I was about 13 years old…playfully wrestling with my younger brother in the yard on a beautiful summer afternoon.
He was smaller than me so I could pin him pretty easily. But one of our friends, who was a year older than me, was there as well. Just about the time I would be about to pin my brother, Mike would jump in and the two of them would, almost instantly, have me sprawled on my back, immobilized from head to toe.
Then they would taunt me…”Clay got beat by his little brother!” And they would cackle like a pair of hens.
The budding male ego in me would kick in and I would jump up, ready for another try…with the same result.
Through the years the lessons I learned from my father, my friends, television, movies, etc. stayed with me. In particular, I struggled with the axiom to “never give up, no matter what”. My forehead is still bruised from beating my head against that piece of granite!
Don’t get me wrong. Perseverance is important…critical even. I’m not suggesting we give up as soon as things become difficult.
To the contrary, what I’m suggesting is we take a more objective look at ourselves, understand our strengths and weaknesses and, most importantly, learn to ask for help. Among the clients I work with, the skill of asking for help is clearly one of the most neglected and atrophied of them all.
Certainly, women have trouble saying “please help me”, but men are just plain hard-headed about it.
This tendency is even more common among a particular sub-group. I call these folks “Alphas”. An alpha is a person who is more driven and competitive than most. He probably puts extra emphasis on either winning or being excellent. He may have played a lot of sports. If he wasn’t athletic he was probably extra competitive and serious about some other area… maybe academics or music.
He hates losing and will keep competing long after the “game” is long lost.
This is all part of what I call the “John Wayne Syndrome”. We rub dirt on whatever is bothering us, act like we are not sad or that our feelings have not been hurt and push forward. This approach might have been helpful in the mid 20th Century, but it’s utterly useless today.
The truth is Alphas are able to solve whatever challenge they run into. They are probably good at their job and generally productive in most parts of their lives.
But, what happens when an Alpha runs into a problem he can’t solve through brute force or perseverance? What happens when his occasional drinking becomes a real problem? What happens when he develops depression or anxiety symptoms he can’t control? What happens when he pushes his wife and children away through neglect from focusing too much on his career?
What does he do then?
If he’s like most other Alphas he probably “tries harder” or “digs in” or “sucks it up”…all of which just makes the problem worse.
What should he do?
He should do what one of my clients did. I got a call from a man who said he was interested in making an appointment with me. I could tell he was nervous so I asked what was going on. He said, “I’ve got to tell you…this is the hardest phone call I’ve ever made”.
Yes, asking for help, especially for alphas, is hard. But, the ability to do the hard thing is what defines an alpha, right?
If you are a hardworking guy who has most parts of his life together, but something just seems to keep pinning you (drinking too much, sad for no reason, more nervous than you used to be, marriage seems damaged, too stressed to sleep, etc.), reach out to me. I can help.
If you are, like most of my clients, pretty squared away in most areas of your life, but have one or two pieces that keep kicking your butt, give me a call. We’ll chat (no expectations) and figure out next steps together.
Looking forward to hearing from you soon!