On asking for help

May 14, 2013 Trace Wax

Years ago in college, I took part in “The Game”: a 24-long scavenger hunt, driving all over the Bay Area, decoding clues that would lead us to the next location, each clue nerdier than the next. If we ever got stuck, we could call Game Control and they’d help us to the next clue. One clue was a matrix. We figured out if we took the eigenvalues down the diagonal, it was a 10-digit phone number. It didn’t come out right, and we spent 5 hours trying to recode and decode it. No dice, so we finally called Game Control. They apologized for their mistake; there was an error in the matrix, and they gave us the phone number. It was for a bowling alley, which had just closed. All the teams had been there a couple hours before, bowling for their next clue after having called Game Control much sooner. Our stubbornness caused us to miss out on bowling and we had to call Game Control again to get the location of the next clue.

Fast forward to last month. I drink a lot of water and found myself often the one who took the last drop of water from the water cooler. So I’d fetch and hoist the 5 gallon replacement jug from down the hall, sometimes several times per week. I could have asked for help, but had thought, why be a bother when I can do it myself? I didn’t really mind…until I found myself with a hernia from the lifting. A minor outpatient surgery later, things are pretty well back to normal, but there will be no more carrying of the water jugs.

Fast forward to last week. We were deep in someone else’s code and far down a rabbit hole of investigating things we didn’t quite yet understand. There were many avenues we could explore, and we could have kept on down that rabbit hole for a long time. But then my hernia scar twinged. So my pair and I got up and asked the original dev, and we were on our way in minutes.

While the thrill of solving everything alone is tempting, we pair and share a team for a reason. And if we need anything else, we can ask an entire office of Pivots every morning in the ‘helps’ part of our daily standup. Whether in a scavenger hunt, in transporting water, or in a sea of unfamiliar code, I’m looking forward to asking for help when I need it.

About the Author


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