It's OK to ask for and receive help when you need it -- in business and in life.

As humbling, intimidating and frightening as motherhood has been thus far, nothing prepared me for the horror of the "teenage son with driver's license" phase. Mix together generous portions of testosterone, undeserved confidence and horsepower, and you've got the recipe for sleepless nights and hair-in-need-of-color.

The inevitable happened six weeks ago. Max crashed on his motorcycle. The weather turned wet and the road turned slick. Max lost control of the bike as he tried to stop for a traffic light.

It could have been so much worse. He was wearing good protective gear: full face helmet, steel-supported jacket and official motorcycle pants. The gear was trashed, and Max was not. He did, however, break his collarbone. It was a pretty painful experience, though some good lessons were learned:

    1. It takes skill and distance to stop on slick pavement. Develop the skills, and pay attention to the distance.

    2. Don't scrimp on the protective gear and don't neglect to wear it.

    3. No man is an island.

When you are hurt, you need help -- help from someone else. The most macho of men may be laid low with an injury. To survive the immediate threat of more harm, you need the helping hand of another human being. Max, fortunately, had his dad nearby to help out. Hot Rod was riding alongside Max when the bike went down. He made sure Max was OK, and kept the traffic away. Also, a neighbor stopped and offered them a ride to the hospital.

Max's recovery was a team effort as well. Our family chiropractor administered ultra sound and acupuncture therapy in the early recovery phase. He added gentle massage and adjustment as Max healed. It dawned on me that there are elements of the healing process that must be administered by someone other than the injured person.

Injuries remind us of our vulnerability. It's OK to ask for and receive help when you need it. And it is a pleasure and joy to be of service when it is your turn to lend a hand.

We are social beings and are dependent on each other for survival. An injury can serve as a reminder of this basic fact. At our birth, we are 100 percent dependent. If we live to be old, we will again shift to dependency. However, don't kid yourself. On even the best of days, in the best of health, no man is an island.

Your Money Or Your Life

"Your Money or Your Life" is a best-selling book by Joe Dominquez. The premise of the book is that you can live a better life by simplifying it. Pare down the trappings. Reduce your liabilities -- and reduce stress. Sound advice. Where Joe goes wrong is his suggestion that you can achieve, and enjoy, financial independence.

There is no such thing as financial independence. Joe suggests that you can live comfortably on the interest generated by your invested money. This, he claims, is financial independence. Really? Seems to me that you are pretty darn dependent on the performance of the people at work in the companies in which you are invested. Even CDs and savings accounts are virtually "empty" accounts. Those dollars are busy working as loaned money in someone else's life or business.

How independent can you really become? Can you grow the cotton, spin the thread and weave your own clothing? Can you grow, prepare and cook all your own meat, grain and vegetables? A trip to Wal-Mart is a demonstration of your dependence.

Identical Independence

There are approximately 57,000 home service plumbing companies in the United States. Less than 2,000 of those companies belong to PSI, Contractors 2000, QSC or another plumbing industry business development group. A few hundred contractors belong to technically sophisticated or niche-focused groups like the RPA or ASHRAE. Many of these companies belong to more than one group. Interestingly, the vast majority of plumbing contractors in this country -- at least 50,000 -- choose to go it alone.

"I want to sink or swim on my own."

"I've come this far all by myself. I don't trust others to have my best interests at heart."

"Why would I want to give money to a group? I'd rather keep it in my business."

"I'm an independent."

Really, there is no such thing as an independent contractor. It's an oxymoron, like "jumbo shrimp" and "cruel kindness."

Take a look through the Yellow Pages. Note the selling features displayed in the ads:

  • 24-hour emergency service
  • No job too big or too small
  • Free estimates
  • Radio-dispatched trucks
Count how many companies list the same things. Though you may not be aware of the impact the competition has on your company, it shows in the way you do business. I'd wager that 90 percent of all independents are open from 7:30 or 8 a.m. until 4:30 or 5 in the afternoon.

Choose Wisely

As you realize that independence is a myth, understand that you are indeed currently, actively involved with other people and groups. Who are your partners?

Perhaps you are unconsciously partnering with the competition. Perhaps you are unconsciously partnering with the aggressive Yellow Page ad rep who crafts ads for you -- as well as your competitors. Perhaps you have become blindly dependent on an employee who has been with the company since before you were born. How about your family? Does your family put the FUN in DYSFUNCTIONAL? Or not? You can choose differently. You can decide that family members must positively contribute, or positively GO. You can decide to leave the family business if it doesn't reflect your values, or allow you to reach your dreams.

You have the right to choose your customers. So often, the menu of services that you provide is a result of customers calling and asking. Whether or not you do those services well or profitably is often left out of the equation.

Reflect on the bonds of your independence. Are your associations pulling you down or lifting you up?

Consider consciously choosing your partners. Paradoxically, the best partnerships allow you to maintain your independence. Are you married? Certainly you give up a few things when you get married. Spending the night away from home without a phone call is generally out. But the trade off is worth it. You can achieve more together than you can on your own. You complement your spouse's strengths with your own. You make short work of the tasks necessary to get through the day.

Good marriages include mutual support of independent goals, as well as a promise to work together towards mutual goals. And the magic that develops by risking to hold hands and face the future together is worth a dozen lifetimes of being single, being independent.

The Hurt Helps

Every major accomplishment in my life was precipitated by a painful experience. Pain is an indicator that something has got to change. From pain comes growth.

Clinging to the illusion of independence is a way to avoid being hurt.

I hope that Max is learning good lessons as he recovers from his crash. I hope he understands the importance of reaching out and asking for help. I hope, as he is called on to help in the future, that he responds wholeheartedly.

No man is an island.

On A Personal Note: Congratulations, Frank Blau, on your newest career as Land Baron and Outdoorsman! You deserve the good life, my friend. Thanks for all you have done -- and no doubt will continue to do -- for me and the plumbing industry.