In the past, my default position, when butting up against a challenge or coming face to face with a problem, had been: “everyone out of my way, I’ll figure this out myself.”
Whether it was a relationship issue, a health issue, a business issue, or even a problem with my car, I figured I had enough intellectual firepower to tackle the issue. I’d buy some books, search Google, learn everything I needed to know, and then go about trying to fix my issue.
Yes, it feels empowering and righteous to be a do-it-yourself kind of person.
After all, I consider myself a pretty intelligent guy. I’ve earned a host of University degrees (including a PhD). I score in the top percentile on most intelligence tests. I run a successful and thriving company, one that does meaningful work. And I’m generally seen as the go-to guy for family and friends when it comes to solving problems.
However, this idea that I’m a “really smart guy” sometimes gets in my way. It’s also distracting, inefficient, and…well…not-so-smart.
I was reminded of this mission critical lesson the other day. I was running errands and returned home to find my home computer network broken down. Since my wife and I work from home offices, that’s a pretty big problem.
Being a “smart guy”, naturally, I’d set up my own home computer network. So, when I found it broken down, I began a “troubleshooting” process.
(I put troubleshooting in quotes for a reason. Having no formal training in network set-up or administration, I don’t really know what the heck I’m doing. So, what I call troubleshooting, others might call, stumbling around blindly in the dark).
I spent about an hour fiddling with settings and made some small improvements. But the network was still busted. And, based on previous experience, it’d likely take me hours (or more) to get this sorted out.
Fortunately, as I was just about to make a classic mistake and dig into this process, my wife and 2-year-old daughter knocked on my office door. It was quittin’ time for the day and they wanted to go to the park.
So, instead of ham-fistedly hacking my way though the network process, I called a local network technician I trust. (Someone who’s actually trained in the process). She came right over. I took my family to the park.
When we got back, she was gone and the network was fixed. And, not only was it fixed, it was working better than ever before, with more features and capabilities that would make our lives and our work easier.
I called her for a debriefing. Apparently, it took her only 30 minutes to fix the problem and enhance the network. (Remember, I’d already wasted 1 hour on the issue without resolving it).
I asked her to walk me through what she did. And, of course, her fix was something that would have never occurred to me. Even though I’ve set up networks and home offices in every house I’ve lived in for the last 15 years.
So, what’s the point?
Well, think of this story as an anti-do-it-yourself parable. I know, just saying that feels wrong to me. As an entrepreneur, I’m highly inclined toward do-it-yourself.
Yet, I’ve also learned that trying to do everything myself, even though I’m capable and “smart,” often distracts me from the most important things in my life.
Personally, these important things are my family, my own health and fitness, and my professional goals. They form my own “holy trinity” of meaning. And, in saying yes to anything else, I’m saying no to one of those things, if even for just a little while.
But that’s just at the best of times. (I’m lucky as my family, friends, and colleagues are willing to forgive me little diversions from the path).
At the worst of times, trying to do things myself can lead to massive inefficiencies, wasted effort, and tremendous frustration. I’ve seen this in other people too.
One of my closest friends – honestly, the most intelligent guy I’ve ever met – is a guy who’d struggled with “relationship issues” his entire dating life. Being a fellow entrepreneur and “smart guy” he figured he could think his way through these issues with that big brain of his. Never worked.
However, after getting some relationship coaching/counseling, he became a different guy. He ended up meeting the type of woman he’d always dreamed about being with. And he’s happily married to her today.
As a cool bonus, that coaching spilled out into other areas of his life, and other relationships too. Nowadays, he’s more calm, centered, and has a keen perspective that he never had in the past.
We’ve often discussed how important that coaching and direction really was for him. And, with 100% confidence, he tells me that the counseling didn’t just speed up his development. Rather, it took him to a place he’d never have gotten without guidance. His logical, “left-brained”, intelligence was killing this kind of progress.
In essence, being smart was the problem.
I see this all the time in the nutrition coaching business. My company runs the world’s largest nutrition coaching company. And, every day, really smart people come to us with their hands up in the air.
They’ve tried to get in shape, or improve their blood markers, on their own. And, although they’ve made some progress, it just feels too hard to sustain within the context of their lives. Plus, they often want more progress and simply can’t make it happen on their own.
This sounds familiar to me. It’s the networking problem all over again. Or the relationship problem. Smart people trying to figure things out on their own when help is just a phone call away.
In the end, here’s the point I’m trying to make.
Smart people – precisely because they’re smart – often think that they can single-handedly solve all their own problems by using their innate intelligence. As a result, they’re slow to ask for help and even slower to get coaching.
I totally get it. I was one of those guys for a long time. Thankfully, I’m not any more. I’ve learned that the smartest thing one can do is to drop the hero act and get some coaching.
It’s not just about speeding up the learning process. It’s about freeing up your time to say yes to the really important things in your life and no to everything else.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a date with my daughter at the park.[Ed. Note: Dr. John Berardi is the director of the world’s largest body nutrition coaching programs – Lean Eating for Men and Lean Eating for Women. He’s also a faculty member at Eastern Michigan University and the University of Texas. And a consultant for a host of professional sports teams, as well as Nike. You can reach him at http://www.precisionnutrition.com]