The old saying goes that no one is an island. At some point or other, we will have to ask for help because there are too many things that we cannot know. We will need to rely on the expertise of others. Now, the way we ask for help affects the quality and extent of help that we will receive. If we do so in a half-hearted or off-putting manner, we are unlikely to get the help we need. Even if we did get help, it will not be whole-hearted which can make a lot of difference. But if we ask for help with sincerity, we are likelier to get the help we need. To illustrate this point, I would like to share a favourite story of mine.
The Imperial Uncle Visits the Sleeping Dragon 3 Times
In 207, the mighty warlord Cao Cao had just conquered the northern half of China. He did so in the name of the Han emperor whom he held hostage. His next step was to unite the rest of the land under his rule. As the self-declared Prime Minister, Cao Cao issued edicts in the emperor’s name to sanction his actions. All who dared to oppose him thus far had come to sorry ends.
Meanwhile, the Imperial Uncle Liu Bei opposed Cao Cao and tried to restore the Han Dynasty. But despite his valiant efforts, he kept losing battle after battle. You see, Liu Bei was simply not Cao Cao’s match in cunning and strategy. He also lacked a skilled adviser to help him devise plans. Still, Liu Bei did not give up. He swallowed his pride and joined the armies of other warlords to battle their common foe. Alas, as each of the warlords fell, Cao Cao became stronger and stronger. The future of the Han Dynasty was bleak.
Fleeing south, Liu Bei sought refuge with the warlord Liu Biao. But Liu Biao was old and lacked the will to oppose Cao Cao. Even so, he did loan Liu Bei the small city of Xin Ye to guard against Cao Cao’s approach. During this time, Liu Bei learned of a young but wise recluse who lived nearby. His name was Zhuge Liang aka “Sleeping Dragon.” Many wise men in the area spoke highly of his talents. They said that if Liu Bei could gain the aid of Zhuge Liang, he would be able to restore the Han Dynasty. Intrigued, Liu Bei set off with his two sworn brothers to pay him a visit.
As fate would have it, Liu Bei had to visit Zhuge Liang three times before he could meet him. To add to his problems, his brothers did not see why he had to go through such lengths for a useless and untried scholar. But Liu Bei ignored them and persisted. On the third visit, he finally met Zhuge Liang. Despite being a recluse, Zhuge Liang had a firm grasp of the political situation in China. So impressed was Liu Bei by his plan that he begged Zhuge Liang to join him. Moved by his sincerity, Zhuge Liang did so and helped Liu Bei to establish his own kingdom. Zhuge Liang would go on to serve Liu Bei’s son as Prime Minister, dying from overwork on the battlefield at the age of 54. In this way, he sought to repay Liu Bei’s sincerity and trust with his life.
One of the most striking features of the story is Liu Bei’s sincerity. Firstly, even though Zhuge Liang had a great reputation for learning, he had not achieved anything yet. His fame could merely be all hype and no substance. Secondly, instead of summoning Zhuge Liang, Liu Bei chose to pay him a visit in person three times. Given his status as a noble and a seasoned warrior, Liu Bei did not have to do this. But by doing so, he showed his sincere intent in gaining the aid of Zhuge Liang.
Often help involves time and effort on the part of someone else. If we are not sincere in seeking their help, it is hard to expect others to go out of their way to help us. After all, they have priorities of their own. Sincerity goes a long way in getting help and it is not something that we can fake. Our actions alone speak volumes about our intent. If we take the time and effort to show our sincerity, we are likelier to receive the help we need.
Humility and Respect
As I mentioned earlier, Liu Bei was a noble and a seasoned warrior. Yet throughout his life, he knew his strengths and his weaknesses. This helped him to remain humble when it came to asking for help. Even though Zhuge Liang was an untried scholar, Liu Bei had no qualms about paying him three visits to seek his help. During their meeting, the young recluse impressed Liu Bei so greatly that he pleaded with him to join his forces. Touched, Zhuge Liang agreed.
Everyone in this world is an expert at something. This means that we can learn from anyone regardless of his or her status. If we assume we know it all, it is hard for others to help us or for us to listen to advice. This is why it is important to be humble when seeking help. Only by doing so will people find it easier to assist us.
Perseverance and Patience
The great fear that Liu Bei must have had was to lose Zhuge Liang to the service of some other warlord. Thus, despite missing him twice, Liu Bei did not give up. He was determined to pay Zhuge Liang a third visit to gain his help even though his brothers opposed it. Had he been less persevering or patient, he would not have gotten the aid of Zhuge Liang and founded his kingdom.
When it comes to seeking help, perseverance and patience goes a long way. If we give up at the first sign of rejection or resistance, the person who could help us may not do so. Sometimes it takes a few nudges to get people out of their comfort zones. It is not necessarily something personal. By persevering, we create goodwill through the trouble we take. Eventually, if we are truly sincere, we will receive the help we need in one form or another.
There is probably no need to go through the lengths that Liu Bei did. But it is still useful to keep in mind his sincere intent when it comes to seeking help.
How do you ask for help? Can you think of any other ways of asking for help that will make others want to help you? Do share your thoughts and comments below.