There was a Ted Talk recently by Amanda Palmer, a musician who has made her way by not being afraid to ask for help. By depending on her fans for a place to crash and eat while on tour, she developed a very loyal following. She gives her tunes away for free, asking only for a little help along the way to offset the costs of production. Her talk tells of the intimate connection that is developed between people when one is not afraid to ask, and the other is not afraid to answer.
Her message got me to thinking about our industry. So many times in my career I have been helped both directly and indirectly by fellow superintendents. Whether it was through a mentor, a fellow super from a nearby course, or from one a half a world away, asking and receiving guidance has allowed me to grow both personally and professionally. There have been times when it was tough, but learning that it was okay to ask for help has made a huge difference for me both as a green keeper and as a person.
For many of us asking for help is viewed as a sign of weakness. If we can't do it ourselves, we will just keep bashing away until we get it close enough. It's either our way or our way. Now you can call it what you will; pride, stubbornness, ego... it doesn't really matter, all it does is hold us back. If we are not open to new ways of approaching the problems we face every day, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes for eternity. The accumulation of these mistakes usually ends up in job loss, confusion, and bitterness.
The times we get stuck are the times in our lives that are ripe for growth. Admitting that we don't know how to tackle a problem is not a sign of weakness... it's a sign of wisdom. We are surrounded by a world of people who are willing to help at the drop of a hat. Just think about it in reverse... if someone came to you needing help, would you hesitate to lend them a hand? Would you think them weak and incompetent because they needed advice? One would hope not.
Allowing yourself the space to "not know" can be a powerful tool in your life. It not only teaches us humility, but it can empower us to press forward and learn a new skill. It also indirectly helps the person who helps us out, because who doesn't feel good when you help someone?
So the next time you get stumped, ask for help. Go on line (TurfNet would be a good start), phone a colleague, or ask your crew (they know more than you think). The solution to your problem may just be a simple question away... you just have to be willing to ask.