Ask for Help

When my daughter was in grade school, she had a tough time raising her hand in class to ask for help. She felt insecure about being exposed as “not knowing” and as a result didn’t get the support she needed when she needed it.

Once her teacher picked up on this pattern she suggested a strategy to help my daughter get more comfortable with the vulnerability required to ask for help. She gave her a rock to place on the corner of her desk, one side of which was painted green and the other of which was painted red.

When our daughter needed help with something, she would turn the rock to the red side, showing the teacher that she had come to a stop and needed help to get moving again. This allowed the teacher to quietly engage with her about the content and get her back on track.

The simple strategy of a painted rock gave our daughter a way to normalize her vulnerability and helped her learn that “not knowing” is precisely the “problem” that school exists to solve.

Sometimes, when I bump up against my own incompetence and the stubbornness that accompanies it, it would be a big help to have that rock handy.

I wonder if you would like one, too?


light road red yellow

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Learn to play, play to learn

IMG_6416Denise has been reacquainting herself with what it’s like to be a student. She’s started learning cello, taking two lessons a week. She loves the instrument as well as the chance to learn more about the student-teacher relationship. “As an adult you miss that sort of thing, a regular meeting with someone who’s helping you with some aspect of yourself and you feel very nurtured and cared about. You pay some shrink to listen to you every week, is what most people do. This week my cello teacher canceled a lesson, and I was upset about it. It’s a very intensely personal thing to study an instrument, and since adults are emotionally more rich and more mature, the nature of the relationship with a teacher tends to be that way as well. I’m so completely involved; it just takes you out of your life.” 

{Piano teacher, Denise Kahn, from the book Piano Lessons by Noah Adams}


An accomplished professional decides to learn something new for three clear and powerful reasons:

First, she wants to increase her empathy for her students, reminding herself of what it’s like to be in their shoes. Second, she wants to experience a mature and supportive relationship that will assist in her own teaching by helping her to (third reason) learn more about herself.

Her wisdom is demonstrated by her commitment to continuous learning about herself, others and her vocation.

This is the recipe for all who are committed to being the kind of human beings, perhaps the kind of leaders, who understand that to be well equipped for change and complexity means to willingly challenge our personal, relational, and professional status quo.

Finally, we’d do well to acknowledge that if the word “play” can be applied to something as difficult as learning an instrument, it can certainly be applied to our own pursuits.

What might happen if we played our way into and around these areas of learning? How might that alter our willingness to explore them even more deeply?

If it’s time to learn, it must be time to play. And it’s always time to learn.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

A Week of Thanks: Day 2

I am thankful for my work.

My day job allows me to interact with thoughtful professionals – leaders and team members – who are curious, energetic and determined. They are people who want to do good work for a cause they believe in. They want to learn and grow, challenging themselves to get better in the ways it is hardest to get better: self-awareness, emotional agility, relationships and working with the dynamics of change.

My side gig allows me to interact with undergraduates on the state university campus near my home. For the most part they demonstrate curiosity, energy and determination. They are people from diverse circumstances with all of the challenges you can imagine who have decided to make their education a priority. They want to learn and grow and I am privileged to facilitate and witness some of their discovery.

I bring the lessons and experiences from my day job into the classroom of my side gig. I bring the questions and revelations from my side gig into my discernment about how to be more effective in my day job.

Independently, each is a gift of challenge and growth. Together, they provide a dynamic interplay of realism, idealism, theory and practice. I am a better person and professional for the opportunity to play in these environments. I don’t take it for granted. I am determined to keep learning so I can serve them well and I will continue to relish the ways they are making me a better human.

I am thankful for my work.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.