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Why are adults so bad at asking for help?

I speak as someone who spent years as a child sitting behind his arguing parents as they were lost on the way to another destination. This was before the days of Sat-Nav and my mother would always wrestle gamefully with one of those big fold out maps while my father screamed at her for immediate answers. Her ‘it might be left up here’ didn’t quite tally with his need for Colin Macrae rally co-driver style specifics.

Despite hundreds of trials these two intelligent people couldn’t figure out that she should drive and he should read the map.

Unlike our car journeys there’s actually a reason for this diversion (see what I did there… I will pun–segway with the best… you simply will not beat me on a pun-segway)

No matter how lost we got or how irate we got my Dad wouldn’t ask for help. Simply wouldn’t put ego to one side and ask a stranger where a certain road was.

At some point adults stop asking for help.

It’s odd because when we’re young we learn everything with help. Our parents help us to walk and talk, teachers well they teach us stuff, our driving instructor shows us how a car works and so on.

And then we just stop asking. At some point we decide that the feeling of not knowing and having to give up our power, to put our ego to one side and not only ask for help but do what we’re told becomes too much. We’d rather struggle in silence and make the slowest progress possible, through trial and error, than see our egos get dented.

I was reminded of this critical life lesson recently as I started a course of golf lessons. They’re the ones where they film you and then you watch your swing back while a preppy young chap explains in graphic detail (literally… he can draw actual graphics on the screen to make it worse) just why you suck so badly.

For context you should know I’ve always been bad at golf. Generally I can hold my own in a lot of sports but Golf has always been a complete mystery.

Golf and the Javelin.

I have one recorded Javelin through during a sports lesson at school. I ran up, reeled back and threw… sort of. The Javelin wasn’t straight and the rear end of it smacked against the back of my head causing instant agony and also causing the javelin to go almost nowhere for a recorded distance of 1 metre 56 cms. I walked off to do the long jump and have never returned.

My golf swing betrays my personality, for good or bad, in that it’s constructed with one thought in mind ‘twat the bastard’. It winds up to a huge pivot with the club wrapped around my head than uncorks like a Brian Lara off drive with all the elegance removed. Results are mixed to say the least. Occasionally the ball will get hit so hard it’ll fly down the middle but often it’ll scamper about 40 yards and I’ll do my, ‘turn to playing partners and give them the ‘never had a lesson’ joke’ for the 30th time.

The thing is it’s true. Until this course I’d never had a lesson. Which is… kind of dumb. Why would I assume I knew the right way to hit a golf ball? Why would I think I could just do it over and over again and it would get better?

The problem with trial and error is if the method you’re trying is wrong you’re simply repeating the same mistakes and will get the same awful results with only tiny incremental improvements.

After one lesson of actually seeing what I was doing wrong and having it explained to me by someone that’s seen hundreds of hackers like me get it wrong I saw the biggest improvement I’ve seen in my swing and actual ability to smack the insolent little white spheroid that I’d seen in years of trying.

All of this is even more true in poker. The challenge with improving your poker game is that it can be an incredibly deceptive thing to assess. Some sessions you’ll play badly but win, others you’ll play well but lose. Knowing when you’ve played well and when you haven’t, when you’ve taken the best line in a hand and when there’s a better one is really tough.

If you take one thing away from this article – get help with your game. Ideally either take a training course (the ones I do are pretty good I’m told), join a site or two or get yourself a one on one coach; you’ll see a huge jump in your understanding once you get help.

There are some other big changes you can make to see a quick improvement. The first is to dump your ego. You weren’t born knowing how and when to make a 4 bet bluff and neither was anyone else. It needs to be learned but you can only learn anything if you leave your ego at the door. Repeat after me…’I have a lot to learn at poker and need help’. Every single big name you’ve heard of in the game has this attitude and discusses hands with other players in an effort to learn and improve.

Second commit to treating good and bad results with as much indifference as possible and instead focus on your decision making. This is easy to type and hard to do but a necessary shift. Stop focusing on your results that aren’t totally under your control in the short or even medium term. Focus on your decisions and thought processes. Commit to improving your game as the goal. Make a list right now of the areas you’re weakest at and order them starting with the thing that will make the biggest improvement to your results. Fix one at a time and when you do seek the best quality information in that area and if you’re not sure about anything… ask someone who knows and has been there.

Content is not intended for an audience under 18 years of age.