Help Yourself

August 31, 2008 by
Filed under: People 

For a long time now I thought I understood the adage that in order to best help others, you need to be able to help yourself. It turns out that there are some things that you don’t truly understand until you experience them in action.

As consultants, there are a number of axioms that rule our careers. Some I really believe, some I think are a load of garbage. In that garbage category are things like “never leave money on the table” and “the customer is always right”: things that I think a lot of consultants seem to believe, and I am content to distance myself from that crowd.

Towards the other end of the spectrum are axioms that ring more clearly for me. “You reap what you sow” jumps to mind, as does “never complain about being busy”. This summer, though, I found that everything has its limits.

Overall, this has been a great year, and the second quarter exceeded all expectations. True to form as a consultant, as new opportunities arose I was quick to latch onto them, expecting that I would find the time to squeeze everything in, and that some opportunities would (as in the past) inevitably be delayed or fall off the plate altogether.

This time, that never happened. I got busier and busier, and that bow-wave of work that got pushed forward as far as it could continued to grow. The second quarter finished off with an engagement in Korea, where I found myself spending more time in my hotel room finishing off commitments than I did exploring Seoul. Everything got done, but by the time I had a little break in July, my body told me it was time for a break.

Pneumonia and laryngitis aren’t all that fun, particularly if you are self-employed and primarily speak for a living. I certainly made hay while the sun shone earlier in the year, but I learned the hard way that there can be too much sun, too much hay. With all that time to reflect as I got better (and my body tells me daily that I am not quite better yet), I am learning that I absolutely must pace myself. “Not right now”, is a reasonable alternative to “yes” or “no” when it comes to working with clients. That absolute overrides the apparent need to help everyone that asks for support.

I need to learn to listen to my needs first, because if I don’t, I may not be capable of supporting the needs of others. Helping yourself first is not a selfish act in this case, it is the most important selfless act you can perform. – JB

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