Feb 162011
Helping Hand by Lusi

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.

Zhuge Liang by Wikipedia

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.

Help From a Friend by John Flanigan

Taking Action

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. :)

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  28 Responses to “3 Visits To Ask For Help”

  1. excellent advice. all too often we give up at the first sign of resistance. I think another interesting question for the seeker of help is to ask, ‘what is the worst that could happen?’ the mind tends to exaggerate one’s fears and by doing so and thinking about it logically it makes it easier to quell your fears and to persist in one’s efforts.

    • Hi Saucy Interloper,

      Nice of you to drop by. :)

      That is an excellent point you raise. It is no exaggeration that our mind exaggerates our fears. By facing the worst case scenario and thinking of ways to resolve it or at least confront it, it will help us to persist in our efforts of asking for help.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  2. Very nicely written, and it makes me think of one major thing. Overall, I don’t have a lot of humility. I’m humble when people compliment me on things, but I also have a lot of pride when I feel I’m being disrespected. It causes its own type of inner conflict, and it’s something that, as I’m thinking about it, I need to work on.
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted..Do Leaders Understand Their InfluenceMy Profile

    • Hi Mitch,

      Welcome to Han of Harmony. :)

      I think it is healthy to have pride. Pride only becomes a problem when we identify too closely with our egos and as a result sabotage our goals and decision making. The applause of people is fickle. The same people who applaud you today might just kick you when you are down tomorrow. Since that is the case, it is better not to let their opinions bother us too greatly. We can’t please everyone and not everyone’s opinion really matters. Instead, all our acts should be for the greater good regardless of what people think or say. If we could focus on the solution and detach ourselves from as many situations as we can, it is easier to act without pride interfering.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  3. I love how you weave history lessons into the lesson on practicing persistence, perseverance and humility when asking for help. Humility is a good trait to cultivate. It helps to keep the ego in check. With your permission, I would like to share what you’ve written with my girls before bedtime :-)
    Evelyn Lim recently posted..How to Create A Personal Energy Shield For ProtectionMy Profile

    • Hi Evelyn,

      I am just a big fan of epic stories in all forms. Whenever I read epic stories, I always keep an eye out for the lessons I can learn from the characters. This helps to expand my experience and make it my own. After all, we only have so much time in life and it is not prudent to experience everything ourselves before we learn something.

      Yeah, humility is something we could all use more of. But as the Yijing says,

      “Modesty is not to be confused with weak good nature that lets things take their own course. When a man holds a responsible position, he must at times resort to energetic measures. In doing so he must not try to make an impression by boasting of his superiority but must make certain of the people around him. The measures taken should be purely objective and in no way personally offensive. Thus modesty manifests itself even in severity.”

      I would be more than happy if you would share my story with your lovely girls. What matters is that they learn the lessons therein to unleash their potential. Wish them sweet dreams for me. :)

  4. I love the lesson here, Irving. Sometimes it takes great courage to ask for help. The ego will insist we know it all and in so doing will keep us stuck right where we are. Something I have noticed about successful people is that they are quick to admit when they don’t have an answer. Great things are accomplished when we value results over looking in the eyes of others.
    rob white recently posted..Reality of AccountabilityMy Profile

    • Hi Rob,

      I agree with you. One of the main hindrances when it comes to asking for help is our egos. But when we focus on the solutions, when we value results as you say, over how we look in the eyes of others, we actually start to move forward towards our goals.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  5. Love the lessons. It take gull to ask for help. My routine is God, Myself, then back to God. Some people think it’s silly. But sometimes when I talk to god, He lead me to you find folks. And I aways get the answer I was looking for. It usually inside; intuition.
    jonathanfigaro recently posted..2 of the 48 Laws Untwisted by a HustlerMy Profile

    • Hi Jonathan,

      My philosophy to life is simple. All I am concerned with is results. If we are aware enough to hear and see the answers that God places in our lives, then by all means go for it. Intuition is a very powerful tool that we all have. To rely on logic alone is to go through life with one hand tied behind our backs. We should blend logic with intuition. And when we are in a bind, it is a good idea to ask for help.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  6. Hi Irving,

    Sincerity is a wonderful quality to have… it’s also something that can’t be faked (faked sincerity is an oxymoron!). Most of us have an in-built detector which alerts us when someone is being less-than-sincere. Believe you me, I’ve met this kind of person, and it’s very unlikely they’ll get my help.

    More folk would benefit from being humble. It’s only by acknowledging our weaknesses and being brave enough to share these with others, that we can be open to receiving help. When you think you know it all, you never allow yourself to benefit from the wisdom of others.

    Sincerity and humility put together is a knockout combination. People who show both qualities are rare, but they really make an impression.
    Scott McIntyre | Vivid Ways recently posted..To Give Value to Others- You Need to Invest in Yourself FirstMy Profile

    • Hi Scott,

      It is so true. We simply cannot fake sincerity. People can smell us out a mile away.

      There really is no other way to ask for help except through sincerity and humility. By being vulnerable in the presence of someone who can help us, we appeal to their better nature which can make them more likely to help us. No doubt people who show the qualities of sincerity and humility are rare, it is still a good idea to bear these qualities in mind when we ask for help.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  7. Once again, you are writing just for me! The timeliness of your topics is uncanny. (Are you doing that on purpose?) As you know, I’m going through some stressful transitions in my family. Last Saturday, I went to a church group I have belonged to for years. I walked in and immediately blurted out–I need support! I was immediately surrounded by caring friends and offers of emotional as well as very practical support.

    I had to learn that the hard way. Most of my single parenting years, I did everything on my own, not asking for or accepting help. Even though I was always quick to help others, for whatever reason, I was not able to allow others to help me. It was not good for me or for my family. When I finally fell to my knees, figuratively and literally, it was such a relief to let go and to receive help.

    Now I am much more aware of the joy and gratitude we can experience when we are willing to be vulnerable, to ask for help, to be grateful for help that’s offered.

    Great stories and lessons from history. Thank you for a wonderful article!
    Galen Pearl recently posted..Beyond Right and WrongMy Profile

    • Hi Galen,

      I assure you I am not doing this on purpose. Not consciously anyway. If there is a greater force at work that is directing my articles to help you, I am unaware of it on a conscious level haha! In truth, I just write what I feel like writing. In fact, I had a draft of this article a few weeks ago, but I was not in the mood then to complete it. When inspiration struck, I just went along with it and completed the article this time.

      It is great to read that you have a reliable support group to depend on for emotional and practical support. It makes getting through challenges more manageable. I know how hard it can be to ask for help. I too struggle with this difficulty from time to time. But at the end of the day, the results are more important and each moment we delay asking for help only prolongs our problems.

      By being vulnerable and allowing others to help us, it draws us closer to our family and friends. It allows us to forge bonds that will carry us through adversity.

      There is much we can learn from history and stories. I am glad you enjoyed this article. :)

  8. Hello Irving,

    Humility and respect, perseverance and patience! These are qualities that are often missing in individuals growing up in fast-paced modern times. You create such an atmosphere with this story. It’s this atmosphere imbued with these qualities that will help us moved forward in live and get the help we need. Thanks for this intriguing story.
    Sandra / Always Well Within recently posted..6 Thought Provoking Links on BloggingMy Profile

    • Hi Sandra,

      Yeah I agree with you. I had to go back a thousand years to find this combination of qualities in people. In fact, one of the reason I love Romance of the Three Kingdoms so much is because the many characters inside prize humility, respect, perseverance and patience so highly.

      The original story is much better than the way I told it. I am just glad I did not do it a disservice. More importantly, it is the ideas and lessons in the stories that we can incorporate into our lives that truly matters.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  9. Asking for help is a sign of wisdom. Not asking for help is a sign of foolishness.

    To know when you can’t do it yourself or don’t have the requisite knowledge is to have great wisdom.

    Some people will continue trying to do something on their own when simply asking for help would immediately change their destiny.

    This is a good lesson.

    • Hi Bamboo Forest,

      Whether to ask for help or not depends very much on the context. Each context has its difficulty and challenges. But I agree with you, that when we find that we are unable to handle a challenge, it is more prudent to ask for help if such help is indeed available.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  10. Irving: Great post and great advice. The reality is that we can’t do it alone and we have to find our way to being open enough to allow people to help us and to learn from other people and their wisdom. I do think that we have to also be open to being vulnerable and know that it is okay and necessary to let other people help us. Great message.
    Sibyl – alternaview recently posted..Gaining More by Becoming A Minimalist! What You Should KnowMy Profile

    • Hi Sibyl,

      It’s true. As much as we would like to do whatever we can on our own, we all need help at some point or other. Knowing when we need help and being able to ask for help in an effective manner makes a whole lot of difference in achieving our goals. I agree with you. Showing vulnerability when asking for help shows our sincerity and encourages people to help us.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  11. Hi Irving,
    I loved the story. Not many people can show the humility that Liu Bei demonstrate. Sincerity, humility, respect, perseverance, and patience are wonderful qualities to possess. This is a powerhouse combination. When asking for help a humble and sincere approach is definitely desired. We are more willing to help when people ask from their hearts showing their true intentions.
    Thanks for this beautiful story full of lessons to be learned and appreciated. Loving blessings.
    Andrea DeBell – britetalk recently posted..Are You Using Your Internal GPSMy Profile

    • Hi Andrea,

      I am glad you loved the story. It is true that not many people can show the humility that Liu Bei demonstrated. But I believe that Liu Bei had such clarity about his goals that he did not see humility as a sign of weakness when it came to asking for help. This awareness alone enabled him to achieve the success he had.

      Indeed, when people reveal their true intentions, we can decide whether it is within our power and worth our while to help them. The element of trust is important.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  12. Wow! What a story of courage, loyalty, sincerity, perseverance and all. I love the moral of the story too. I have always been a fan of Chinese stories and I can share a thing or two. They are all embedded with moral lessons which makes them my favorite.

    • Hi Anne,

      Coming from Singapore, I too have read my fair share of Chinese stories. You’re perfectly right. Chinese stories do have moral lessons in them which is why I enjoy reading them. They can be a rich source of wisdom to draw from. Even so, I prefer historical stories over the more fantastical ones about God and demons. Personal preference I suppose.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  13. A long time ago I decided that honesty, and only honesty, will win the day. No matter what, I am honest about what I want and what I’m doing; people can believe me or not, but in the end if I am patient, time shows everyone the real story. If this means that I was mistaken and my judgement was off, then I can be honest and admit it.

    If this means returning to the sleeping dragon three times or thirty-three times, then so be it. =)


    • Hi Delena,

      Living a life of honesty is a good way to live. There are less complications involved when you have nothing to hide. Being able to admit our mistakes is also a great quality to have. It takes courage to do so, but it shows people that we are open about our failings. Doing so will enable more people to be forthcoming with advice. No one wants to help a know-it-all anyway.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  14. Hi Irving- I really like the story of “The Imperial Uncle Visits the Sleeping Dragon 3 Times”. It is packed with virtues that we should practice every day. …humility, sincerity, respect, patience, perseverance, loyalty, and trust. No matter where we are in life, young or old, rich or poor, royal or common, etc… these are some of the virtues that we all must learn and practice as we interact with each other during our time here on this planet.
    Ajen recently posted..Living Your Dreams Without ExpectationMy Profile

    • Hi Ajen,

      I am glad you liked the story. It is indeed one of my favourites. If all of us could practice the virtues of humility, sincerity, respect, patience, perseverance, loyalty and trust, the world would be a much better place. All we can do is to imbue these qualities into our lives as best as we can and slowly influence those around us.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

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