Today is July 9 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you allow yourself to accept help?” Those who navigate the chaos accept help and often seek it out from those they respect. Accepting help, therefore, is not a sign of weakness but of strength. Conversely, some individuals trying to translate one dream after another into reality stop along their path and help others.
Successful people who navigate the chaos, like author Stephen King, accepted help from his wife and in so doing was able to publish Carrie, his first novel. When King was two years old, his father left the family under the pretense of "going to buy a pack of cigarettes", leaving his mother to raise King and his adopted older brother, David, by herself.
The family moved several times and when King was 11, returned to Durham, Maine, where his mother cared for her parents. King studied at the University of Maine, graduating in 1970 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. In 1971, King married Tabitha Spruce, a fellow student at the University of Maine. After graduation King was hired as a teacher at Hampden Academy and started submitting short stories to men’s magazines and worked on ideas for novels.
In 1973, before Carrie was published, King, his wife Tabby, and their toddler and newborn lived in a doublewide trailer. King drove a rust-bucket Buick held together with baling wire and duct tape. King’s wife, Tabby, worked second-shift at Dunkin’ Donuts. Dealing with constant rejection and criticism from publishers and readers from the articles he did get published in the nudie mag market, King grew frustrated at his writing. He even threw a draft of Carrie out in the trash.
As King wrote in his memoir “I couldn’t see wasting two weeks, maybe even a month, creating a novella I didn’t like and wouldn’t be able to sell.” But his wife found it in the trash, unwrinkled the pages, and told him to continue writing. “You’ve got something here,” she said. “I really think you do.” With her help King finished his first novel and after 30 rejections sold it to Doubleday.
Charlize Theron needed help to stop what seemed to be a series of beyond-bad-luck stories for the stunning young South African. When Charlize was a 15-year-old farm girl, she watched her mother kill her abusive dad in self-defense. She then moved to Manhattan to pursue a career in dance, but her knees blew out and so too did her future as a ballerina. At 19, the neophyte actress was living in an L.A. dive, subsisting on stale rolls ripped off from restaurants.
Final indignity: after begging mom for cash to stave off starvation, a Hollywood bank refused to cash her way-out-of-town $500 check. “You don’t understand—please,” she unsuccessfully begged the teller. So, she freaked—a screaming, flailing temper tantrum in front of the lunchtime crowd. It was her biggest and most rapt audience to date. Little did she know, it was also her first successful audition.
Talent manager John Crosby, waiting to use an ATM, was captivated by the gorgeous, if high-strung, young woman. “If you’re interested, I’ll represent you,” he told her. As Theron later explained to Oprah, “If I hadn't been in the bank that day, I honestly don't think I'd be here right now.” A few months of acting classes later, she landed her first screen role. Ok, it was in Children of the Corn III, but nevertheless, Theron accepted Crosby’s help to launch her acting career.
Companies need help sometimes as well. Michael J. Roarty, former Vice President and Director of Marketing at Anheuser-Busch persuaded the brewer in 1980 to give financial support to a then-struggling all-sports TV network, ESPN. “We gave them $1 million that first year. And if we hadn’t, they’d have gone under,” Roarty told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch a few months before he retired in 1994. “I believed the beer drinker was a sports lover. “The next year we gave them $5 million. I think it turned out to be the best investment we’ve ever made.”
While King, Theron, and ESPN received help, Shaina Twain provided help to those most in need. Twain’s career actually began more out of necessity than raw ambition. Her parents divorced when she was two, and she rarely saw her father. Her mom and stepfather, to whom she grew close, often couldn’t make enough to get by, so Twain started singing in bars to make extra money when she was just eight years old. She recalls her mother waking her up at all hours to get up and perform. Although she expressed a dislike for singing in those bars, Twain believes that this was her own kind of performing-arts school on the road.
She has said of the ordeal, "My deepest passion was music and it helped. There were moments when I thought, 'I hate this.' I hated going into bars and being with drunks. But I loved the music and so I survived.” Sadly, when she was 21, her mother and stepfather were killed in a head-on car accident with a logging truck on the highway. Twain put her career on hold to step in and take care of her three younger siblings (who were in their teens at the time). She sang in resorts and put off going after big-time stardom until her sister and brothers were old enough to care for themselves. Only once her youngest brother graduated high school did she feel OK heading down to Nashville to pursue her career.
How often do you accept help as you navigate the chaos of life?
How often can you pause translating your dreams into reality to help someone?
If you are not accepting help, or not helping others, why do you think that is?
Is there someone who helped you along the way you have yet to thank?
How often do you remind yourself that help is a sign of strength?