I’m lucky enough to be married to a beautiful Hawaiian lady. She and I live in Northern California with our daughter and two young boys. We just got back from a trip to Oahu and Maui for her cousin’s wedding and grandmother’s 90th birthday.
We spent one of our glorious days there at a beach house having a large Hawaiian family BBQ. It was amazing! It was a day spent with my wife’s huge family surfing, BBQing and drinking beer.
In an attempt to impress the surfers in my wife’s family, this haole (aka me) decided to leave the land and channel my inner Kelly Slater. One wipeout later I started back to shore and I spotted something blue that looked like fishing line in the water. I figured if I can’t impress them with my surfing skills I’ll at least clean up their ocean.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t fishing line but a 6-foot stinger from Portuguese Man o’War (jellyfish) … Needless to say, by the time I realized what I had grabbed it was too late.
I immediately felt my hand, wrist and arm explode with pain. If you aren’t aware, a man-of-war stinger wraps around its victim and injects venom. Think of it like a python with poisonous thorns. It sucked.
I discreetly used some choice words that accurately vocalized my feelings at the time. Hiding my intense pain, I went to go sit with my wife on the beach. I quietly and embarrassingly told her what happened and said, “I think I’m supposed to pee on it…”
Fact: You know you’ve hit rock bottom in trying to impress your wife’s family when you’re considering peeing on yourself…
I sat there suffering, pretending nothing was wrong – a classic first reaction to a mistake that you don’t want others to know you made. Whether in life or business, quietly hiding, suffering and clinging to pride is always a mistake. I’m not saying you should go around complaining and whining to everyone with a megaphone or hold a press conference. What I am saying is that everyone ends up in a situation that they would rather not be in at some point in their life/career, and what you do in those moments is what matters most.
In situations like these, the most successful people choose humility. They find someone who has gone through a similar event and ask for advice, wisdom, insight or just a listening ear. In sales it looks like asking the top rep what they do differently, listening to the way they objection-handle and asking if they would call shadow you and provide feedback.
These are small but effective doses of humility and letting someone into your “pain” can make all the difference. It can keep you from burning out, repeating similar mistakes or in my case, peeing on myself and looking like an even bigger idiot.
So back to the story: as I sat there refusing to ask for help and, more importantly, by not being humble, I also failed to warn anyone else that they were in the water. Ten minutes later my wife’s 4-year-old cousin became the next victim. Now not only was I in extreme pain and embarrassed, I was also feeling guilty for not alerting everyone to a totally avoidable situation.
As I sat there feeling bad, the family jumped into action as the little kid yelled in pain.
I watched one of the uncles calmly walk over to a bush, pick a few berries, squeeze them over the wound and rub it into the area where he was stung. He stopped crying almost immediately.
At this point, I was really embarrassed. Asking for help might have damaged my pride but would have saved me from prolonged suffering and seeing our little cousin get stung. So with my arm surging in pain, I ashamedly walked over to the bush and treated my wound. It was amazing; the pain seemed to leave almost instantly.
At the end of the day, I had learned a life lesson the hard way. I realized that sometimes the best way to fix a mistake is to humble yourself, ask for help, and let people show you how to get out of difficult situations.
* Does anyone have a painful way they learned to be humble and ask for help? Join the conversation on LinkedIn.