Taking First

Taking First

I am a people pleaser. That’s not usually a problem. For the most part, giving first and paying it forward makes me feel good. I give on things that are easy for me. I have a pretty strong back so I can help people move. I do a lot of house projects so I don’t mind helping out on construction. I turn yardwork into a workout, so I don’t mind digging ditches or post holes.

I’ve always done things that are nice for my friends. I try to make it a point to offer first. I do it because I feel bad asking for help. And sometimes asking for help is hard, so I hope you won’t feel bad. I build relationships with people so they hopefully never feel guilty asking for or accepting my help.

For me, it’s about the relationship. It’s about building an air of trust and congeniality, of teamwork and shared mutual interest that makes it feel like there is no need to keep score. I don’t count chits. I want to know that there is a support group, a village that I am part of that supports one another without judgement.

I offer help so people want to offer me help. I try to go the extra step to further the sincerity of my desire to help. I bring tools; I use a square to cut a 2×4 even when it really doesn’t need to be that perfect. I hope the receiver feels good about offering me help or at the least is not bothered when I ask for it. “Josh needs help? No problem. He’s always there for me.”

Over the years I have come to say “No problem” when people thank me. I really want the receiver to feel it is not a burden to accept my help. I’m not much in the way of emotional support, but doing ‘things’ is my strength. So that’s what I give.

I have always been proud of the fact that while I believe fervently in my convictions, I actually CAN be convinced of an alternative. This morning I worked through something and changed a whole belief structure. I realized an outcome that I never intended. Offering to do things for others can be a form of manipulation. It hurt to realize this. Let me explain.

As I said, I have always hoped that my desire to want to help, would create comfort in a relationship where the other side also WANTS to offer me help. I was searching for balance. But sometimes, offering help creates an atmosphere where someone might feel guilty not offering it back. This directly contradicts my notion of not keeping score. Inherently, people start to feel obligated to help me. My help will eventually become a burden. That just sucks.

What I realized is that this is my own fault on two fronts. First, when I say ‘no problem’, I am discounting the usefulness I provide. There is no closure on that transaction when I make the action seem like nothing. Without closure, there is a layering effect on each act of kindness that builds resentment in accepting help. But if someone says ‘thank you’ and I reply with “You’re welcome, it was my pleasure” I make it ok for them to accept help and not feel the pressure to reciprocate. Second, the notion that someone wants to help me, starts to feel like an expectation for the other party. And my own views pervert my perception on the give and take in that relationship: I am polluting my ability to see the receiving side of ‘help’.

A few weeks ago I met a fellow founder through The Capital Network. He came up to the Zone and we talked for a little over an hour. It was SUPER helpful to me. Part of being a people pleaser is that I wanted to give back. Honestly, I don’t even remember if he said “you’re welcome” when I expressed thanks. I felt such an obligation to be a giver that I felt guilty taking help. I offered him a few local connections where he might be able to expand his business. But I was the taker, and it felt strange.

I don’t think Joel was looking for anything in return. He just wanted to Give First. I have been so stuck in my ways for so long, that I felt like it was my obligation to WANT to give back to him. That is wrong, and it almost cheapens his act of kindness to me. For a long time I have had a need to give. In my personal life, it felt ok to receive because I have always had a way to give back. This incident in the startup world where I have nothing to give, was strange. I felt guilty taking. I guess my big lesson for the day is that for me, I am Taking First, and because I believe in having honor, I will eventually give back. I am Giving Second. As I look back on how I have always thought about giving I realize, for the first time, blindly accepting his help is a good thing and I am ok with it. Thanks again Joel.

About Josh Rutstein

I am an aspiring entrepreneur and hopeful political candidate. Father of 2 very special girls, husband to an amazing woman, and passionate American. I snowboard whenever possible and follow a 20x mentality for exercise. I also play golf and ultimate frisbee and am a die hard New England Patriots fan and season ticket holder. Everyday I wake up wanting to make this country a better place, someday I hope to actually succeed.
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