Monday, January 28, 2013

Don't waste your effort helping people achieve something unless they want it

I've been lucky enough to be involved in some fantastic projects in the last year, like Collaboratory Melbourne, Collaborate to Innovate and Our World Today.  I've had great experiences.  But a lot of the time, it hasn't felt like I've achieved anything.

I have learnt that transformation relies upon the use of potential energy.  Enabling people, helping them realise their potential, instead of doing things for them.  Things they want to do - rather than what you want them to do.

Sometimes I haven't been able to take a step back and realise that the 'help' I've wanted to provide is really just an expression of my own desire. Most of the time people will nod and agree - perhaps with some enthusiasm, and often with a degree of gratitude.  But that's not enough.

On one hand, where my help is for something to get done, then I should go do it.  There's nothing wrong with taking the initiative.  Ask people to make sure it's okay with them, sure - but if it needs doing, then I can't dally around expecting people to get on board.  My desire is mine to take responsibility for, irrespective of who it's good for.

I've found myself much more inclined to be direct like this lately.  Probably out of impatience more than anything else.  It feels liberating, and things feel easier.  It actually seems easier to involve others - people helping me, instead of me helping them.  There's a paradox to navigate, but the direction is clear nevertheless.

On the other hand, where my help is actually for another person to do something, then I shouldn't expect it to be of any use unless they want to.  If there's no energy there, if they don't feel the need, then the best informed and best intentioned advice is a waste of time.  Sure, if I'm specific enough then they might do it.  But when they need to digest it and make a decision on it, chances are it won't go any further.

I gave a lot of great, gratefully accepted advice last year.  Most of it was useless.  Useless because I didn't really understand where the unmet needs and energy lay, so that I could actually help others achieve what they wanted to do.

Hence today's lesson - if people don't want something that I do, I should stop wasting energy trying to 'help' them to do it.  It's really not helping them at all.

Boo for all my well-intentioned, wasted energy.  Here's to taking the lesson on board.


  1. Great way to think about it, John! What I find is that by harnessing the energy I have for the things I'm passionate about, to accomplish what I like to get done --- I end up helping others more. Sort of "inspire best by doing" kind of thinking. Good luck with your newfound direction! Looking forward to seeing what comes out of it for you.

    1. Thanks Shai! Great to hear your experiences. I'm still trying to work out what to do with my lessons... I think I have been following my own energies more so far this year, still waiting to see how that goes. Good to hear that works for you.