Chris Rock, for those unfamiliar, is an acerbic comedian who may make you both laugh and cringe – especially if your kids (or parents) are in the room. Humour however, is the close relative of wisdom, so it should be no surprise when funny people say wise things. And so it was when Rock observed a phenomenon from his years as a starving artist when he could not afford a reliable car: “I’d always end up broken down on the highway. When I stood there trying to flag someone down, nobody stopped. But when I pushed my own car, other drivers would get out and push with me. If you want help, help yourself people like to see that.”
“If you want help, help yourself”
When I first read that quote it rang true with me, and reminded me of the old saying “the Lord helps those who help themselves”, which may also ring true, but is about as biblical as Chris Rock. Both are quotes that I could hear myself repeating.
However, an honest introspection might remind me to make sure my affinity for the quote is for the right reason; namely to encourage myself to ‘get out and push my own car’ rather than simply a justification for not helping others!
There is something about having to ‘get out and push your own car’ that either fortifies or crushes the human spirit. In the case of Rock, clearly the former as the story is largely metaphoric of his personal experience. An African American raised in Brooklyn and bussed to an all white school, Rock endured bullying and beatings that eventually lead to an early end to formal education. What he endured is a sad statement on the human condition. The result that he triumphed is a testament to human perseverance. The overcoming of seemingly insurmountable obstacles is often a common thread amongst uber achievers. Yet when it comes to parenting, we are sometimes so eager to spare our kids from being crushed, that we rob them also of the fortifying qualities that obstacles present.
The same holds true for our own development in our work environment whether we are employees or employers: We learn from our failures. And the most painful of them, may teach us the most.
Thanks for reading,