diverse background. In the end, they welcome the challenge of thinking bigger and reaching higher to do what they once imagined to be impossible.

My Transitions

I’ve transitioned from a manual laborer to an adult learner in college, then to a graduate student before becoming a college professor, and then to an executive coach, book author, blogger, playwright, movie maker, and internet television show producer and host. Each of these transitions demanded that I ask critical questions. Many times I did and the benefits were significant. The result was that I avoided many obstacles and my success came quickly. But on other occasions, for each of the reasons listed below, I didn’t, and the consequences were significant. The transition was much more difficult than it needed to be. I wish that I could have gone back and asked the right person for the right advice. That would have avoided many problems and brought much more success.

The Problem

Transitions take us from where we are to a place we probably have never been before. Transitions take us into the unknown, beyond our expertise, familiarity, and likely beyond our comfort zone. To make the transition successful, we must quickly ramp up our knowledge and skills while overcoming our fears and frustrations. If we don’t, we will miss great opportunities.

Yet many of us are unwilling to ask for help. Why?

Each of us has likely not asked for help when we needed it for one if not all three of the following scenarios.

Sometimes we won’t ask because of our pride. We don’t want to appear weak. Instead, we want to be seen as capable and confident. We want to be seen as strong leaders who can make it on their own. We all want to appear strong and don’t want to be “that” person who always needs help. Unfortunately, that ego will cost us dearly.

Other times we don’t ask because we think we have all the knowledge and skills we need to succeed. We don’t know what we don’t know. Too often this is because we think the new era is similar to what we have already experienced. That ignorance will create frustrations and failures quickly.

Still other times, we can’t ask because we don’t know who or what to ask. We don’t know where to start and don’t know someone who can help. This is most frustrating because we want to ask but don’t know where to turn for answers. That blindness too will cost many great opportunities.

The Process of Asking

To become confident and transition successfully, ask by checking each of the following three areas that spell, A.S.K.

Attitude: The first step to asking is to admit that we don’t know. This requires a pivot from the ego in the “won’t ask” part of the problem. Asking doesn’t make us appear weak unless we haven’t done our homework.

However, asking questions that we should know, or could easily find on our own, does make us look lazy and weak. So we need to do our research. That will reduce the need to ask but also help us to ask critical questions.

That research will also help us know who to ask.

Transitioning One of the problems some people are currently making is thinking they don’t need to ask.

Skills: The second step is to determine what action (and therefore skills) are needed to transition successfully. In other words, “What do I need to do?” This leads to the next critical question, “What skills do I need to be able to do to be successful?”

Skills are where the rubber meets the road, where theory becomes practice. To be successful, we must always be honing our current skills and developing new ones.

Knowledge: Like a good journalist, to discover the knowledge we need, we ask six critical questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why? and How?

  • Who do we need to know?
  • What do they want?
  • When is it expected?
  • Where will it occur?
  • Why do they want it?
  • How can I best exceed their expectations?

Visualize Your Success

Pause a minute. Sit back. Now, take a minute to imagine what your life will look like when you implement this A.S.K. process.

First, imagine what your life will look like one year from today.

Now, imagine what happens if you don’t ask for help when making any transition.

  • Imagine your frustration when you realize it didn’t have to be that hard.
  • Imagine seeing others succeed when you struggle.
  • Imagine how discouraged you will be when you realize the problems you caused others.

Next, imagine what your life will look like if you have done your homework and then asked for the help you needed.

  • Imagine sensing and seizing your best opportunities.
  • Imagine succeeding quicker.
  • Imagine the problems you will avoid.

Your success is your choice. That success is often just one question away. Are you willing to ask it? Are you willing to find the right person to answer it?




Loren Murfield, Ph.D.

I have transitioned several times in my adult life and have done many things that I once considered to be “impossible.” Today I am an Executive Coach – Author – Speaker – Filmmaker – Difference Maker developing aspiring and emerging leaders in their pivot to their breakthrough success.  Contact me today to begin your pivot.

Check out my newest book and video series, “Meditations from the National Parks”

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