To the reluctant leaders: help us help you.

I’ve noticed an alarming trend in some potentially great people I’ve encountered recently. It is a certain kind of shyness, a hesitance to ask for help and support for their cause.

If you are someone who is working on something you believe in, and I mean something you seriously believe in, perhaps you can relate to this phenomenon. It’s as if asking for help is placing an unnecessary burden on others; as if it’s selfish.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The world is in desperate need of bold leadership, and many of us are waiting on the sidelines just teeming with untapped potential.

Look at what happened with the campaign to help Amit and all South Asians with Leukemia. Millions of people worldwide were touched by Amit’s story, with thousands organizing donor drives, donating money for tests, and spreading the word. These were all people who had other things to do, but when truly inspired and properly empowered they found the time and the energy to participate in doing something that has, over time, generated a huge impact.

Look at HackNY, an organization whose mission is the kind of thing so many have talked about but few have stepped up to actually do something about. They raised $100,000 in one night because they had the guts to ask for it. They got the most prominent members of the NY tech community to parade down a runway in the name of helping their cause, simply because they bothered to ask.

You don’t need to be a nonprofit to ask for help. For-profit businesses don’t have to be evil profit-hungry monsters; indeed, more and more companies are being started every day with missions we’d want to support and be a part of. For-profit companies are born every day on Kickstarter on a bed of donations from their first and future customers.

You don’t even need a business entity to ask for and receive help. If a person told me they were obsessed with reforming education and had a plan to help local teachers and demonstrated their passion with all their might, I’d give them help point blank.

I would never bet against the resourcefulness of a person who has dedicated themselves to something they truly believe in.

We may be short on jobs, but there is no shortage of work to be done. We can get more women into technology. We can revolutionize education as we know it. We can fundamentally reshape the workforce. We can find more sustainable ways to live and coexist. We can’t wait for someone else to do it; we have to do it ourselves.

If you want to do something that makes the world better, don’t be shy. Own it. You may be surprised just how many people are out there waiting for you to lead them.


  • Mike

    I’ll take your advice and not be shy.   In Sept 2010 we lost 4 wonderful teens in a car accident in Tracy, CA.  One was my daughter’s best friend, and our “part-time daughter”.  She was 17 and one day away from attending UC Davis on an academic scholarship.  I started a non-profit in Carol’s name to award college scholarships to local students and to help local teachers buy classroom supplies.  ANY help is appreciated.  (I own AltamontCowork in Tracy, CA).